QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded


I saw this antique wearable abacus recently and thought "How small an abacus can I make?" Answer is "Not quite that small, but pretty tiny."

Abacus ring

Chinese abacus ring, about 12mm x 7mm (0.5" x 0.36"), that inspired me.

Wood frame on blue tape as glue dries

I cut some thin slivers of wood, drilled tiny (#66 drill bit, .033", .838mm) holes, and then glued into a frame shape. To hold it while the glue dried, I stuck it to blue painters tape. My smallest seed beads are 1.5mm, so I drilled holes 2mm apart. Final size will be about twice as wide as the ring.

Starting to bead

I stained the wood and glued a brass angle iron on for reinforcement. I'm using colored jewelry wire.

Custom bead tweezers

I'm using a bead tweezers I cut from a coffee stirrer (see first picture, next to blue tape). It flexes to grasp beads pushed in, then the wire catches them to remove. Grid on ruler is in tenths of an inch.

Finished, next to a Lego plate

Smaller than a 4x2 Lego plate. Functional abacus with ten rods of seven beads each, brass reinforced wood frame.