Melted Bead Suncatchers – Perfect for a Homemade Mother’s Day Gift

This is an awesome homemade Mother’s Day gift that you can make in an afternoon. If you are my mother, mother-in-law, or older sister, you should stop reading now.

Or keep reading and ruin your surprise. It’s up to you.

melted bead suncatchers

A few weeks ago, my little sister sent me these two photos on Facebook.

melted bead suncatchers  melted bead suncatchers

I thought they were really neat, but the link with them was spammy. I scoured the internet to find instructions to make them, trying all kinds of different searches on Swagbucks, Google, and Tineye.

Finally, I found the original crafter’s information on Craftster.org (a message board for crafters).

After reading over fifty pages of explanations, warnings, and tips, I decided we could make these melted bead suncatchers.

Melted Bead Suncatchers Materials

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of our materials. Sorry.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Glitter Pony Beads - I bought these same ones at the craft store. Any plastic pony beads will work. If you use opaque pony beads, the light won’t go through your suncatchers (there is one opaque bead in one of my pieces below). Plain transparent pony beads are a little cheaper than ones with glitter, but we really liked the glitter look and spent the extra money.
  • Metal pans – Any metal pans should work, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat out of a pan that I’d melted plastic beads in. The plastic does leave a ring around the edge that I couldn’t get out. We gave ourselves a budget of $15 and hit the Salvation Army Store. We got all shapes and sizes of dishes, including a really neat heart-shaped mini muffin pan. Most of the dishes were 99 cents.
  • Normal cooking stuff – hot pads, timer, big metal tongs (for turning the pans)
  • String – You could use fishing line, but I can never get it to tie a nice knot, so I got Classic Crochet Thread in Size 10. It is thin enough to almost disappear in the sunshine, but it’s sturdy enough not to fall apart.

How to Make Melted Bead Suncatchers

1. Fill the container with a single layer of beads.

Get as many beads as possible into the container without allowing any to jump up into a second layer.

Grace was really into this part for about five minutes, long enough to fill up the heart tray below.

The hearts below worked pretty well, except for the ones that needed an extra bead. It took a lot of heating to get the two on the right side of the middle row to look like hearts. They didn’t have enough beads.

Melted bead suncatchers

Another thing to note is that the beads that are flat (with the hole facing you) will melt into a sort of hexagonal shape. The beads that are up on their side will melt into a square or rectangle. A combination of both makes for an interesting pattern.

Melted bead suncatchers

2. Melt the beads.

After all my craftster.org reading, I decided to melt these in the oven. Preheat to 400, melt for 20-30 minutes, check for adequate melting, heat longer if necessary, remove and cool.

Simple, right?

I also read that the melting plastic produces copious noxious fumes, including possibly cyanide gas (no idea if that’s true or not, just retelling what I read on craftster.org). I did this on a beautiful day, opening all the windows in the house, and turning on the ceiling fans. I gathered my three house cats and tossed them outside, and for the first time in ten years, plucked my turtle from his tank and moved him to a semi-enclosed part of the yard under Grace’s watchful eye.

Then we waited. I came back into the house to check on the beads after 20 minutes, and they weren’t done.

The fumes, however, were nauseating.

After 30 minutes, they still weren’t completely done, but I didn’t know enough to realize it. The arrows in the photo below show all the holes in my first suncatcher (partly due to not enough beads, but also due to not getting melted enough).

Melted bead suncatchers

This one was in the oven at the same time. It melted perfectly, and is still one of my favorites even though I’ve now made almost twenty of these things.

Melted bead suncatchers

This one is my most favorite. I just love the colors and the pattern they made. This one took almost a whole bag of beads; it’s really big.

Melted bead suncatchers

During this outside siesta, the cats ran around, thrilled to have grass under their feet. The turtle was less thrilled.

my turtle while we were melting beads

Obviously.

It took a good three hours from start to finish before our home was re-inhabitable, and I was hesitant to go through all that again. The turtle alone was a lot of work.

Joe suggested that I try melting the beads in our grill outside. It seemed like a good enough idea – temperature controlled, well-ventilated, and required no evacuations.

