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A bead threader is a device that helps jewelry makers string beads onto thread or wire quickly and easily. The device is a bowl that the user fills with beads and then spins, causing the beads to travel in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. To thread the beads onto the thread or wire, the user holds a curved needle so that the hook of the needle is heading the opposite direction of the spinning beads. The spinning pushes the beads against the needle's hook, thereby threading the beads onto the needle and thread.
Jewelry makers use several names in addition to bead threader. Some people refer to the device as a bead spinner because of the spinning of the bowl. Others call it a bead stringer.
Most companies offer wooden bead threaders, but others make plastic ones. Generally, professional jewelry makers favor the wooden ones because they are sturdier. Hobbyists often prefer the plastic ones because they tend to cost less. Some people offer tutorials and patterns for homemade variations. A few manufacturers sell motorized spinners, but most are hand powered.
One advantage of the bead threader is that it can save a person from the eyestrain of finding the tiny holes in beads. It also is much faster than stringing the beads onto the thread one at a time. If the spinning bowl is large enough, it can reduce hand strain. Some bead threaders have small spinning bowls and may force a person to hold her needle at an awkward angle and cause hand strain.
A disadvantage of the bead threader is that the beads are strung on in a random order. This does not matter if the beads are all the same color, but when the jewelry maker wants to string a planned arrangement of different colors, the threader is not the appropriate tool. Another disadvantage is that the beads should be rounded, similar to seed beads or pony beads, and the beads should be of the same size in order for the device to work properly.
With practice, most users learn the proper spinning speed and the proper amount of beads to place in the bowl. Generally, a person can fill the needle with beads and then push them onto the beading thread or wire attached to the beading needle. Many crafters who are not jewelry makers find a bead threader to be a useful beading tool. These include crochet and knit crafters, loom weavers, and other people who use strings of beads.