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What to Do When Bead Holes are the Wrong Size

Posted by Emily, The Weekend Mystic on

Red, yellow and blue strands of beads with a text overlay that reads "What to do when bead holes are the wrong size."

Easily Fix Bead Holes that are Too Big or Small

There’s nothing worse than waiting days (or weeks) for your bead order to come in the mail, only to find the bead holes don’t fit your cord. Ugh, it’s the worst! Don’t worry – I gotchu!

Below I show you how to fix bead holes that are too small, as well as a few different options for what to do when your bead holes are too large. Mala-making shouldn’t be frustrating – I hope you find these tips helpful!

Bead Holes Too Small?

First off, if you haven’t purchased a bead reamer yet, it’s time. But don’t buy one of those battery-operated ones sold on all the beading sites – their motors aren’t great and you’ll end up paying an arm and a leg every time you need to change the bit (they’re proprietary bits made specifically for the tool).

Save yourself time and money and get these reamer bits for your regular rotary tool instead.

Don’t have a regular rotary tool? There are so many out there! I prefer a Dremel 7300-N Mini Mite (this is the most affordable, it’s cordless and it’s got a LOT of power for the price), but you can snag a basic rotary tool at Harbor Freight for next to nothing. 

The best part is, you can use your rotary tool for all kinds of cutting, drilling and polishing your jewelry projects (not to mention its myriad uses around the house!).

The last thing you’ll need – and the one thing you absolutely cannot go without – is gem-cutting lubricant. This waxy substance helps reamer bits last longer, keeps the hole cool while you drill, and prevents breakage from overheating or overzealous force (I know, I know – you want it done fast but that’s why we can’t have nice things).

How to Make Bead Holes Bigger

  1. Load reamer bit into rotary tool and turn on to lowest setting (slow and steady wins the race when it comes to bead reaming!).

  2. Dip the spinning bit into your gem-cutting lube, and make sure it’s well-coated with your fingers (don’t worry – it won’t hurt you to touch the spinning bit – I promise!).

  3. Now carefully insert the reamer into the hole of the bead. There’s no need to push; just let the rotation of the tool do the work for you (otherwise you risk overheating and breakage).

  4. Pump the bit forward and back to help clear the hole of dust and debris as you ream.

  5. When you’re about halfway through, remove, add more gem lube and start on the other end of the hole.

  6. You’ll know you’ve made it all the way through the hole when the bead suddenly bucks your fingers off and spins on the reamer by itself. At this point, you can grab the bead gently and twist it off the bit (it’s easier to work off while it’s spinning, believe it or not).

That’s it! I probably made the instructions longer than I needed to, honestly. Once you try it, you’ll see how easy it is to make bead holes larger to accommodate standard mala cord. 

You can use this on just about any bead material, from pearls to wood to the hardest gemstones (because the reamer bits are diamond-coated, they’ll cut through anything you can throw at them). You can even ream out fragile materials like Ethiopian opal (which almost always come with 0.45mm-0.5mm holes – super annoying if you want to use them in malas!).

What if Bead Holes are Too Big?

Sometimes bead holes are just too darn big. Your perfect knots slip right through and those beautiful gemstones slide all over the place. Sheesh, I hate it when that happens! Never fear: there’s an easy fix.

All you need to do is sandwich those big ol’ beads between two smaller-holed spacer beads, be they interlocking crisp beads, heishi beads or metal sequins. Spacers come in a wealth of materials: choose a metal finish to match your other hardware or opt for something unexpected like shell heishi or Miyuki Delicas in different colors. 

Even cheapo sequins from the craft store will work, plus they lie nice and close to the bead (and bonus – they’re already cup-shaped!).

The only thing to watch out for is size and scale. Sometimes 8mm beads look better with 6mm spacers, or if you want them to be nearly invisible, go smaller (3-4mm). And always always always check the hole size on whatever spacers you choose (just large enough to clear the cord you’re using is best – not too snug!).

I know how fun it is (which is to say, not at all) to be all excited about your bead order only to realize the holes are the wrong size when they arrive.

I hope this was helpful! Keep a nice selection of different spacers around for those gorgeous beads with wonky holes you just can’t say no to. 

Making your own malas is supposed to be a fun and relaxing hobby, and with the help of a few extra tools you’ll (hopefully) never have to worry about the wrong hole size again!

*Please note that some of these links may be affiliate links, and I may gain a small commission if you buy something (at no extra cost to you, of course!). I truly appreciate it -- it will keep this blog’s lights on. Please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at TheWeekendMystic@gmail.com if you have more questions or are having trouble finding something. I’ll do my best to help you suss it out! 

1 comment


  • Thanks very much! Found quite a few helpful hints. I appreciate it very much!

    Tammy Williams-Whitehead on

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