Guest post: Bike Chain Ornaments

I’m excited to announce another tutorial guest post for this week! Today, Laura from SurlyGirlCrafts is here to tell us about making holiday ornaments out of old bike chains.

I first saw SurlyGirl’s work on the Uncommon Goods blog, and was so enchanted with how she transforms little bits of bikes into things of beauty.

In all the bike crafting that I’ve done, I’ve yet to dive into actually creating things out of bikes, which is why I asked Laura to come on over and enlighten us. Read onโ€”there’s still time to make a few for your tree!

(If you’re feeling low on time, why not just hop on over to SurlyGirl’s Etsy shop and pick up a couple that were made by the master herself? My favorite is this adorable wreath:

Cute, right? And there’s only one left, because I already bought the other one.

Take it away, Laura.

How to Make Ornaments from Recycled Bike Chains

Turning your old chain into a holiday ornament is a great way to give it a new life, and putting a chain star on your tree will show your love of cycling in a festive way. It’s also a great way to commemorate a bike that has special meaning to you. Maybe it was the one you won your first race with, road your first century or just got you back and forth to work everyday. Chain ornaments also make great gifts for your cycling friends.

You’ll need:

  • A bike chain
  • Degreaser
  • A scrubbing brush, old toothbrush, Q-tips
  • A chain tool

Creating chain ornaments is simple. The most difficult and time consuming task is cleaning and preparing the chain.

Once the chain has been removed from your bike use a scrub brush to remove large chunks of dirt and grease. I place a piece of plastic canvas in the sink to protect it, then I use a kitchen scrub brush and the sink sprayer to get the chain as clean as possible.

After most of the dirt and grease has been removed I soak it in decreaser to remove the remainder of the grease. There are a variety of cleaners out there. I use Park Tool’s Citrus Chain Cleaner because it is effective but also environmentally friendly.

I use a solution that is part water, part degreaser. For most chains the ratio is half and half, but on dirtier chains I will use more degreaser and less water. The condition of the chain also dictates how long to soak. Sometimes it’s as short as an hour, sometimes it’s overnight.

After soaking the chain use a toothbrush dipped in degreaser to clean around the pins and in between the links. A Q-Tip also does a good job of cleaning between the links. After thoroughly rinsing the chain, use a clean shop towel to rub it dry.

After it is dry use a chain tool to break off the piece you are going to use for your ornament. I use Park Tool’s CT – 5 chain tool. This is a good tool to use because it is small enough to get into the space between the star points. It also has replaceable pins. If you make a lot of stars, you’ll go through a lot of pins.

You will need 10 chain links.

When breaking the chain don’t push the pin all the way through. Only push it far enough to separate the links, as you will need to push the pin back through to link the chain.

Once you have the correct chain length use the chain tool to attach the links creating a loop. Then shape it into the shape you desire.

Use the chain tool to tighten down the pins.

Start with the points of the star, tighten them so that they no longer bend. After those are tight tighten the pin in between the points.

Once all the pins have been tightened the chain links should not move and it will retain it’s star shape. Loop a ribbon or string through one of the points and it’s ready to hang on your tree.

Most chains, depending on condition, can yield about 10 ornaments. Make up several as decorations on gifts or as stocking stuffers for the cyclist in your life.

My real name is Laura White. Mountain biking is my passion and I raced for several years on a pink and green Surly 1 x 1, which is how I got the moniker SurlyGirl. I’m originally from Michigan, but moved to Southwestern Virginia several years ago so that I could be near mountains. I’ve always been a crafter. For years I was primarily a knitter; making hats, scarves and baby blankets, and I first started making crafts from bike parts when I had a section of pink chain leftover from the Surly. I made it into a key chain. From there I began to create other things from my old bike parts and eventually started to collect parts from local bike shops. I like to surround myself with things that remind me of my bikes and my love of cycling even when I’m not riding which is why I love making things from bike parts and incorporating bikes into my knit designs.

10 thoughts on “Guest post: Bike Chain Ornaments

  1. Great post! I’m just starting to make crafts out of bike parts, and my own attempt at cleaning the chain didn’t work effectively….but this seems like it’ll work better. Thanks!!!

  2. Thanks for sharing the directions. I have one question … the last step (tightening the pin). How do you position the tool to tighten the pin? Thanks!!!

    • Hi Susan,

      It should depend on the type of chain you’re using and the type of tool you have, but basically it’s just opposite of how you’d position it to pop the pin out. Hope that helps!

  3. Pingback: Tutorial: magnetic office board made out of bicycle chains | Bicitoro: bikes and crafts

  4. I cleaned my bike chain and now it is not greasy but there is some rust. Any thoughts on getting rid of the rust permanently ? Thank you

  5. I started making the stars for some gifts this Christmas and have been using super glue on the inner points. I think getting the chain tighter would be a better way to do this. It’s also amazing how much grease can hide in the chain links. I soaked it in Orange degreaser over night, scrubbed the hell out of it, and when I put ribbon through it; grease mark.

Leave a Reply