Binding and Wrapping a Shell Slice

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of purchasing shells, but I will take the exception once in

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Beautiful, but endangered

while if I see something cool at a bead store or at a gem and bead show. Shells have been sold and traded for use in jewelry and adornments throughout our history, so I don’t think selling shells is going away anytime soon. I just like to avoid endangered ones.

I picked up a neato Mitra shell that was cut lengthwise to show the spiral inside the shell. The Mitra Sea Snail is common, but the shell is quite beautiful and unique when polished to show off the patterns and the inside structure.

I thought it would be cool to wrap it similar to how I would wrap and secure a Matau hook style pendant necklace over a cord to stabilize it.

First, I hand braided a Kumihimo cord for the shell pendant using waxed Linhasita thread.

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A simple 4 strand braid with a knotted toggle

Next, I used a little more of the waxed nylon thread to make a series of several half hitch knots over the center of the necklace cord AND over and through one of the voids in the sliced shell to hold both together. I singed and melted the ends of the binding using a Zap-It tool, or you can use a lighter (carefully- and outside!). The knots can still slide along the cord, but the cut edge of the shell can wear on the threads over time, so I like to keep the wrap centered typically. This is another excellent reason to use waxed nylon cord for this type of project.

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The ridge of half hitch knots is on the top side

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It took about 8 half hitches to ensure the shell was securely bound to the cord

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I’m Queen of the MerPeople, you noob

I think it makes a cool surfy necklace, and a little different from the conventional. And NO, I’m not trying to appropriate anyone’s culture- don’t get up in my face about it….

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Hang up the phone. NOW, Princess.

Shell Jewelry Tips

At one time or another, every surfer (or aspiring surfer) worth their cred tries to make their own beachy shell jewelry. It IS part of our primal urge. In fact, some of the earliest known forms of adornment were pierced shells and teeth on handmade string.

But after an hour after the Upper Paleolithic Revolution has worn off within the surfer, then he or she usually gives up and buys it somewhere.

But if you have a flat day of surf, and you’re

I love Pauly Shore

feelin’ a bit like Encino Man, here’s three tips I’ve found helpful over time when making shell jewelry…

 

 

 

1. Go to a thrift store for shell beads and pendants first.

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A nice shell necklace I found, but it’s too chunky and sharp to wear comfortably as a necklace

I love shell jewelry, but the current shell industry has now over harvested and overbred many species for the trade. I’ll pass on that choice first.

I’ve found MUCH higher quality shell beads among thrift store and vintage finds over purchasing recently grown and cut varieties. I’d rather buy my shells at the better vintage quality whenever possible, rather than contributing even more to the over harvesting problem. It’s kind of how I feel about pearls. Bonus that you can still get a deal at a few thrift stores these days. For now. The beach is always the great option, of course, but you will be drilling these yourself and removing natural items from the beach.

2. Use nylon or wire to string shell beads.

When shells are drilled for sale as beads, rarely is the inside diameter perfectly smooth, unless you pay a premium.

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The drill holes are clean, but at odd angles

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Various types of stringing material I use with shells 

Common shell beads will cut most cotton, hemp, or poly thread like a Ginsu knife. So, get some decent stuff that won’t cut nor fray easily, or your ocean cred probably won’t last da Summer.

Or….I guess you could

Bizarro Hasselhoff

say you sliced that freshie shell anklet you made on a shark’s tooth while saving the Mayor’s kid from the deadly riptide, you Gnar Lifeguard????

You’re welcome.

3. Check your shells for sharp burrs, and file them down before stringing.

I was warned by a lapidary long ago to ALWAYS WEAR A MASK when filing, sanding, or drilling shells. Excellent advice. The calcium carbonate particles are easily inhaled- along with whatever fun stuff that shell has absorbed. Use a bit of water to minimize dust, and go outdoors for the task preferably.

Sharp edges and burrs can often be removed using a decent nail file from the drugstore, a bead reamer from the craft store, or a rotary drill. It’s best to do this BEFORE staring a piece most times. After the piece is finished, it’s difficult to sand some areas typically.

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Keep a supply of water nearby to keep the shell wet while sanding or drilling 

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Various pieces polished and drilled

Enjoy trying out all the types of natural shell, seed, and nut beads available. If you really hate doing it yourself, though, this is a good time to plug my Etsy store where I post my random surfy jewelry (including shells), as well as projects and art I like to do. Surprise. I have an Etsy store. I think it’s mandatory for crafters.

Anywho….shell jewelry is cool since it’s nice to have a reminder that there’s a great big ocean out there and we get to be a part of it, if only for a vacation. I mean, that’s one of the beautiful things about surfing, right? Right???

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I guess you could make a surfer necklace from your sacred gym key

Jan Brady’s Lucky Tiki Necklace

So, I hope you’ll agree with me that the best trilogy ever made wasn’t Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but The Brady Bunch Hawaii Triology.

Greg’s da MAN at EVERYTHING that’s HOT

The thrilling storyline surrounds a big ass tiki necklace

I think Bobby always had adjustment issues

that Bobby finds at his Architect Dad’s construction site, but this necklace proves to be “bad luck” for the wearer. No doubt. It looks like they’re wearing a brick.

img_9315Jan Brady, usually the unluckiest of the clan, never gets a turn with this unfortunate soap-on-a-rope tiki necklace. So here’s my smaller, more feminine, and luckier tribute to Jan that can be worn in the surf or shower with no worries about rust. And you won’t bust your hip at hula either….just sayin’…..Alice…..

Did she still have to cook while on vacation?

I got this bone carved tiki man down in Key Largo years ago at a bead store that has sadly closed. For this necklace, I’m using the cord I made in my last post, a 4 strand braid.

I had a few flat disk toggles to choose from: a flat drilled bone disk, recycled glass, and a polymer clay one I made myself. I decided on the bone one for this project.

Bone, recycled glass, and polymer clay toggles

Next, I ran the end of the cord through the toggle and made a stopper knot:

After trimming off the excess, I singed the end with a lighter since this was made with nylon cord (do this outside- it’s smelly).

Melted the knot to secure

Next, I measured out how long I wanted the necklace (16 inches) plus an inch and 1/2 to make a loop for the toggle closure.

Doing the wrapping with nylon thread

Using C-Lon thread, I used a nautical knotting technique called whipping to finish the loop. Whipping takes some patience- especially when it’s with thread, so it good to practice a lot.

Whipping completed

After I trimmed the ends, I made sure to melt those ends as well to secure. Use a dab of jeweler’s glue if using other materials (double check for compatibility).

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Waterproof toggle complete

I wanted to secure the tiki man right in the center of the necklace, so I used the black C-Lon thread again to make a stitch into the braided cord and start looping over the cord and through the top angled hole of the tiki. I used a small knitting needle to leave some space between the cord and the top of the pendant.

Wrapping the thread around the cord

After removing the knitting needle, I did more whipping and made a vertical post, giving it extra security. I trimmed the ends and singed them with the lighter.

Whipping the post

Done!

Part of wants to me wants to wear it, but part of me is scared I might see this guy if I do….

Vincent Price was in this trilogy and made it SUPER creepy too. Remember him???