Commissions accepted. Plan ahead for holiday gift-giving!

Making a bolo tie

Once upon a time, when I was a know-it-all teenager, I got hold of my grandfather's bolo tie.  To be fair, it may have been my grandmother's.  It was small, somewhat delicate, and more tasteful than what my grandfather was known for.  At any rate, I wore it to school to be "edgy", and because it looked cool.  I was never one for following fashion trends, teased bangs not withstanding (yayyyy, early 1990s!).  Somewhere along the way, the bolo tie was misplaced.  I have no idea what happened to it, although I suspect my mom confiscated it.  

Fast forward to February 2021, and I was finally able to return to my favorite local jewelry supply house (they had been closed except for phone orders up until this point).  The first thing I spotted when I walked through the door: bolo making supplies.  Now that I have the skills, I figured I'd give it a shot.  The process to make the average bolo tie was a little different than I expected, at least on the back end.

I chose a piece of Mexican turquoise from the Cumpas mine.  The Cumpas mine is a small family mining claim on the border of Mexico and Arizona somewhere in the Sonoran desert.  I chose it because I'm pretty sure my grandfather's/grandmother's bolo was bought in Mexico.  This piece of turquoise was cut very thin (about 1/16 of an inch) then a Delrin epoxy backing of about 1/16 of an inch was added and the whole thing was stabilized with epoxy.  It's not the highest grade of turquoise, but it's still pretty, and because it's stabilized, it will handle more wear and be more color-stable.  

Next, I cut a strip of fine silver to make the bezel to hold the stone to the setting.  I used a divider.  It looks a little bit like a compass, except that it doesn't have pencil lead in it.  You use it to put witness marks on metal so you know where to cut.  It also helps measure things.

Next came the usual steps of cutting and stamping a backplate, and since I had some leftover twisted wire that I used with the Trophy Bass Clarinet collection, I decided to put it to good use.

 

 Now comes the part that I found a bit peculiar: EPOXY.  Under normal circumstances, I solder all metal parts together, or fasten them with rivets or wire wrap or something.  However, because the majority of commercially available bolo slides are plated and have to hold tension, they can't be soldered.  Hence the epoxy.  I chose a bolo slide that had a locking mechanism, since that makes it easier to adjust and stay put.  To add to the surface area, I scribed some texture lines onto both the backplate and the bolo slide, then placed the two surfaces together for the epoxy to cure for twenty-four hours (it's heavy-duty, industrial strength epoxy).

 Now, if you're going to make this work, do NOT miss this critical step:  don't put the tips on the leather braid until AFTER you've put them through the locking mechanism.  The tips do not fit through the mechanism and you will be THWARTED.  And also annoyed.  Thankfully, this was one of those times I DIDN'T have to learn the hard way!

Here's a picture of the final result, plus a bonus Mr. Karlsson sighting!

 
To view the finished product, click here:  
I made a second bolo tie using a tension slide instead of one with a clamping mechanism.  The only downside is that you can't switch out the leather with the clamping mechanism.  

 

I'm not sure my fluffy model approves, but I think bolo ties are fun to make.  I'll have some more in time for the Redbud Artisan Market in Fredericksburg, Texas on April 3!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published