For the next set of beads, I sorted out colors (making an all-red one, all-pink, all-purple, and all-turquoise, as well as some different color patterns), preheated the grill to 400-ish, and got started.

melted bead suncatchers

The grill worked so much better. I highly recommend using a grill if you have one. There were hot spots in the grill that required a little bit of moving and turning, but it was so much easier to deal with the fumes on a small scale (just within the hood of the grill) than throughout my whole house.

A note on that plastic pan – This plastic pan from the Salvation Army said it was oven safe up to 400 degrees. I may have overheated it. Or maybe the melting beads simply fused to it? I don’t know. The melted beads wouldn’t come out. I ended up breaking the whole dish in half trying to get the pretty melted bead disks out of the pan. Stick with metal pans.

I also found I was better able to control the melting of the beads in the grill, probably because I wasn’t trying to hold my breath to avoid breathing in poisonous fumes.

In the grill, the beads took a little less than 20 minutes to melt, and they took less than 5 minutes to cool outside. It was a sunny but very breezy day. I’ve since melted beads twice more using the grill, and the timing was about the same. My results have been consistently good with the grill.

3. Drill little holes in the plastic.

I knew I wanted to have a large piece, then a medium piece, then a small piece, then 3 hearts on the suncatchers for my mom and mother-in-law, and smaller ones for my sister and Old Grandma. I used a Sharpie to make a dot where each hole should go, and then Joe did the drilling for me using a very small drill bit.

melted bead suncatchers

I do not recommend Joe’s drilling method.

In fact, I only took this picture to show the Emergency Room doctor how Joe drilled a hole in his leg. Fortunately, I didn’t need it, but that does not mean this is a safe way to drill the holes.. Put the suncatcher on a workbench or something.

Also, don’t drill on the kitchen table, counter top, deck, or any other surface you want to remain nice. You have to put something underneath it for the drill to sink into.

4. String the pieces together.

I used the crochet thread (which was exactly the right size to string through the holes Joe made) to connect the pieces together. I played around with spacing, deciding on shorter strings between the bigger pieces and longer strings for the hearts at the bottom.

melted bead suncatchers

I just strung the string through all the pieces and tied a plain old knot in the two ends of the string, pulling it tightly and trimming the ends.

melted bead suncatchers

I want to show you all of my creations, so I created a slideshow below. It contains some tips and tricks as well as photos of almost all the suncatchers I’ve made so far.

Melted Bead Suncatcher

Picture 1 of 12

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© 2013 – 2014, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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Comments

  1. Alisha says

    May want to clairfy that you don’t recommend drilling over your leg like shown here. It’s not safe, and all it takes is one nincompoop that isn’t thinking clearly!

    • says

      You must have missed the 3 paragraphs under the photo. They’re about why you shouldn’t drill like that and how I expected to have to take him to the ER.

  2. Luann says

    I use cooking bags to cook mine in the house so you don’t have the smell. When you use the cooking bags you cook them in a 375 degree oven instead and they take alittle longer to cook. When they are done and you take them out of the oven leave them to cool in the cooking bags for 5 minutes. When you open the bag there will be some plastic smell come from the bag but not as bad as your whole house smelling. It is hard to tell how many minutes it will take for them to be done it all depends on size of container they are cooking in but start with 25-30 minutes.

  3. judy says

    I am trying this one more time today. I have done it two times. First time did not use the right kind of beads. The ones I used last night I had it too thick and adding two layers to make coasters. I can tell it did not get hot enough. Today I am trying it again with a single layer with the holes up I am hoping it melts the bead together instead of them just sticking together. Cannot catch much sun with holes in it. If you have other suggestions, please let me know.

    • says

      Definitely one single layer. 400 or 425 degrees. If they don’t look like they’re melted enough, keep them in longer. It might take 30-40 minutes or even more if your oven isn’t really hot. Even in a single layer, they will be plenty thick enough for coasters. The plastic is slippery, though; I’m not sure how well the glass would sit on them.

