Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

March 27, 2013

DIY Bullet Shell Casing Necklace

I finally made the DIY shell casing necklace that I've been wanting 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 love the combination of the rugged shell casing (which has been fired), with the sparkly quartz.  Want one?


Supplies:

How to make a shell case necklace:

Clean the shell casing:

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. 

How to clean brass shell casings
Spent brass shell casings
Projects using shell casings

Find the right size crystal spike:

Finding the right size crystals was tricky.  I brought one of each size shell casing to craft stores in search of the right stones.  I finally found a strand of crystal points 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. 

Crystal point stick beads for shell casing necklaces
Rock Crystal Rough Point Stick Beads from Etsy
Drill a hole in the casing:

With the crystals purchased and the shell casings cleaned, Hubby and I headed to the garage where he drilled a hole into the top of each casing (wearing eye protection, of course!).

How to drill a hole in a shell casing

Saw the end off a rifle casing:

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 (see third photo).

How to cut a shell casing shorter
How to make a shell casing necklace
How to saw off a shell casing

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

Using a pipe cutter to trim shell casing
Saw vs pipe cutter

File the edges of the casing:

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.

File a cut shell casing
Hole drilled through shell casing
Making jewelry from shell casings

Wire wrap the crystal spike:

I grabbed one of my crystal spike points and strung about five inches of the wire through the bead.  I worked with one end, wrapping the wire tightly against itself.

Wire wrap a crystal point stick bead

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

Bullet jewellery tutorial

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.

Making jewelry from spent shell casings
DIY shell casing pendant

Add chain!

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 shell casing and crystal necklace!

How to make a shell casing necklace
DIY crystal and shell casing pendantsHow to make a shell casing necklace
diy bullet necklace
unique DIY jewelry ideas
Make your own shell casing jewelry

Variations:

Alternatively, 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.

Drill a hole in a bullet casing

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).

Push the primer out of shell casing
Use shell casings for crafts
shell casing jewelry
How to drill a small hole in shell casing

Let me know if you have any questions about how to make your own shell casing and crystal spike necklace!

DIY shell casing and crysal necklace / Great step-by-step tutorial and this blog has lots of other DIY jewelry projects too!
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37 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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  12. So thankful I found these DIY tips! I have a shell casing from my dads funeral I can finally wear, close to my heart. God bless.

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    1. Hi Heather, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for leaving this comment. To hear how you'll be using a deeply personal and sentimental shell casing really moved me.

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  13. thanks for the great info

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  14. I have been looking everywhere for detailed instructions on how to cut, pierce, get the primer out, etc. Thank you so much for sharing ! I got a half gallon container of spent .38 specials at a yard sale for a dollar. Now I can get busy making Christmas presents ! Again, many thanks~~~

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    1. What a great yard sale score!! I'm so happy you found this post helpful. It was so nice of you to leave a comment! I'd love to see your finished necklaces, if you feel like sharing :) (@danslelakehouse on IG or dans.le.townhouse@gmail.com) but no pressure, because it sounds like you'll be busy...

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  15. These look amazing, I can't wait to try! I'm from Thunder Bay - can you tell me which local store you found the crystals from? Thanks :)

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    1. Unique family crafts, on Prospect Ave. Behind the French school :)

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  16. How would you search for that style of stone? I keep finding the wrong shaped beads..

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    1. Good question! They're crystal points. That search term pulled up some good ones on etsy. You could specify raw crystal top drilled points, to get the hole drilled across the top. Measurements for strands of these vary a lot. I bought a strand in person and brought a casing to check fitment. Only half fit but that's all I needed. Be sure to ask the seller how many would fit the casing size you're using.

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  17. My Uncle Randy recently passed away. I am going to use a shell we got from his 21 gun salute to make for my Aunt. Thank you so much for the awesome directions! She will love it!

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    1. Hi Hannah, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Hearing that you'll be making something special for your Aunt using my tutorial really means a lot to me. You're so thoughtful for making this for her. I hope she loves it!

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  18. How did you put wire in stone I have a few crystals we got from crystal mining. Were getting more next summer we know where a lot of them are

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    1. My stones were already drilled for jewelry making. Your crystals will need to be drilled - there are small drill bits you can buy for this - just ask at your local hardware store. Alternatively, you could use a strong glue or epoxy to set the stone into the casing and drill through the casing for a chain to be threaded through for wearing (see the photos near the end of an example of what I mean). P.S. I'm jealous you're finding crystals!

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