Photographs (left to right): Water lily, Adirondacks, New York; Seagull, Florida; Bullock's Oriole, California

Seven Turtles Wampum Belt

Making Wampum Belts

Richard D. Hamell

My interest in bead weaving began in my childhood with seed-beading on a small six to eight inch loom using standard sewing thread. Eight years ago I made my first ‘wampum’ belt using plastic pony beads with artificial sinew. Not satisfied completely with the overall appearance I became the search for wampum beads. That quest lead me to contact Tara Prindle, who made pseudo-wampum using a special mixture of acrylic clays.

The second step in making wampum belts was the search for the materials to make a suitable loom. A company such as Lowe’s would have the necessary wood and accessories to build your loom. The looms I have built are four-foot long. The width of the board depends on the width dimension of the belt you want to create. Therefore, I have two looms, one a ten-inch board and the smaller one, six inches wide. Over the five years I have been making replica belts I have finalized the loom design as illustrated below. I have mounted the end brackets (metal shelving L-brackets) onto a wood-wing that is movable on track lighting rails (one track is cut in two to be the slide for the take-up loom rods. The width of the belt can be adjusted by inserting dolling of needed lengths and spacing the L-brackets according. The dolling rods are cut about every three-eights of an inch. The cut is about three-quarters the way around and about three-eights of an inch deep. These grooves will hold the leather weave. To secure the leather, wrap it completely around the dolling and wedge it in the same groove. Wing-nuts are used to make the adjusts to the rail-system easy.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Four-Foot By Six Inch Loam
Four-Foot By Ten Inch Loam

If the belt to be made is longer than the length-spacing of the brackets, add a third bracket that will be the take-up reel (see Figure 2). The take-up reel is mounted to be free-turning and when needed to be tightened, it has a peg opening through which a small diameter dolling can be inserted to keep it from unreeling. Approximate cost for the loom is around $50.00. You can save about half the cost by not using the electrical lighting track and just screw the furring strips (two 20"-24" into the loom board to have a permanent upright for the doweling.

Material List

Pine loom board: 1"x8"x 48" - $11.94 each

Pine loom board: 1"x10"x48" - $13.94 each

Bracelet wing board: 1"x3"x48" (cut into 4 - 6" lengths): $1.17 each

Doweling (need two), 1.25"x48" - $2.64 each

Lighting track (3), 48" - $8.13 each

12 Carriage bolts 5/16"X 1 1/4"with nuts 20/bag) for loom rail - $5.24

20 Flat washers for the above (25 pack) - $8.25

4 wing nuts (20 pack) - $1.21

4 Shelving Brackets 14" - $1.86 each

12 1/2"wood screws for brackets - (0.04 each)

4 flathead wood-deck screws with lock washers for doweling (bag 25)- $5.68

Beads and Materials

Simulated wampum beads see Wandering Bull and Crazy Crow as a possible supplier


Artificial Sinew

Jas Townsend & Son, Inc.

133 North First Street

PO Box 415

Pierceton, IN 46562


1/2# Spool - $7.50

1/4# Spool - $5.00

Angled Scissors JoAnn Fabrics $25.00

5" Needles

Assorted Sizes

JoAnn Fabrics



tray Beading Tray

Shop around for a better board one with parellel grooves which can hold 20 beads in a line. Having a friend with a rotor helps.

And Hobby Shops


Branding Iron &

Temperature Controller (not shown)


branding tip with





X-Acto Knife

box of 100 blades

Amazon and art stores



36" X 24" Alvin self-healing cutting mat

Alvin and Dahle are two brands

Art Supplies Stores, Amazon


Deer Hide

Find a Vendor

near you or

Native Leathers 6360 Transit Rd Depew NY


average $50.00 - $60.00 per hide

The artificial sinew line(1) can be separated into 5 separate strands (2) which are of appropriate size for weaving the beads. I cut the line into 4-foot length and separate the strands which are then wrapped onto a spool (3). The angled scissors are useful in trimming high spots on the rawhide strands once they are strung on the loom.