Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to School Mini Abacus

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We luckily still have another month until school starts at our house, but I know some folks who start back in just a few weeks. So depending on when your dollhouse kids start back to school, here are some ideas to think about for the coming school year.

Here we have an abacus. Made from popsicle sticks, wire and beads.

Now, most projects on our blog our geared towards activities you can make
with your kids, so I will be honest.  This project is probably best to make for
your kids, as it is complicated, and elicited quite a bit of cursing from me!
This might not be the case for you, as hopefully you can all learn from my mistakes
and make your tiny abacus without a single frustration.
First, take one popsicle stick, and cut it in half, right in the middle.
I then drilled 10 super tiny holes, with the tinest drill-bit we had, evenly down the length.

Then you get some wire, I used 20 gauge wire, which turned out to be a bit of a problem, so
I would suggest picking a higher gauge, thinner wire 24 or 26 should work much easier.
 (Higher gauge is thinner, lower gauge is thicker)
If you want to try and go ahead with 20, you can. Just learn from my mistakes and how to fix them!
                 I tied a knot at one end, pliers were required for this. Then strung it through the top hole,
near the rounded edge. Then I strung 10 beads onto the wire.
You will be making 10 rows of 10 beads. So you will need at least 100 beads
and about 25 inches of wire. Each row is about 1 1/2 inches wide.
Then sew the wire through the matching hole on the top of the other popsicle
stick. Clamp down the wire well, I used pliers, and try to keep your length even. (about 1 1/2")
The 20 gauge actually made it easier to hold the wire's shape, and not lose your length.
Then string it through the next hole, back and forth, adding 10 beads on each
row before you connect it to the opposite side.

All of the clamping and pulling with pliers on the soft popsicle stick, does take its toll,
so you have to be VERY careful.
Also be careful with the pliers, so you don't crack any beads. I cracked 3, this is when the cursing began.

I got about 8 rows done, it was looking pretty cute, when this happened.
The wood split right down the middle, from all the pulling of the heavy wire.
This is when I had to take a break! Time to put the kids to bed, and rethink this.

As I laid there with the kids, I figured out how to fix it. So I grabbed a glass of wine (another reason to make this on your own time!) headed back to the craft room and  I re glued the broken half back together
with wood glue. Then once the glue was set up, but still tacky, I very carefully snipped the
ends of the wires so I could stick them back through the still tacky, glued holes. There was one good thing about this, is it gave me a chance to replace the broken beads I had cracked and broke.
This took patience...lots of patience (and a second glass of wine). Leave as much length on the wires as you can, so none slip back out the holes.

Ah, by morning it was dry, and it seemed to work!
So, if you if you mess up as I did, and now have sharp edges sticking out,
you wait until all the glue is totally dry, then use pliers to fold down the
edges. Snip off the ends so they are as short as possible.
If you used a larger gauge wire, well then hopefully, nothing broke, and everything
looped through as it should and it looks perfect.
 Now, that bottom row should have lots of extra wire, as you see above.
 DO NOT CUT IT OFF,  you will need it.
You will need this extra bit of wire to make a base.

Take the wire and loosely loop it around, and thread it through
the bottom row wire's loop.

So, you should have created a half circle, that will hold the
abacus upright. Test it to see that it works before you twist the wire together.

Use some pliers to twist the 2 ends together, neat and tight.
If you use a larger gauge wire, you can may be able to twist this without
using tools.

Snip off the end of the wire with wire cutters.

I cut 2 pieces of fabric to cover up the messy sides. Just trace
the shape onto the fabric and cut to fit. I glued it in place with fabric glue.
It's a bit bumpy from the wires, but still, it looks better than the raw edge.

Yay, you are done, and your kids will be amazed at what you made for them!
Mine were amazed that the beads moved like a real abacus.

Tah dah!

Now we're all ready to go back to school!
I can show how to make the globes next week. They, on the other
hand, are very easy and kid friendly to make.

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