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Where Bloggers Live: My Weekend Paper Bead Dip Glaze Tutorial

Welcome back to the monthly edition of Where Bloggers Live! I am lucky to have joined a terrific group of bloggers who give a peek into the places and spaces where they spend their time.

Today's topic is A Day in the Life: Weekend...and my immediate thought was, Haha, I am spending my weekends lately dealing with the many boxes of paper beads I have in my apartment ready to be glazed!

By boxes of paper beads, I mean boxes like this with unsealed paper beads strung across them, ready for dip glazing. I started out with 9 of these boxes and am now down to 6. (And no, I don't really have room for all of these medium-sized moving boxes in my apartment!)

The first weekend I tried the dip glazing technique, I did 2 boxes...and it almost killed me. It involved a LOT of standing in my kitchen, and my back, hips, and knees were complaining loudly by the time I was finished. Last weekend I did one box, which was much more doable, and I have vowed to do one every weekend (barring major interrupting life events) until I have finished them all. I am really hoping to not get such a large backlog of rolled beads ready for glazing again!

I have to do the dip glazing process on weekends because it involves quite a few steps with long wait periods in between, so I need a good chunk of time to work on it.

So here it is, my weekend paper bead dip glaze tutorial!

My process is based on the one shown in this YouTube video from SanteFeLady (7 minutes). I have tweaked it a bit, but if you would like to see a video version of my tutorial, this is a good overview of the basic technique.

Here is the starting point for this glazing tutorial...a bunch of rolled but unsealed paper beads. (If you use my paper bead tutorial, this is where we are at the end of Stage 2.) All the blue trays have small batches of beads to make 1-3 bracelets for a bracelet set (see this post for an explanation of how I design these sets; the white papers are labels for the sets). The small lids have very small batches of beads that I am making from smaller pages to create bead soup (I will blog about this later on). Whether you have a bunch of random beads or a large set of identical beads or anything in between, this technique will work.

To establish a baseline prior to glazing, here is what two kinds of unsealed 1" bicone beads I will be using to make a paper bead bracelet set look like. These beads have been rolled and dotted with glue to secure the end of the strip, but have no kind of sealant or glaze added...what you are seeing is the texture of the paper itself. I think these beads already look good. But they will look even better (as well as being harder, more durable, and a bit more resistant to small amounts of water) after sealing and glazing!


--A large-ish cardboard box. I just use shipping or moving boxes with the top flaps cut off. The exact size doesn't matter at all. Using a box cutter, add slits along two opposite sides of the box at 1" intervals.

--30 lb. fishing line. Cut lengths of fishing line that are twice as long as the width of your box (i.e., twice as long as the distance from a slit on one side of the box to its partner on the other side).

--Soda can tabs. Tie a tab to the end of each length of fishing line. This creates a stopper at the end of the line so that your beads won't come off. If you don't drink anything from a can, you could substitute something else to act as a stopper.

How many fishing line + tab strands do you need? I like to have twice as many as I can fit on the box so that I don't absolutely need to clean the strands between steps, I can just use the second set of strands. If you only have enough line/tabs to make the number of strands that fit on your box, that's fine. You will just need to clean the strands in the middle of the process. Either way, you will be able to easily clean these strands are re-use them for future batches of beads.

--Mod Podge for sealing the beads. You can use either gloss or matte; it doesn't matter. I use gloss. Put Mod Podge in a wide mouth jar with a lid, dilute slightly with water, and swirl around until it's mixed. There is no exact ratio of Mod Podge to water, and I'm still experimenting to get the right consistency. SanteFeLady specifies that the mixture be "a little thicker than whipping cream," if that helps.

--Minwax Polycrylic water-based clear gloss for glazing the beads. Put the polycrylic into a wide mouth jar with a lid at full strength (do not dilute).

--Nitrile disposable gloves for protecting your hands when glazing. I use a glove on my dominant hand when doing the polycrylic glazing but not when sealing with Mod Podge. Polycrylic is low-toxicity but should be used in a ventilated area and used with gloves (source). Mod Podge is non-toxic (source). Of course you can use gloves with Mod Podge also if you prefer!

Step 1: Prepare your bead strands for dipping

Add beads to the fishing line/tab strands. You don't want to fill each strand entirely. You will need some empty line so that you can spread the beads out, not touching, when added to the box. Here's a typical set of partially filled strands on one of my boxes so you can see how much extra space I leave. I would err on the side of under-filling than over-filling the strands with beads. I have added my labels to the end of each strand to keep track of which is which (this is of course 100% optional). It's hard to see here, but I have also left one matching set of slits in the box without a strand at the back. I prefer to leave one set of slits open so I have some room to maneuver when I start dipping.

You don't actually have to add your strands to your box before you start dipping, but I generally do because it makes it easy to know how many strands you have (vs. how many the box will hold) and it keeps the strands neat and the beads in place. To place a strand on the box, push the strand down on the pair of slits, pull so that the soda can tab is flush with the outside of the box on one side, then pull the free end of the strand taut. Secure the free end of the strand by wrapping it around and down an adjacent slit.

