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Turning Beads

by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX

Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Recently, I turned several beads to attach to a paracord lanyard. This type of bead could easily be adapted to make a bracelet or necklace. Since the holiday season is fast approaching, this might give you an idea for a unique gift for that special someone.

First, I selected several small pieces of mesquite for this project. I began by turning the blank round with a Spindle Roughing Gouge . I also used a Spindle Gouge and a Skew to turn these beads.

Next, I measured the diameter of the paracord. I was careful to not compress the cord while using the calipers.

I found that a 3/16" drill bit works well for a single length of 550 paracord. A 7/32" drill bit works well for a bead that will slide over two strands of paracord. A much smaller drill bit size would be more appropriate if the beads were intended for jewelry.

Next, I replaced the live center with a drill chuck.

After I drilled out the 3/16" hole, I used a depth gauge to mark the depth of hole.

This drilling allowed me to accurately mark the end of the hole. The live center was replaced with the cone center installed. The quill was advanced just enough to provide good support without creating flex in the spindle. I turned the beads last because I wanted more wood on the blank for support while I drilled the hole.

The beads were then turned by eye without the aid of measuring devices. You can choose to be as precise as you like.

After sanding with 220 grit, I applied Mahoney's Walnut Oil .

Then I used a small skew to part off each bead.

The tricky part of parting was catching the beads before they bounced into a pile of shavings under my lathe! I can tell you from experience; it would be wise to clean up under your lathe before turning small beads.

I then mounted another blank and followed the same procedure as above, except this time I used a 7/32" drill bit. For this bead, I used a wire to burn in three lines. The wire burner is described in this article .

The permutations of shapes, sizes and types of wood are endless. They can be mixed and matched to your taste. Another idea would be turning beads from acrylic pen blanks. I am sure acrylic beads would add a bit of bling. I guess that is just another thing to add to my "must try list." This is a rather simple project and a good way to use up very small pieces of wood. The photos below might give you a few more creative ideas:

Curtis is a former President of Central Texas Woodturners , a member of the American Association of Woodturners , and a member of Fine Woodworkers of Austin . Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at www.curtisturnerstudio.com .

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