Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beaded Branch Abacus by Judi Kauffman for The Queen’s Ink

I thought I’d go in a different direction for this week’s project. It has undertones of mixed media, and I think my high school math teacher would be pleased with what I designed…An abacus!

I found a photo with a quick online search to use as a reference and made an abacus with glass beads, wire, and a branch. It’s a real (functional) abacus that can be used when it’s flat on a table, but it turns into something that’s decorative and sculptural when it’s hanging. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone recognizes it as an abacus without my giving away the secret…

This project is a good way to use up a lot of beads. It looks great when it’s hanging in a window with light streaming through. And it is super easy and lots of fun to make.

Instead of a step-by-step tutorial, I’m providing only the idea and a few photos. No two people have the same collection of beads, branches are all different – so make it your own way and in a color combination that pleases your eye.

Other Options:
  • Use a painted dowel instead of a branch and stick with a more structured look.
  • Use clay beads instead of glass.
  • Instead of a wall hanging, use memory wire for the top and bottom rows, regular wire in between, and use same-size beads to create a wearable abacus bracelet. (When you wear it you can use it as a tip calculator. I made one with faux pearls and it’s a conversation starter – kids LOVE it…)


  • Gather some beads, making sure that the wire you’ve chosen will easily fit through the holes.
  • Plan the abacus on a kitchen towel so the beads won’t roll around.
  • Rearrange until you’re happy with the way things look.
  • Have fun!


  1. Such a great idea! Off to find a nice branch ...

  2. Love this Judi! What a great way to use up odd beads, too! You can use as many or as few as you wish!

  3. gorgeous. Actually, too pretty to call an abacus, grin.

  4. Gorgeous! I think I have to make one for our greenhouse and just sit there and watch how it reflects the light from the windows. Thanks for the inspiration!