Oversized Wooden Abacus

Oversized Wooden Abacus

I have been browsing the catalogs again and dreaming up a list of ‘wants’. As many of you know, I have a fond love for oversized unusual objects and when I saw the Oversized Wooden Abacus it definitely went on the must have list. The scale of the piece and vintage wooden feel caught my eye however the $249.00 price tag, not so much. I put my own little spin on things and came with a replica that I just adore {and a price tag just under $25.00 which I love even more!}

Material List[2] 1x3x8ft Furring Strips {wood}
[2] 2 in x 48 in Diameter Dowels
[7] 5/16 in Diameter Dowels
[4] 1 1/2 in Angle Braces

I began by taking the 2 inch dowels and cutting them down into 1 inch pieces with a miter saw.
Using a 13/32″ bit I used a drill press to drill a hole in the center of each piece.
I would have like these to be a bit larger however; the 2 inch dowel was the largest diameter I could find. I had originally wanted to use wooden truck wheels but the larger ones get pretty pricy so these ended up working just fine.
With good old sand paper and some manual labor I sanded each ‘bead’ leaving the edges a little distressed.
I wanted the ‘beads’ to have a dark vintage feel to them, however I had to work around the inexpensive quality of the wooden dowels. With a little mixing of a few stains I came up with a color I liked and brushed it on the outer rounded sides.
The stain worked well on the rounded side but not so well on the inner cut edge; I ended up laying them all flat and giving them a light coat of black flat spray paint on each side. The way they turned out is growing on me as I like the way you can still see some of the stain.
The frame was built using two 1×3’s also know as furring strips. They come in 8ft pieces and Home Depot was able to cut them to size right in the store. Here are the cuts:
Out of one 8ft piece you it cut into two 39 inch pieces
Out of the other 8ft piece you need one 39 inch piece and two 24 inch pieces

Two of the 39 inch pieces make up the sides and the other is the center brace. In order to hold the dowels, holes needed to be drilled. Starting with the center brace, 12 holes were drilled completely through the wood, every 3 inches, using the drill press with a 13/32″ bit. The two sides were drilled the same, 12 holes every 3 inches. These holes were drilled using a 11/32″ bit so the dowels would fit snug when inserted and only drilled 1/4″ deep. Each piece was then sanded and stained using an Early American shade {including the two 24″ pieces}
The 5/16″ dowels were cut into twelve 23 3/4″ pieces. They were painted with flat black spray paint and assembled into place with Gorilla Wood Glue.
The last step was to attach the top and bottom pieces. {the two 24″ furring strip pieces}
They were attached using Gorilla Wood Glue…
and nailed at the edges with a nail gun.
For a little decorative touch {like the inspiration piece} I used angle braces on each corner. I gave them a coat of black spray paint and dabbed a little acrylic paint on top for a rustic worn look.
Since they are for looks only, I attached them using Gorilla Super Glue.
If you are wondering, the braces can be found in the decking section of your hardware store.
That’s my knockoff Oversized Abacus {with moveable beads} =)
Cost Breakdown:
[2] 1X3X8 Furring Strips @ $1.48 a piece = $2.96
[6] 5/16″ Dowels @ $0.79 a piece = $4.74
[2] 2X48″ Dowels @ $7.12 a piece = $14.24
[4] 1 1/2″ Angel Braces @ $0.51 a piece = $2.04
Total Cost = $23.98
{all other supplies including paint, stain and glue I had on hand}
Being able to say I Did It by Myself ~ priceless! Enjoy!


  1. Wow! I’ve seen the oversized abacus in the catalogs and it makes my mouth drool.
    You are one ambitious gal! Great job!

  2. Awesome! That is so perfect! What an amazing project!

  3. I saw it in PB magazine and loved it, but definitely don’t have your energy! You should sell them. It turned out great!

  4. I’m so impressed, the power tools, etc!! I agree..you should sell them. You have a great eye for design!


  5. Stephanie —

    Wow – that is awesome! Great project! You are amazing!


  6. Stephanie, this is great! I would have done the wood dowels as beads too – cheaper and a little edgier! Love it! Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Ana

  7. This looks great! Your site is amazing – great work!

  8. That’s great! I love it!

  9. Great idea! I’m totally bookmarking this and want to make one of my own!

  10. Girlfriend! This is amazing. I’ve not yet seen the overscaled abacus. You did a wonderful job. That drill press looks like it came in very handy. All of your attention to detail really makes this piece sing. I especially like the addition of the brackets at the corners.

  11. Oh I wanted one for my boys’ room! I will have to see if I can do this myself. Wish me luck! πŸ™‚ They have a very colorful one in CB2 that I LOVE! Thanks for the ideas and measurements!!

  12. Just in case you were curious, I google searched “Oversized wooden abacus” and yours came up before PB. Woohoo! This looks like a fun project for the kids, the could paint the beads a bunch of colors and learn their colors AND math!

  13. If I had all these tools I think this would be a great to do project. Even color the pieces for a fun addition to a room. Great inspiration.

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  14. Your abacus looks great!! Very creative way to make your own πŸ™‚

    Kelly @ DesignTies

  15. You are amazing! You are one creative lady. I always look forward to see what’s next. πŸ™‚

  16. Love this! It came out gorgeous! I love over sized stuff too, as well as miniatures. Great job.

  17. You are one AMAZING Modern Craftswoman! Thanks again for sharing!

  18. That is incredible. I can just imagine this at a Montessori school. You could have market there, lady!!! πŸ™‚

  19. What a great idea! I love it!

  20. Love this! It was on my to do list since I live in a family of engineers!

  21. Wow, Stephanie, that is awesome. And so great of you to make a tutorial. I just found something like this at Goodwill a few weeks ago. It’s one like they use in preschool. It is on a stand, but I think I”m going to cut that off so we can hang it on the wall. If I can find a spare spot for it! Thanks for sharing!

  22. Ooooooooooooh I saw that abacus!! I just loved it…Thanks for sharing how you did it!!

  23. Amazing project!

  24. what a clever project, I love it!

  25. OH my goodness! I love this. You are so creative. I never would have thought to make one this way. Great job!

  26. Wow, some serious work–don’t know if I’d have the patience to sand each bead, but outstanding results. Thanks for sharing!

  27. i just love this! what a great job! thanks so much for sharing it!

  28. Totally great! I’ll be featuring this tomorrow on Poppies at Play!

  29. This is wonderful! I just got the idea of making an abacus after seeing a beautiful antique one in a shop, and found your site after hunting around. Love the idea of increased scale! Thanks so much for sharing your process. I’m looking forward to trying some things out; the framework you provide is a giant help. Thank you!

  30. really cool Stephanie! My husband made an abacus which is super similar – great minds think alike! I blogged about it on my blog. Yours is really great. πŸ™‚

  31. Oh my goodness! I’ve been poring over my new PB catalog obsessively and love the oversized abacus… but this is so much better! Kudos to you for diy!

  32. This is stunning. Going on my to do list!


  33. so awesome ! it’s beautiful πŸ™‚

  34. This is awesome!!

  35. My husband loves these…I might have to make him one for his birthday, but on a little smaller scale πŸ™‚

  36. Feature Alert! Feature Alert! This was featured today over at Today’s Top 20! Come Check it out!


  37. HI! love this—what color acrylic paint did you use on the brackets? did you dab it on with a sponge? looks great!

    • Hi Jacqui, Raw Umber acrylic paint was used on the brackets and yes, it was dabbed on with a sponge. (the brackets were first sprayed with black spray paint) Thanks so much for your kind comments πŸ™‚ – Stephanie Lynn


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