It’s difficult to discuss what makes beads different without a basic understanding of each part of a begleri bead and its function. Most of this is self-explanatory, but some parts affect beads in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.
A: Cord Bore
The cord bore governs what types and sizes of joiners can be used with the bead. There are a number of different methods to get larger sizes of cords into smaller cord bores (post will be linked here once posted), but doing so can slightly change the feel of the set because the bead would be restricted from spinning or moving on the cord. The typical cord bore these days is 3.5mm (AO2’s “Goldilocks” bore), or bored to comfortably fit 550, though some makers (TGP/Monkeyfinger) drill their beads primarily for smaller cord, but while allowing larger cord.
Monkeyfinger is unique in that almost all of their beads have threaded bores. This helps in the anodization process, which is their forte, but it also helps in the stringing process by making it easy to “screw” your cord into the bead. Especially helpful for larger joiners.
B: Knot Recess
The knot recess is where the knot on your joiner goes after it’s tied or flat-burned or otherwise terminated. Some beads don’t have one at all (Hydras), some have a shallow one made specifically for the knot (Ape Grapes), and some beads are just hollow, and that acts as the knot bore (Standards). Keep this in mind when sizing your joiner. You should always rely on the length of cord between the beads, not using a specific length of cord for every bead. A bead that has a deep knot recess will need less cord than one without a recess.
The knot bore also helps to control the center of gravity for the bead (in combination with the weight distribution). Some people prefer the not on the bottom of their bead, such as with beads that have no recess; Some prefer the knot closer to the center of the bead.
The width is self-explanatory. Combined with size, this is what makes up the size of the bead. Most beads are around 20mm x 20mm or below at the time of writing, though the current shift is to mini-sized beads.
The height is self-explanatory. Combined with weight, this is what makes up the size of the bead. Most beads are either have 1:1 dimensions, or are taller than they are wide, though there are a few exceptions (Gumdrops by TotalArtist are wider than tall).
E: Inner Bore Diameter
The inner bore diameter is the width of the knot recess. This governs how large of a knot can fit in the recess, and what kinds of weight systems can be used. For example, AroundSquare uses ~12mm for their “hardcore” compatible beads. Monkeyfinger also uses a smaller diameter that fits their “Monkeybars” weight system. A lot of DIY lathed beads use the “hardcore” diameter because of the ubiquity and availability of the hardcore weight beads.
F: (Not Pictured) Weight
Note: All references to weight in this blog means weight per-set. Some people refer to weight as per-bead, so it’s an important distinction to make when talking about bead weights.
Weight is one of the most important parts of your begleri set, but also one of the most variable throughout your slinging journey. The vast majority of begleri beads are 30g per set or less, with a few exceptions. I always recommend starting heavier until you figure out your personal weight preference, but you can read more about that here. People generally classify beads into heavy (25g+), mid-range (18g-24g), and light (17g and below) categories, but this is more of an estimation, and not exact numbers for each category.
Weight helps control how fast/slow you sling, and different weights have their own benefits. Heavier beads have the trade-off of fatiguing your hands/wrists more quickly than lighter beads, but are easier to use for most people due to the slow speed and how they tend to ignore small errors in form. Lighter beads are faster and help refine your style by punishing smaller errors. Mid-range beads are the middle ground offering reduced benefits and drawbacks of heavier and lighter beads.
G: (Not pictured) Anodization/Surface Finish
For some, the most desirable aspect of begleri, and for others the most collectible. There are multiple ways to add some color to your beads, but anodization (ano) is by far the most common method. You can read about the science behind it (and it’s possible to DIY even!) online, but basically it’s coloring and adding a little protection to the outside layer of metal beads. Most titanium and aluminum beads come with anodization options, though some steel beads also come anodized. Different metals have different possibilities for colors due to different methods being used (read the science behind it). Aluminum is generally anodized using dyes for their colors, while titanium uses electricity in a water solution. Stainless steel is the easiest to DIY and mainly uses high levels of heat to color the metal. Commonly used methods are blowtorches and certain types of stoves/ranges. Be careful when playing with fire or heat or electricity. Copper and brass have some DIY coloring methods, but it’s not exactly anodization, but more of a controlled patina.
Some makers will make limited runs of specific colors and designs, which makes some anodizations more collectible and desirable than others. Monkeyfinger is well-known for doing this, especially with fancy designs such as their steampunk ano and their limited “Zoo Members Edition” beads.
For exotic metals such as damascus steel/damasteel, there are methods to etch the metal and bring out the contrasting metal and black colors. I won’t link anything here because it usually involves using a very dangerous acid, but you can find out how to do that online pretty easily. Be VERY careful and wear the correct PPE when handling caustic chemicals.
Surface finishes is the wording I use to refer to the finish on the outside of the beads. Finishes such as orange peel, tumbling, machine finish, and polished finishes are popular for the different feels they give the beads. Some of these are DIY-able, so it’s worth looking into if you want to change up the feel of your set without buying a new one. For example, tumbling is as easy as filling a small container with rocks, water, and your beads and shaking it until the desired finish is achieved. Or wrapping that container up in clothes and tossing it in your clothes dryer for a cycle or two.
Knowing the basic anatomy of beads makes it easier to talk about what parts you like and dislike and helps you choose your favorite set based on those observations. Pay attention to what you like in your beads, and what combinations of parts work best for you, then choose a set that is closest to your ideal set. Part of the begleri journey is finding the perfect partner to take with you. 🙂
Is there anything I missed, or anything else you’d like to see on here? Anything you want to discuss or think should be changed? Let me know in the comments below!1