      • judy says

        We don’t usually have much in glasses here. It would be water bottles or canned soda. So thinking it will work. I finally did one as a suncatcher and it did fine. Now just have to get a pan to make them bigger. I had hoped I could do multiple layers so I could make stepping stones but not sure that will work. I got some plastic beads that you use a a filler for pillows and it melts great. Thinking I can do that then put small round colored beads in first and they will stick to the white plastic as it melts. Going to try that next weekend. Thanks.

  4. Kelly says

    I made these last summer. I was afraid of the fumes in the house and grill. So we bought a toaster oven at Salvation Army! It’s now our crafting toaster oven! We just put it outside and it worked great. We used a metal star mold from the dollar tree. Instead of drilling a hole, I just used a toothpick to make a hole, while the plastic was still soft. I guess the only negative is that you can’t make large suncatchers in the toaster oven. Yours look really nice!

    • Chris says

      Wondering if anyone has tried melting those colored stones used to put in flower vases. If so, could the same method be used? I don’t have a kiln. I have looked at a few blogs, but they all used kilns. (and that was for marbles. I’m thnking these stones might have the same consistancy as marbles) please let me know if you have tried this. I am anxious to try some ideas I’ve been playing with in my head:)

      • says

        These beads are just plastic. The marbles you’re talking about are glass, as far as I know. Neither a home oven nor a backyard grill get hot enough to melt glass.

  5. Anita says

    Thanks so much for posting all your hints! Our small crafting club will be making these tomorrow and you have saved us a lot of problems with your experience. I’ll let you know how it goes! Thanks again!

  6. Lisa says

    I so enjoyed reading about your suncatchers. I was looking on Google for ideas to make them and came across your page. I was quite engrossed until I came to the pic of Joe drilling the holes and your comment about the emergency room…..it was then i realised exactly how engrossed I was….lol. Thank you for that.

    • says

      I haven’t tried them, only because I like my finished suncatchers to be transparent and the ones with stuff on them are usually opaque. I suspect that the letters would morph into unreadable blobs, but the only way to know for sure is to try it. If you do, share a picture on my Facebook page so we can all see!

  7. donna says

    WOW! YOU COULD NOT HAVE MADE THIS PROCESS ANY EASIER. Thank you for all your helpful information. Looking forward to giving this a try when the cooler weather is upon us.

    • says

      Sadly, I have no answer. The same thing happened when I used a muffin tin, though my muffin tin was a sort of oven-safe plastic. Maybe to make that size, it would be best to line them with aluminum foil?

  8. Ira von Hombracht says

    Thanks for all the good ideas. Started on mine yesterday. cooked them outside on the grill soooo easy. used small metal bracelet/earring beads for hole to eliminate drilling on the larger pieces. drilled holes on the smaller rounds but the metal piece makes them look very “professional”.
    one thing though, bought old pans from the thrift store and if there is any black or rust on them it will transfer to the shape…not so pretty! :(
    has anyone tried silicone molds? i just looking for more variety in the shapes.

  9. Melissa says

    Any tips for the drilling? maybe my drill bits are too big idk but they heat up while drilling and then spin the disc, with sharp edges i might add so i have acquired some nice gashes on my fingers. My brother suggested making the discs cold so I have my remaining ones in the freezer. I love the way these look and can not wait to finish this project :)

  10. Joy says

    First time yesterday. Used. Glass dish covered with tin foil and some using saved aluminum tart containers. I don’t have a drill but it was suggested to put a toothpick in while still warm but I like the idea of using a metal round jewelery thingy or even a small washer would make it look more professional. I’m wondering if you can also melt those containers that fruit comes in (cut into shapes) and integrated with the beds?

  11. Shelly says

    Im making mine now, have been in oven for almost an hour at 400 degrees. I am using poni beads and they are somewhat melted, but is the top of the beads suppose to melted so its smoothe? Leaving them in longer to see if they melt all the way down. I’ve been wanting to do this for monthsm

    • says

      If you leave them in longer, they do get smooth. It depends on what look you want whether you take them out while they’re still bumpy or if you leave them in to become smooth.

  12. Kristine says

    Hello, My daughter made some of the sun catchers with pony beads for a 4H project. We are looking for copyright permission to use this project. Thank you!

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