DIY: Temple Bell Christmas Tree Ornaments

I love the gold bells we saw at temples in Thailand, Laos and India. So I made tree ornaments in temple bell shapes. They mix well with our global home and love of travel to Asian lands. First here’s some real temple bells so you see what they look like …

Bell near Tibetan temple from 123RF stock photography, by Ivan Kmit:


Thai temple bells from 123RF stock photography, by Arnon Pipobpronchai:


Temple bell from 123RF stock photography, by Alvin Ganesh Balasubramaniam:


Next see how I made similar temple bells for our holiday decorating.

To use things already in the house, I dug into scrapbook and jewelry-making supplies in the basement. It’s like a store down there. Supplies found:

  • Grungepaper and grungeboard
  • Metallic spray paints in antique gold and copper
  • Blingy, swirly and scrolly decorations for an India scrapbook I never made
  • Beads, chains, tassels, and jewelry fixings in golds, silvers and copper
  • Rubber stamps and Indian wooden printing blocks
  • Stamping inks and powders, some in metallics
  • Glues and tools for punching, cutting, prying and squeezing

There it was. Already in the house. Everything needed to make temple bells and oil lamps. Toggle clasps originally intended for necklaces and bracelets became hooks to hang ornaments on branches. Grungeboard became “antique bronze.” Chain tassels, and anything hanging on a chain became game to hang from the bottoms of bells. Jewelry-making jump rings could link everything together. Try to see your hobby supplies differently, and see what they become!

Here’s a few finished bells (and yes our tree is artificial, from Balsam Hill):




Balsam Hill

So here’s how I make the bells. This next batch, I am stamping designs on them instead of only attaching bling …

I traced outlines of bells from photos of Hindu and Buddhist temple bell shapes. I also have oil lamp photos but haven’t done the lamp ornaments yet. Then I cut the bell shape outlines out of grungepaper or grungeboard (which is thicker than grungepaper). You can get this grunge stuff from scrapbook supply stores. It’s a flexible, strong paper-based material. You can punch holes in it, you can even imprint designs into it. It behaves a bit like leather.

Grungepaper is gray. But you can change that! Here are some shapes spray-painted copper:


You can stamp them with rubber stamps or wood printing blocks:



First I try a lighter color ink and a damask stamp. This is the first time I’ve done stamps on these bells, so you’ll follow right along with me here, to see how this turns out:




Hmmm. Not impressed. Yuck!

I think it needs a simpler stamp. Let’s try a wood printing block from India. Because this printing block has a hook on it, I pressed the grungepaper shape onto the inked block:



Aha! Now that’s what I’m looking for!

After stamping each a little different, I added just a touch of bling:



But wait, they’re not done yet! There’s another bell shape to go under these copper pieces. They’re sprayed with an antique gold paint, and I block printed them with brown ink:




After this photo, things went reaaaaaaaaalllly wrong. Ugly uggggglllly wrong. The stamp ink never dried. I learned this is because the copper spray paint  sealed the paper and the ink couldn’t sink in and dry. It just sat on top of the spray paint. The ink got horribly smudged. You can see the smudging starting above. I tried to fix the smudges by dabbing copper paint over the smudges. Even after drying it with a heat gun, it still looked like big ol’ dabs of paint covering smudges. Like piling cover-up on a zit, it makes sure the problem is noticed! So I ripped off all the bling, spray-painted copper over the whole smudgy mess, and started over.

For the second attempt, I block printed with the same black ink, then used embossing powder and a heat gun to seal the ink, and bejeweled the pieces again. No smudges!

You could glue the copper and gold pieces together with Glossy Accents which adheres well to the grunge products. With glue, I am as messy as a 3-year-old preschooler, so instead I used double-sided scrapbooking tape to adhere the gold and copper pieces:


Next, using a large safety pin, I poked holes in the tops and bottoms. Then, I attached tassels and other jewelry pieces, like beads, at the bottoms:


Then I attached toggle clasps (usually they’re for necklace and bracelet closures) with jump rings to the tops. These toggle clasps are big enough to fit over my tree’s branches:


All done!


Next up … “antique” Thai temple bells!



P.S. My Christmas tree is from Balsam Hill, and I got it at a great sale price!

Balsam Hill

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