Holiday DIY: Bike Chain and Cassette Ornaments!
If you have been cycling for any length of time, chances are you’ve gone through a chain… or five. You’ve also probably worn out a cassette or upgraded to a fancy new drivetrain by now, right? So what are you going to do with those used bike parts you shoved into a drawer in your garage? We have the perfect solution – just in time for the Holidays. Scroll down for the step-by-step guide to making awesome ornaments out of your used bike parts.
Bike Part Crafting Supplies
No matter what awesome creation you dream up to make your Holiday decorations bike-themed, you’re going to need to stock up on the following:
- Used bike chains, cassette cogs, chainrings, disc brake rotors, or whatever you have laying around that looks like it could be an ornament!
- Solvent/cleaner (like Simple Green or WD-40)
- Disposable rubber gloves (keep those hands clean, gurl!)
- Rags, paper towels, toothbrush
- Empty glass containers
- Chain breaker tool
- Nails (finishing nails, or anything with a small head)
- Scrap wood
- Super Glue
- Paint brushes (extra small to medium)
- Paint – any color you want! (we used Multi-surface Acrylic paint)
- Acrylic clear coat sealant
- Ribbon (narrow, to fit through the tiny spaces in bike parts and chains)
- Hooks (to hang your ornament!)
The Classic Bike Chain Star Ornament
You may have seen these super-cute ornaments at the local bike shop or on Etsy, but they are easy to make yourself. In fact, you don’t have to wait for the holidays to display these decorations. Bike chain stars can make fun year-round décor to hang from a window sill or a really cool keychain! Here’s how to make your own:
1. Clean the chain. Have you checked out our guide on how to clean your bike? If so, you probably know how to clean a chain by now. BUT, it is even easier to clean a chain when it is old, used and isn’t on your bike. In fact, you can use household cleaners that you usually wouldn’t use on your bike, like Simple Green or WD-40. These solvents are strong enough to damage the paint or plastic parts on your bike, but they will remove the grease and get your chain clean for your DIY project! Place your dirty bike chain in a clean glass container with a lid (like a large pasta sauce jar) and add the solvent of your choice – enough to coat the chain. Then, let it sit for a while. The solvent will do a lot of the work for you. When you take the chain out of the glass container, use rubber gloves to protect your hands. Scrub remaining gunk with an old toothbrush and wash the residue off the chain with water. Use rags/paper towels to dry the chain.
2. Break the chain. When you have to break your chain for a road or trail-side bike fix it isn’t very fun. But when you’re breaking a chain for DIY holiday crafts, it can be really satisfying! Count five full chain links. Remember, a chain has inner plates and outer plates; a full chain link is the combination of these two parts. MAKE SURE you have one inner plate and one outer plate on each end of your piece of chain. Grab your chain tool and begin to push the pin through. Be careful; don’t push the pin all the way out! If the pin remains in the outer plate, it is much easier to reconnect. If you’ve never used a chain tool before, check out our guide here!
3. Make a chain circle. You should now have a piece of chain with outer plates on one side and inner plates on the other. Connect these two pieces to make a circle. Use the chain tool to push the pin back through the rollers. You can also use a hammer to beat the pin back in (just place the chain on your scrap wood and watch your fingers).
4. Form a star! You now have a little chainring, and you could stop here. Some people even sell these as fidget/stress toys on Etsy. But, to make a star you’ll need to keep going. Each full chain link creates one point on the star. To ensure the star holds its shape for the next step, it’s helpful to make a jig. Hammer a finishing nail (or any nail with a small head) into a piece of scrap wood on either side of each star point. You can use this jig for each star you make.
5. Super glue. Once you have a star-shaped chain, use a small amount of super glue on each roller. Let dry. Too much super glue = rough texture/ sloppy-looking star. Too little super glue = the star falls apart
6. Make more. Make lots of bike chain stars to give to all your friends, why not you have a whole chain! Or, you can make different shapes and designs. Keep scrolling for more ideas.
7. Paint. If you got a little super glue happy, you may want to use some sandpaper to file down the excess glue before you paint. If not, you can either leave your star the way it is or paint it your favorite color. Some paints work better than others on metal, but the multi-surface acrylic paint we used seemed to do the trick. Two coats will give you better coverage. Let the paint dry completely between coats. Once you’ve achieved the look you are going for, use an acrylic clear coat spray paint to ensure your masterpiece will look that awesome forever.
8. Add the finishing touches. Cut a small piece of ribbon, insert it through one of the chain link points of your star and tie it in a knot. Then, just grab a hook and your little star is ready for the tree, wreath, or wherever you need a little bike-themed holiday decoration. Nice work!
Once you have the basic bike chain star down, get creative to your heart’s content!
The Bike Chain Reindeer Ornament
Oh, he’s cute and super easy to make! Instead of five chain links, break your chain into segments of three chain links. Connect the ends, form a triangle, and super glue the chain so it stays in place. Then, paint away. The bottom point is your reindeer’s nose, the two pins in the middle are his eyes, and the top is his antlers! This does require a bit of a steady hand and a small paint brush.
The Bike Chain Heart Ornament
The perfect gift for that special friend. There is only one rule when making a heart out of a bike chain: you must have an even number of links. That’s it! Form your heart, super glue, and decorate!
The Bike Chain and Cassette Cog Ornament
Bike chains are meant to sit on cassette cogs and chainrings, so wrapping a chain around one of these pieces is a natural fit! Break the chain to the desired length (Tip: if the cog you are using has an even number of teeth, divide that number in half and that is the number of chain links you should use. If the cog is an odd number, the chain won’t be a perfect fit and you will have some extra). Wrap the chain around the cog and use a hammer to beat the pin back through the roller. Paint and decorate with ribbon, get creative!
The Bike Chain and Cassette Cog Snowman Ornament
This looks way harder than it is. Break two pieces of chain for the hat and scarf. Push the pin all the way out, you will not need to connect the ends. Using a smaller cassette cog and a larger one, assemble your snowman on a piece of scrap wood. Hammer some nails in around your design to hold it in place while you super glue. Don’t be shy, the snowman takes a lot of super glue – place a dot on each of the chain rollers and then use a good amount in the spaces between the cassette cogs and the chain. Let the super glue dry completely. Then, use paint to make your snowman come to life!
The Bike Chain Picture Frame Ornament
This is the hardest ornament to make, but it is still totally doable! Break a length of chain to make a circle. We used eight chain links. Connect the ends, but don’t push the pin back in yet! Trace the outside of the circle onto a piece of cardboard, being careful not to move the chain as you are doing so. Mark the center of each plate, both inner and outer. Then, using scissors cut the circle out of the cardboard. Cut a small divot with the scissors between each mark. Essentially, you are making a “cog” out of cardboard. Measure the “cog” you have created and print a picture the same size. Glue it to the cardboard and cut the excess printer paper. Then, take your bike chain and wrap it around the cardboard cog, attaching to two ends by hammering the pin back through the rollers. Voila!