March 27, 2013

DIY Bullet Shell Casing Necklace

I finally made a necklace that I have been itching to make for months.  I'm pretty excited because it looks just as fabulous as I hoped it would (a successful DIY project is always cause for celebration).  I've seen these bullet shell casing necklaces styled with studs and spikes but I love mine with a pretty, printed blouse, vintage opal cocktail ring, and pearl earrings.


I love the combination of the rugged shell casing (which has been fired) with the sparkly quartz.  Want one?


Supplies:
  • Bullet shell casing (ask a firearm-loving friend; some etsy sellers also have them)
  • Rough cut rock crystal/quartz spike bead pre-drilled across the top (like these)
  • 24 gauge wire
  • Needle nosed pliers
  • Drill and 1/16" drill bit (or another small size)
  • Pipe cutters or small saw
  • Metal file
  • Eye protection
  • Jewellery chain
How to:

I collected a wide selection of fired shell casings on our last trip to the firing range.  I cleaned all the casings in the same vinegar bath & baking soda scrub I used to clean my penny for my penny ring project.  Although the gunk came off, the casings kept a nice patina which I was happy about.  Be sure to thoroughly rinse all vinegar and baking soda.  I plan to start selling casings soon, for anyone who doesn't have access to them.


I brought one of each size to craft stores in search of the right stones.  I finally found a strand at a local bead shop in Thunder Bay.  I'm happy I brought the casings because these stones are naturally irregular and only four or five fit well.  I suggest checking out your local shops first.  If ordering online, pay particular attention to the size of the beads.  Specifically ask the seller if the stones will fit in a tube the diameter of your casing.  I'm currently hoping to find some colourful crystal from a local shop to make more.

Rock Crystal Rough Point Stick Beads from Etsy

Next, Hubby and I headed to the garage where he drilled a hole into the top of each casing (wearing eye protection, of course!).


The handgun casings were ready to use, but the rifle casings needed to be sawed off.  A pipe cutter worked really well but if you don't have one, a jeweller's saw or a plain old saw will work.  If using a saw, wrap a piece of paper towel around the casing so your vice grips, etc., don't mar the surface.


One thing to note: although more uniform, the pipe cutter slightly curves the end of the casing inward.


Afterward we used a metal file to gently file the metal at the cut edges and also where the holes were drilled.  Work on a piece of paper towel to catch the filings and I recommend wearing gloves - the little metal bits are itchy as hell if they work their way into your skin.  Trust me.


Next, I strung about five inches of the wire through the bead.  I worked with one end, wrapping the wire tightly against itself.


Then I threaded the end of the wire up through the drilled hole.


Using a pen, I wrapped the wire into a circle (the pen helped me keep the shape, but you can freehand it) and then wrapped the wire tightly around the base of the loop.


Finally, I added chain from the craft store.  I made mine long enough to slip over my head, like with my DIY agate necklace, to avoid a clasp.  I simply opened one loop, attached it to the other end and, voila, a fun new necklace!




Variations:

You can also drill two holes in the side of the casings (use a nail to make a dent first, so your drill bit doesn't slip off) and run the chain through the casing.  With this method, you can even use a hunk of rock glued into the casing, instead of a proper bead, and string the chain through the holes.


Here's an example of how that would look, from etsy seller Changes Jewelry:

As another variation, instead of drilling the top you can push the primer out, but then the hole is inset.  We used a nail set to push it out (which may not be the best tool for the job, but it worked).



I'll keep you posted on when/if I make some of these beauties for sale and also if I start selling the casings for projects.  I have already thought of another re-used shell casing project!

24 comments:

  1. I really like this idea. It's too bad my girlfriend has an irrational fear of anything gun-related. Personally, I think this would be a win-win. I get some time at the range and she gets a nice necklace ;)

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    1. It's too bad your girlfriend is afraid of guns. I liked going to the range before, but now there's the extra perk of finding good casings! A friend saw my necklace and wanted one, not even knowing it was a shell casing, so maybe you could still make one for your gf. It might subconsciously warm her up to the idea of guns, lol!