Step 2: First dip - Seal with Mod Podge

Here is my dipping set up. I have the box with fishing line/tab strands and beads from Stage 1. I have my jar of diluted Mod Podge open and next to the box. I have placed both of these on a big piece of cardboard to protect my countertop (this is optional but I like how it minimizes clean up). I have set up right next to my kitchen sink so I can wash off my hand as I go, and I have a towel ready for drying my hand.

You will be working back to front on the box. Remove your first strand with beads from the back of the box (or wherever your strands may be). Dip into the jar of diluted Mod Podge and make sure all beads are covered tip to tip. I do this by holding the free end of the strand in my non-dominant (left) hand and dipping the end with the soda can tab into the jar down until all beads are covered. (If you have a paper label on the line, hold the strand below the paper when dipping.) Pull the strand back out of the jar and holding it over the jar, run the fingers of your other (dominant) hand down the strand of beads from top to bottom so that some of the excess glue comes off. Wipe the excess from your hand against the edge of the jar so the glue goes back into the jar. I do this 3 times to remove excess glue from the outside of the beads.

After the third time, I let the strand of beads continue to dangle over the jar and drip down glue. I usually shake the strand slightly while it dangles so more excess glue drips off back into the jar. I do this while I rinse the glue off the fingers of the other hand and dry them quickly on the towel. I have experimented with dangling the strand various lengths of time, up to 1 minute, and I think that I can get my fingers rinsed and dried off in the amount of time it takes to quickly count to 30, and that's enough time to dangle the strand.

Note: I think SanteFeLady holds both ends of the strand so it makes a U shape and dips that down into the jar (based on what she shows in her video). Either should work; do whatever feels easiest/most comfortable to you. One advantage of her U shape is that you don't get glue all over the soda can tab. On advantage of my straight line method is that you can dip one handed and use the other to wipe off the excess glue.

Once you've dipped and dangled the strand to remove some of the excess glue, put the strand of beads on the very back pair of slits on the box. To place a strand on the box, push the strand down on the pair of slits, pull so that the soda can tab is flush with the outside of the box on one side, then pull the free end of the strand taut. Secure the free end of the strand by wrapping it around and down an adjacent slit. (If you have labels on your strand, be sure to position them on the outside of the box when wrapping the fishing line around the adjacent slit. You don't want to glue the paper to the bead.)

Once the strand is secured, space out the beads on the strand so they are not touching each other (you don't want to glue them together). Repeat this process, working from the back of the box to the front, until you are out of beads/strands or out of slits in the box. It takes me about 45 minutes to dip and secure the beads in a box of this size.

Step 3: Keep beads from sticking to the line while they dry

Every 20 minutes or so - and this includes the time while you are continuing to dip beads and add the strands to the box - move the beads slightly on the strands to unstick them from the fishing line. As the beads dry, they will tend to stick to the line, which can cause difficulty when it's time to remove them. By regularly moving the beads around, you can prevent this. Leave the beads to dry on the line for about 2 hours (with unsticking every 20 minutes or so).

Step 4: Remove beads and let them fully dry

After 2 hours, remove the first strand from the box and remove the beads from the strand. They should be fairly dry to the touch on the outside of the bead at this point. Place the beads back on something to finish drying. I save plastic lids of all types/sizes for holding my beads. Because the outside of the beads are not still notably sticky, you can place them together and it's OK if they touch slightly, though I'd spread them out a bit if you can.

Something I learned from experience: the holes of your beads can get filled up with Mod Podge, which can then harden in place and make it impossible later to string the beads! This doesn't happen to every bead, but it does happen to some. So when I take the beads off the fishing line, I look at them and make sure the holes are nice and clear of glue. If the hole has glue in it, I take this handy piece of metal (which I literally have no idea what it is or where it came from) and put it through the holes of the bead to clear them. Substitute whatever you may have as a tool here - a thick straightened paper clip or other wire could work, an awl, a bamboo skewer...anything you can put in there to clear out the glue. Trust me, you want to clear it out now while it's still wet and not once it's hardened!

Leave the beads to dry for 24 hours. I know that this seems like a long time. But they will continue to harden up during this extended drying time, and they will turn out glossier after glazing if you give them this length of time to dry.

Step 5: Clean your strands

As soon as you've removed your beads from the fishing line/tab strands, clean them while the Mod Podge is still wet. I use a plastic tub with a lid, add a bit of dish soap and hot water, then place the strands into it. I put on the lid and shake the whole thing up. I let it sit for a while to soak. Then I remove each strand individually and wipe it with my towel to remove the glue. The fishing line cleans up pretty easily this way. The strands will have plenty of time to dry in the 24 hours you leave the beads before continuing to the next step. You may be tempted to use the dirty strands again for the glazing step but this is a mistake! You definitely want to use clean strands each time. Otherwise the risk of beads sticking to the strands and being ruined will be greatly increased and you will be sad! You can use a fresh/clean set of strands in the next step and afterwards add them to dirty Mod Podge strands already in the soapy tub so you only have to do one round of strand cleaning at the very end...this is what I like to do.

