Here is how you can put together your own extra-snazzy wine charms out of electronic components. They look great, are easy to make, cost next to nothing, and make great conversation pieces. For an added bonus, you can solder them in place, making them semi-permanent yet easily removable.
Wine charms can add a bit of interesting flair to your wine, martini, and margarita glasses. They can be something fun to look at, play with, and (yes) keep track of which one is yours.
Like all the others that you’re likely to come across in a big-box store, the sets that we have used were made (badly, in China) of low-grade cast metal and cost about $2 each. Not to say that certain of these don’t have their appeal, but it still strikes me as wrong in a couple of different ways.
First, there’s the terrible irony of using such cheaply made trinkets to decorate nice wine glasses, doubly ironic since you’re most likely to be using wine charms– and serving the good stuff– when guests are over. Secondly, since wine charms are such a good idea, to use the mass-produced ones is to waste an opportunity for art.
Situations like this are, of course, where the D-I-Y community really begins to shine. You can read detailed instructions about how to make beaded wine charms at Not Martha, or learn how to make charms out of crocheted wire, or go for the simple and classic version instead.
Here, we’re making wine charms out of electronic components. It’s an easy five-minute project with elegant results. Let’s get started!
The first step is (naturally) to acquire a set of components that you might use.
We went to our local electronics store and wandered the aisles, picking out one each of interesting components that we came across, trying to primarily pick out things that cost less than fifteen cents each. We spent a little more on a couple of the inductors, and a little less on most of the resistors. In any case, the average cost per wine glass is around $0.10 – $0.15.
In the four photos above you can see some of the cool things that we were able to find for under fifteen cents each, including assorted (from noon) capacitors, diodes, inductors, and resistors. The primary things to look for in a component– besides price– is that the geometry will lend itself to bending the leads around the stem of a wine glass. Other than that, try to pick things that look sturdy, waterproof, unusual, and interesting.
It’s very important that your set of wine charms consist of items that are physically different from one another. There is enough variety amongst these components that it’s easy to pick out sets that minimize overlap. For example, you only see one domino-shaped capacitor with brightly colored dots.
Hardcore geeks may be tempted to use sets of resistors that are identical except for color code (“No I was Red-Red-Blue-Gold!!!”), but this is a very, very bad idea.
[Aside: Just in case you do want to mess with the electronics geeks that come to your party, choose components like these that are just a little bit ambiguous-- if you've got the right crowd they'll quickly begin debating whether one of these is a capacitor, inductor, or resistor.]
Our first wine charm will be based on this simple little resistor, however, the technique that we will describe can be used for any of these components.
Bend the leads of the resistor around the stem of the wine glass so that they touch on the opposite side.
At this point, you have a fully-functional wine charm– and, if you like, you can stop right here and move on to the next component.
However, if you do stop, it’s more of a five-second project than a five minute project, and the result is much less impressive. In the next few steps we will solder the resistor in place, turning it into a semipermanent (but easily removable) wine charm.
In order to solder the wine charm in place, it’s important that (1) it is held steady while looped around the wine glass stem, and (2) that there is minimal amount of thermal contact between the wine glass and the soldering iron– you don’t want to break the wine glass. Using a “helping hands” soldering tool provides a good solution to both problems, since you can hold the resistor and its leads without any of them touching the wine glass.
Once the component is safely clamped and not contacting the stem, you can solder it in place.
After soldering, let the component cool for a few seconds before letting it go. You might also want to trim off any sharp edges remaining; there are several here that should be trimmed.
Having the wine charms semipermanently attached is really quite nice. They will stay connected indefinitely; until you’re ready to remove them. Besides not having to look for your wine charms, you won’t have to worry about one falling off at the wrong time, and you don’t need to be careful how you handle the loop– it won’t just spring open on you. Eliminating the clasp mechanism also makes the wine charm appear a little more simple and elegant, like it was meant to be there. There’s also a little bit of ship-in-the-bottle mystique about it, since there’s obviously no way that it could have been slipped over the base of the wine glass.
Most of the simple electronic components that we’ve shown here can handle cleaning and immersion in water. (A notable exception is any round cylindrical (electrolytic) capacitor– don’t get those wet.) In fact, these wine charms turn out to be surprisingly robust in practice. We have left several of these charms on our wine glasses which have now been used and cleaned (by hand) up to a dozen times, without any signs of degradation. Two caveats, however: don’t put these in the dishwasher, and no matter what kind of components you use, make sure after each wash that nothing has gone wrong.
Depending on the type of component and what your washing procedures are like, the markings on the charm may fade eventually, or perhaps you just want to change resistor values, or from a capacitor to an inductor. The charms come off, well, like a charm, with a simple snip. We like these Craftsman Professional mini-plier cutters, but strong scissors will work for most components as well.
Here are some other designs that we like, including a lovely example with a bifilar-wound toroid:
Have fun with your new wine charms!
Update: If you are looking for charming collections of components like these, we now have Charming Component Sets at our store.