How to Make an Artistic Cuff Bracelet With an Etched Design
I love interesting and eye-catching jewelry. I love it when people notice my jewelry or accessories and ask me about them. I like to search out unique pieces that make a personal statement - and these plexiglass bracelets certainly make a statement. Because the background is simple and clear, your design can create a bold artistic image against your skin, almost like a removable tattoo.
Although these bracelets are made with just a few common materials, this project is a multi-step process, and it certainly helps to have some experience with drawing. These bracelets are great for artists who want to wear their art on their cuff!
Forming Your Blank Bracelet
I made my bracelets out of 1/8" thick plexiglass. I then used a commercially-made bracelet from my own collection as a template for the shape of my cuff, but you can make them any shape you want.
My cuffs are 7 inches long and about 2 inches high, and I rounded the ends so the bracelet would be comfortable to take on and off. I suggest you use one of your own bracelets for measurements before cutting out your plexiglass piece.
For best results, use an electric saw with a new, clean, fine tooth blade to avoid chipping when cutting out your plexiglass pieces. Once your bracelet blanks are cut, gently sand off any plastic debris using some fine sandpaper.
While you're cutting and forming your plexiglass pieces, I would make a few at a time. If you make a mistake shaping or etching your design on your bracelet, there's really no way to fix it. You should have a few back-up pieces to use.
Once you've cut out your plexiglass pieces, the next step is to form them into your C-shaped cuff. Your plexiglass will probably have a paper backing. You can leave that on during the heating process. It will be easier to remove when your bracelet is warm.
1. Preheat your oven to 260 degrees. You may need to adjust the temperature and time based on your oven.
2. Place your plexiglass pieces on to a clean, metal baking sheet. Put the pieces on the baking sheet with the paper side down.
3. Bake your plexiglass for about 6-8 minutes. You should watch your pieces while they are heating. If they bake too long, they will start to bubble. This can become an interesting design feature, but you won't be able to etch your bracelet if it has bubbles (see image above).
4. Take your plexiglass blanks out of the oven and using protective gloves (an 'Ove' Glove is great for this), immediately start to bend your bracelet into a C-shape. Remember to leave enough open space in your C to slip your wrist through. I used another bracelet as a guide for shaping, but you can also form your bracelet around a piece of PVC pipe.
When forming your blank bracelet, bend the plexiglass with the paper towards the inside of your bracelet. The paper should just fall off as you bend it. Your heated bracelet should be just soft enough to bend, but not floppy.
You should form all of the bracelets at the same time. It shouldn't take a lot of pressure to shape your bracelet. If it's not bending easily, put it back in the oven and heat it again. Try extending the time in the oven by a few minutes.
Once you bracelet is shaped, let it cool completely.
Etching Your Design or Image
Once your bracelet has it's shape, you will need some type of stylus to etch your design on your piece. I have two. One (on the top in the photo) is a tool that I bought for printmaking. It's made for etching copper plates for printmaking.
The other (on the bottom in the photo) seems to work a lot better for this project. My husband bought it for me at a big box home improvement store. I believe it is made for etching on metal if, for instance, you wanted to mark your name or identifying information on something.
Transferring Your Image
You can trace your image/design on to your bracelet, or you can draw it freehand directly onto to the top surface.
If you want to trace it, first draw your image/design on a piece of tracing paper. Place your drawing inside your bracelet where you want it, and tape it tightly in place.
Etching Your Design
Use your stylus to draw or trace your image on the outside top surface of your bracelet. When drawing with the stylus, you will actually be etching your design into the plexiglass. You will need to etch deeply to mark the material. You don't want to just score the surface, you want to etch it deep enough so that it makes a white mark in the plexiglass. You should be able to feel your etched lines when you run your fingernail over the surface.
Your marks are going to hold the color when you paint your bracelet, so put your lines close together, use crosshatching where you can. You want a dense concentration of lines in your design. Even if you just want a single line for an area of your image (like the antenna on the butterfly), you should go over this line a few times with your stylus.
Adding Color to Your Bracelet
Once you've transferred your image onto your bracelet, wipe off any plastic debris that might be on the surface. Using acrylic paint and a paint brush, color in your design as you choose. I would use the paint at the consistency that it comes out of the tube - do not water it down at all - but you can mix and blend the colors as needed.
Let the paint dry completely, preferably overnight. Once the paint is dry, use your fingernail to scrape off the excess paint, as you might scratch off a lottery ticket. You should scratch until you can see the details and lines in your design.
If the color is coming completely off as you scratch, then your bracelet probably isn't etched deep enough. I would suggest taking your stylus and etching your design again, making sure that your marks are deep and dense. Then repaint your design, and scratch off the excess color again.
Just an FYI: Once your bracelet is complete, I would be a little careful in how you treat it. The plexiglass is sturdy, but I would keep the painted area away from water or soap if possible. Try to avoid scratching your image area with anything (like a brush) that might flake the paint.
There are many ways that you can personalize these bracelets with your choice of shape, design and image, and color. You can create abstract designs on your bracelet, or add images of your own artwork. The choices are completely up to you. I hope you create something wonderful and love wearing it!
© 2013 Donna Herron