I save all of my old guitar strings. Why? Because they make great art supplies! I think the curls on the ends where they were wound around the tuners are super cute, and the ball ends remind me of lily stamens. So, when I noticed that I had four sets of old strings on hand, I decided to do a little upcycling, and turn this trash into treasure. The lily sculpture that I came up with is somehow strong and delicate at the same time, and I think it would make a great gift for a musician. I’ll walk you through all of the steps so that you can make your own!
By the way, this sculpture won second place in the Stay Home and Craft Challenge from FaveCrafts! I was so excited to share my project with everyone on FaveCrafts and stoked that I was a finalist!
I recommend that you wear safety glasses and gloves when you are working with guitar strings. They are springy, and the cut ends can scratch you. If you’ve never changed the strings on a guitar before, please be careful so that you don’t put your eye out and break your poor mother’s heart.
The easiest way to get used guitar strings is to have an experienced player give you strings with no guitar attached. If you remove them from a guitar yourself, make sure that you know how to do it before you begin. There is a nice tutorial here, and it’s not difficult, but guitar strings are under a LOT of tension. I’m serious about this, don’t cut or twist or attempt to remove a string from a guitar unless it is COMPLETELY slack.
Guitar strings wear out quickly enough, and you may be able to find someone who is more than willing to give you their old ones the next time they change them out. I feel like the worn look gives them extra charm, and of course I love upcycling whenever I can, because it gives new life to something that was going to be garbage anyway.
But you can always buy new strings for this project if you want to, and if you do, I highly recommend the Ernie Ball Silk and Steel strings. They have a layer of silk in between the core and the windings, which makes it really easy to remove the windings from them (we will be making the lily petals out of the windings). They’re also the strings I put on the guitar I play, because they’re easier on my fingers than all-metal strings.
And speaking of my guitar, check out the “abalone” decals and shark-shaped capo I added! I love the look of the decals, and they’ve been in place for almost 3 years now with no peeling or fading. They’re applied like stickers, so it’s super easy to do, and I couldn’t be happier with the look.
Here are the guitar strings that I used to make the lily sculpture. A set of guitar strings for a standard guitar will have 6 strings that vary in thickness. The thicker, bass strings are usually bronze colored, and the two thinnest ones will probably look silver.
Take a look at the strings I started out with. See how some of them are thicker, and look like springs? Those are made from very thin wire (the windings) wrapped around thicker wires. The windings can be removed (I’ll show you how in a minute), which will give you yards and yards of very thin, curly wire. The windings are what I used to make the delicate lily petals.
In all, I used four sets of strings for this project, but I picked through to get the sizes and colors of strings that I wanted. I only used the thickest 16 strings from the 4 sets, so the thinnest silver ones were set aside for another project.
One end of all of the guitar strings should have a metal ball on one end. The balls on the tips (you can’t see the balls when the strings are on the guitar) might be many different colors. This is because some brands color-code the balls so that you can tell the strings apart when you’re re-stringing your guitar. So don’t be too surprised if the strings you find have strange colors on the tips… just look for a different set of strings if the colors aren’t what you wanted for the stamens of your lily.
The other end of the string will probably be curly, where it was wrapped around the tuner on the neck of the guitar. I didn’t use the curly part in this particular sculpture, but if I was making a vine it would make a great tendril. Or curly hair on a statue. Or the tail of a piggy. Okay, I need to make another sculpture now!
In addition to the 4 sets of guitar strings, I also used some stiff scrap wire to stiffen the stem of the lily (a coat hanger would work really well), some gold florist’s wire, and 4 mm and 8 mm jump rings in a bronze finish. (I got an assortment of different sizes, which was very reasonably priced, but you can also get each size individually.)
You will need some pliers, and, as I mentioned, safety glasses and gloves.
To start, choose seven of the thickest strings to form the center of the flower and the stem. Cut one 13″ (33 cm) long, and six 12″ (30.5 cm) long sections, all with balls at one end. The balls will form the stamens that peek out of the center of the flower. Save the cut-off ends to make some of the petals.
We will be using the jump rings as clamps to attach all of the parts of the lily together. To turn the jump rings into clamps, put the tip of your pliers inside the jump ring, and gently spread the handles apart. This opens the jump ring up into a “C” shape. Then take the now-open jump ring with the pliers, place the ring around the wires you want to clamp, and squeeze the jump ring shut with the pliers. Make it tight, so that none of the wires in the bundle are loose or wiggly. Clamp two jump rings near each other to make your joins extra-secure.
Now, to make the leaves for the lily! Take one 12″ (30.5 cm) section of guitar string and bend it in half, creasing it. For the leaf vein, cut a 6″ (15 cm) section of a thick string, pull a little bit of the winding off of the end, and then attach the vein at the tip of the leaf by wrapping the winding around the bend in the leaf string. Now clamp all 3 of the loose ends together using jump rings. Make two leaves this way.
Gather up your remaining guitar strings. Remember how the biggest strings are made of thick wires wrapped with very thin wire called the windings? We are going to make the lily petals out of the windings.
Be sure to put on your safety glasses (you gotta keep your mom happy) and then take a pair of pliers, grab the thin wire, and pull it off of the end of the thick wire.
Here’s a video I made that shows the strings being unwound. It’s an easy process, UNLESS your strings are corroded. Then the windings will snap and break very easily. If you’re running into trouble, you can always get some new strings (like my favorite Silk and Steel that I’m using in the video.)
As you remove the windings, you will end up with really long pieces of curly wire that you can use in your sculpture. Cut the thin, curly wires into 7″ (13 cm) sections.
To form the petals, divide the 7″ pieces of windings into 6 equal piles. Gather up one pile of the windings, along with two 7″ sections of mid-size guitar strings, and clamp them together tightly at each end with two jump rings. Then bend the cluster of wires into a curve, and pull the wires outwards from the middle of the cluster to make a shape that looks like a hammock. I pulled the mid-size guitar strings to the edges of each petal, to give them a more defined border. Repeat this process with the rest of the windings to make 6 petals.
Grab the 7 guitar strings with balls on the ends that you set aside to form the stem. Add one or two 10″ pieces of stiff wire to the bundle, to make sure that the lily stem won’t be floppy. Clamp the stem together every couple of inches with the larger 8 mm jump rings. Clamp the leaves to the side of the stem, about halfway up, with more jump rings.
Attach the six petals in a circle around the stem, with the balls on the ends of the strings poking out of the center of the flower. Wrap gold florist’s wire tightly around the base of the petals to hold them in place. Trim the raggedy ends of the wires on the tips of the petals.
Now give the petals, stem, and leaves a final bending to make them sit the way you want them to. How pretty! A lily that will never wilt, made from recycled materials! I hope you use these tips to make your own sculpture, or pin this idea for later.