After 24 hours, your beads will look something like this. You can see that the surface of the bead has has a more gritty-yet-glossy texture than the bare paper did. More importantly, the beads will be fully sealed (layers all glued together) and much harder than they were before.

Note: You may notice that the ends of some of the beads look a bit crushed. It's more noticeable on the second blue set than the first red set. I think this happens because I use thin magazine/catalog paper for my beads and that thin paper can get a bit smushed during the dipping and dangling process. I suspect that the Mod Podge diluted with water temporarily weakens the paper so it's more susceptible to this smushing effect. When I thickened up my mixture by adding more Mod Podge, the smushing was lessened. This is something you can experiment with to find the right ratio of Mod Podge and water. The second set of striped beads are the most smushed of any I've made; other sets weren't smushed at all. It probably depends on the specific paper as well as the Mod Podge mixture. If you use thicker paper, you'll probably not have a smushing issue.

The slight bead end smushing is not at all a problem for me because (1) I don't mind my beads having an imperfect/organic vibe and (2) the smushing is not really noticeable once the beads are strung as bracelets with spacer beads between them. But I thought I would mention this because it is a potential drawback to a dip glaze technique if you have thin paper and want your beads ends always to be perfect and pristine. If this is a deal-breaker for you, a brush-on glaze method is probably a better alternative. I have successfully used the technique shown in this under 10-minute video; it doesn't impact the ends of the beads but it is overall much slower on a per-bead basis than dipping, so proceed accordingly.

Step 6: String the beads onto the strands, again, to prepare for glazing

String those beads up again on clean fishing line/tab strands. An alternative to fully securing the strands onto the box before going into the dipping process is to just put the loose end of the strands into the slits and let the rest of the strand settle into the bottom of the box, like this. I don't like leaving strands like this for a longer time because they can get annoyingly intertwined, but it works fine short-term for preparing to dip.

Step 7: Second dip - Glaze with polycrylic

Put on your glove(s) and be sure that your room is reasonably ventilated before opening up the jar of polycrylic.

This step is exactly like step 2 (first dip with Mod Podge) except you dip into your jar of polycrylic. Dip, run your fingers down to remove the excess 3 times, dangle and swing your strand over the jar slightly while you rinse off your (gloved) hand and dry it. Secure the strand to the box. Spread out the beads on the strand so they do not touch each other. Continue until all strands are dipped in glaze and secured.

Step 8: Keep beads from sticking to the line while they dry (again)

This is the same as after dipping in Mod Podge. Leave the beads to dry on the line for about 2 hours with unsticking every 20 minutes or so.

Step 9: Remove beads and let them fully dry (again)

This is the same as before also. Remove the beads from the strands, clear out the holes of extra glaze as needed, place the beads on something like plastic lids to dry and cure, and clean your dirty strands. You should let the beads dry/cure for 24-72 hours. If you can wait for 72 hours before making something with your beads, that is optimal. The beads will get harder and glossier and overall awesome-r the longer you let them sit. You will end up beads that look like this - shiny and beautiful!

Note: Many people follow up the Mod Podge sealant with two coats of polycrylic glaze, adding the second coat 2 hours after the first one. That's what I did on my first box and it was a pain! So I did only one coat of polycrylic on the second box, and really, after the 72 hour drying/curing period, the beads weren't any harder or any shinier that I could tell with two coats of polycrylic versus one. So I am doing only a single coat of polycrylic.

That said, some people do three, four, or even more coats of glaze to get an extremely smooth and glossy finish on their paper beads. I have even seen people refer to their beads as "looking like plastic" after doing so many layers. In my case, if I wanted plastic-looking beads, I'd use plastic beads (which can be purchased cheaply without all this work!), so that's not something I aspire to for my paper beads. Of course feel free to experiment with different numbers of coats yourself and find your own preference.

Here is a side-by-side view of the transformation of the paper beads from bare paper to the end result. Glossy & gorgeous!

Thanks for joining me in sharing my current paper bead dip glazing method and what I will be doing with my weekends for the next couple of which point I fully intend to start cutting more strips and rolling more beads, which will then need to be glazed themselves. I know, it's insanity, I know. I know! But the heart wants what the heart wants, right? And apparently my heart wants bunnies and paper beads.

Next month's topic is Medicine Cabinet...which is funny because right now I have a Medicine Laundry Basket and several Medicine Brown Paper Bags for my various pills. It will be surprising to no one that the blogger with the College Living 2.0 aesthetic has a distinctly non-fancy, non-furniture-based approach to organizing these things in cheap/free repurposed containers she already owned.

In the meantime, visit these lovely bloggers as they share about their weekends:

Bettye at Fashion Schlub

Daenel at Living Outside the Stacks

Em at Dust and Doghair

Iris at Iris’ Original Ramblings

Jodie at Jodie’s Touch of Style

Leslie at Once Upon a Time & Happily Ever After

Anyone else out there who uses their weekends for time-consuming craft projects? Do you have a current crafting obsession?

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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