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DIY Flat Washer Jewelry Basics

Sweetiepie NecklaceSome people think making jewelry out of washers—or out of anything you might normally find in a garage—sounds weird and unfashionable. Those people, however, simply don’t have the imagination to picture the beauty that can come from such a simple source as this.

You can find flat washers in a wide variety of sizes and finishes in steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, and other materials. What you do with these inexpensive crafting materials is up to you. You can pair them up with leather or hemp cords to make necklaces or bracelets, or you could attach them to earring hooks and create unique earrings.

Here are some basic suggestions for what you can do with a flat washer to turn it from construction staple to fashion statement. But before you heft your hammer, make sure you keep safety in mind. At the very least, don a pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes from any flying mishaps.

Adding Text

Stamping Jewelry

Image Source: RocksInMyHead on Flickr.

Check your local hardware or craft store for number, letter, and symbol stamps. The business end of these stamps resembles the metal lettering used in old-fashioned movable type printing presses, but each letter is at the end of a post. To inscribe your washer with a letter or symbol, place the washer on a hard surface, hold the letter in place on the washer and pound the top of the post a few times until you get the depth you want.

Try it on some cheap washers first until you get the hang of how hard you need to strike and how many times. Then you can move on to something more expensive, such as special jewelry washers made of sterling silver.

Tip: Fill in the letters with a permanent marker, quickly wiping away any ink that falls outside the lettering before it dries. The ink that gets into the nooks and crannies of the letters will dry and make it easier to read.

Adding Texture

There are a number of ways to add texture to a washer, so get your hammer ready and try out these techniques:

  • Give a washer a more finished edge by hammering both the outer and inner edges with a pall peen hammer. It shouldn’t take a lot of force, but you should end up with more rounded edges.
  • With the washer sitting on a flat surface, hitting it all around the washer with a ball peen hammer can cause the washer itself to curve upward, an effect that might be just what you need for your jewelry.
  • You can purchase brass texture sheets to add patterns to a washer, or you can make your own. You transfer the texture using a hammer or vise.

Brass Bird Plate

Adding Color

Give your washer jewelry a splash of the old Roy G. Biv:

  • Wrap it tightly with colorful yarn, thread or floss.
  • If you find a pattern that you like in a magazine photo or wallpaper sample, cut out a piece the shape of the washer, glue it to the washer and then cover the entire thing with Judikins Diamond Glaze, Mod Podge Dimensional Magic, or a similar sealer.
  • Shellac all sorts of items to the washer to create the piece you want—colored rocks, gemstones, brass cogs—the possibilities are endless!
  • Don’t forget about the washer’s natural color, be it the silver of steel, the gold of brass or the copper of, well, copper.

Experiment with these basics to find a style and technique that really does it for you. The Internet is replete with how-to articles about making specific types of washer jewelry, but remember that this is your artistic vision. Don’t limit yourself.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Liz says:

    What size letter do you suggest for beginners.

  2. Beth Parker
    Twitter: bethparker

    Hi, Liz. It’s not really your skill level that determines the size; it’s the project. Use whatever size punches you need to make the letters look good in your design. Most jewelry projects seem to use 1/8″ to 1/4″ letters, but if you wanted to make a necklace with a single initial, you’d probably want to use a letter that’s at least 1/2″ high.

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