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  2. I love this. Thank you for your wonderful instructions. I actually have some of my hubby's bullet casings I have been saving to make beads for jewelry. The second variation is really pretty as well... and the quartz coloring was perfect for the bulllet shells.

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    1. I'm so happy these instructions were helpful for you! If you make some of these necklaces, I'd love to see photos :)

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  3. I really like this idea! Too bad that there is no bulletshell around here. (and me using a drill - oh, well, it's not a great thought) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. You can find bullet shell casings on etsy. Happy you like the tutorial :)

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  4. Very cool! My dad has plenty of bullet casings he'd be willing to give me. Also, you can buy brand new casings (if you prefer the shiny, non-fired look) at gun supply stores.

    Any idea what the best glue to use would be if you'd rather glue them in than use pre-drilled beads?

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    1. Thanks! I'm so glad you've got access to casings. Do you know if you need a firearms license to buy new casings? You need one for buying ammunition in Canada, so I wasn't sure about the rules for just the casings . . . but that might be a great resource for people, so thanks!

      In terms of glue, I have used Lepage Gel Epoxy for so many projects, including an agate necklace (http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.hu/2012/08/diy-agate-necklace.html) and the hold is strong. I have also heard that E-6000 glue cannot be beat for DIY jewelry projects. I haven't used it myself, but plan to (http://www.michaels.com/E-6000%C2%AE/gc0181,default,pd.html)

      Hope that helps! I'd love to see photos if you do end up making some of these :)

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  5. Love your thorough tutorial. Will be featuring it this week.

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    1. Thanks so much! Please send me a link so I can link back :)

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  6. Can't wait to have some money so I can order some crystals, good thing I have some shell casings laying around.

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    1. That's fabulous you have some spare casings! Some folks turn to Etsy to buy them. I hope you're able to find some quartz. The strand I found was from a smaller shop and worked out to be a dollar per stone (or $2.00 because some weren't usable for this). But I found a shop in Toronto that sells them individually for about 75 cents a piece so I'll be able to get a good fit for each casing. I recommend emailing a few local stores in your area for the best deal. If you come up empty, then there are lots of Etsy but they sell by the strand and, yup, they are a bit expensive. Good luck!! And I'd love to see a photo if you do make some of these necklaces :)

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    2. what is the store in toronto called? i've been looking for a store that sells crystals

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    3. The shop is called BeadFX. They have since sold out of one type (the iris quartz) but they still have the gold quartz. I would recommend contacting them and seeing if their inventory has changed, but here's the link I have:

      http://www.beadfx.com/catalogue/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&keyword=stone+quartz+spike&x=0&y=0

      Hope this helps!

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  7. What kind of stone did you use in the last photo? I love it! Thanks!

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    1. That's a photo from an etsy seller's shop - she used a different method than me, and I wanted to show an example of it. I think it's quartz also? The shop is linked to above the photo.

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  8. hi , i just wanna know if we can buy these Necklace

    please I really need it <3

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    1. Hi, I had planned on making some for sale in my Etsy shop but never found the time. I could make some for sale, but it would have to wait until January. If you're interested, drop me an email and we can chat:
      dans.le.townhouse@gmail.com

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  9. Did you just use a regular pipe cutter? Didn't know if there were different ones :)

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    1. I'm no pro :) but it's what we use for plumbing. So, regular enough to be in our toolbox. Hope that helps!

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  10. hello! im also from thunder bay and was wondering the jewelry store you ended up finding the stone at! love this tutorial :)

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    1. Hi Sam, small world!! I found the stones at Unique Family Crafts, 145 Prospect Ave. It was the last strand, but it was awhile ago so maybe the gals who own it have brought in some more. Hope you find some :)

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  11. Hi love the idea. Bought a pipe cutter from Home Depot but it does not cut through casing. Really frustrated. Wonder if I need a different kind. Really want to do some creating but cant cut through my casings UGHH!

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    1. That's so frustrating! I suggest you bring your casing and the pipe cutter to Home Depot and get their recommendation. They should be able to recommend a good quality cutter for the job.

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