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Building Your Custom Rosary - A DIY Guide

A custom rosary is easily one of the most meaningful gifts you will ever give — to your loved ones or to yourself. A rosary on its own is a beautiful way to incorporate prayer into your everyday life, arm yourself for spiritual battle in our secular world, and cultivate your relationship with God. Creating a custom rosary takes those blessings a step further, as it gives you a way to pick the elements that will be most meaningful to the recipient, whether you’re designing a custom rosary for yourself or for someone else. 

At the same time, there are enough details and enough choices that designing a custom rosary can feel daunting. This is especially true if you don’t know all of the nuances involved! Here at The Catholic Woodworker, we pour all of our care and attention into hand-making each rosary order because we know these will be spiritual weapons that serve you for years to come. We want your custom rosary to fit you, so if you’re not sure where to start, we’ll walk you through all the details step by step. 

 

The Cord

Let’s start with the base material of your custom rosary, the cord which holds everything together. We use micro cord, which is a thinner — but no less powerful — version of 550 paracord manufactured in the U.S.A. We use micro cord because it’s thin and lightweight, but offers a tensile strength of 80–90 lbs. We make all of our rosaries using micro cord — not just our custom rosaries — because it’s a material that is made to withstand years of daily use. We want your rosary to last as long as possible, but also so you feel comfortable using your rosary everyday. It shouldn’t feel as if you have to set your rosary aside in a display case and only use it at home. Our handmade rosaries are made to be used often! The micro cord gives it strength and helps prevent fraying so you can carry your rosary in your pocket, in a bag, or wherever is most convenient so you can always have it at hand. 

 

Choosing Your Rosary Cord

There are two main schools of thought to choosing your rosary cord’s color. The first is to simply choose the color that best matches the rest of the elements and appeals to you. That often means a neutral cord color that supports colored beads and corresponds with the metal you choose for the crucifix and medals. Similarly, you could choose a monochromatic look by going with a cord color that matches your chosen bead color. 

The other option that some patrons use is to look at a bit of color symbolism. Artists have been creating paintings and sculptures for churches and believers for years. Especially in the early days of the Church, it was important to be able to convey important lessons quickly and clearly, so specific colors came to represent certain people and ideas. You’ve probably noticed this most clearly during mass; the priest’s vestments will be different colors at different points in the liturgical calendar, like wearing violet on Sundays during Lent and green vestments for masses said during Ordinary Time. 

If you want to bring that added layer of meaning to your custom rosary, consider these color meanings according to Catholic tradition: 

It’s also important to note that some color combinations offer specific symbolism too — so if you’re looking at the color meanings for your custom rosary, be cognizant of what the color of your beads and cord could represent. For example the Virgin Mary is almost always represented by the color combination of sky blue and rose to denote her heavenly grace. Black and white together represent humility and the purity of life, while black and red together generally represent Satan/sin. For the most part, though, combining colors generally just offers a combined representation of the meanings in the chart above.

RED ORANGE YELLOW GREEN BLUE PURPLE GRAY BROWN WHITE BLACK
Red symbolizes action and often denotes joy of life. It is the symbolic color of the Holy Spirit and Pentecost. Orange represents endurance and strength. It is the combination of red’s passion and yellow’s tempering wisdom. Golden yellow is the color of Divine Light and the bounty of God. It’s also the color of happiness and wisdom. Green is hopeful. It’s the color of freedom and fertility — specifically, the idea of bountifulness and victory of life over death. Blue is the color of Heaven, and traditionally the color of the Virgin Mary. It’s an alternate color for purity and unveiling truth. Purple/violet is the color of penance. It speaks of fasting, faith, and patience. It’s traditionally the color of Advent and Lent. Gray typically represents ashes and mourning, but also the ideas of humility and the mortality of body/immortality of the soul. Brown is an earthy color often used to represent the renunciation of the world. It also represents God’s connection with the ordinary or commonplace. White is the color of purity, innocence, and virginity. It’s the Liturgical color used for Christmas, Easter, and all Feasts of Our Lord. Black is the color used for mourning and death. It’s also the color signifying solemnity and constancy, especially in the idea of eternity.

The Beads

When it comes to choosing the beads for your custom rosary, this is where it can start feeling pretty overwhelming. There are a huge range of different colors to choose from, but even more important, you can find rosary beads made from so many different materials. 

Here at The Catholic Woodworker, we only use two types of beads: natural hardwood beads and dyed wood beads. You can find plenty of options out there, like glass and plastic beads, but we stick strictly to wood rosary beads for a few reasons. 

 

Durability

We believe in the rosary as an invaluable spiritual weapon made for everyday use. When we were seeking out rosary materials, we settled on hardwoods because they offer the best long-term durability. Glass beads are durable enough, but are more inclined to chip and leave sharp edges. Plastic beads are often coated with some sort of superficial coloring or finish, which wears off with repeated use. 

Our hardwood rosary beads are a beautiful option for longevity because they will simply develop a gentle patina over time. Unless you do something like take a hammer to it, you can expect that the hardwood rosary beads won’t chip because the wood is, well, hard. You can expect the beads to develop a beautiful patina, but otherwise aren’t going to discolor and show that wear and tear. 

This is also the reason we use dyed wood rosary beads instead of painted options. Dyed wood gives you beautiful, even color, and it means you’ll still be able to see the wood grain. More importantly, since the color is infused into the wood, you don’t have to worry about it chipping or peeling off over time. Dyed wood rosary beads age well; they develop a gentle patina but otherwise don’t show their age, and you don’t need to worry about the color chipping away over time and repeated use the way you would with other bead types.

 

Sustainability

The other big reason we choose to use hardwood beads is for reasons of sustainability. We get our natural hardwood beads from the Philippines, which is a Catholic nation. We work specifically with craftsmen who use a sustainable harvesting model to gather wood. That means they gather branches rather than cutting down whole trees in order to retain the overall health of the trees and forests in which the wood originates. 

In addition to sustainable practices, working with craftsmen in the Philippines is important to us because it means we get beautifully hand-crafted rosary beads made by immensely skilled creators. In doing this, we are helping provide a steady source of income to these individuals, which then goes to support their families and communities. 

Choosing Your Rosary Beads

Our advice for choosing your rosary beads is very much aligned with what we said above about choosing the cord color. All of the wooden rosary beads we use are durable, so you don’t need to worry about choosing by material. In terms of color, the advice from above still applies. We recommend a neutral or monochrome palette to give you a timeless look that will age as well as the rosary materials will. For example, if you’ve chosen a brightly colored cord, consider beads in the same color family, like the Marian blue beads to go with a blue cord. Or, if you want a colorful cord, you can also mix and match neutral-toned beads. Consider something like a green cord with brown or black beads. 

The other thing to consider is whether you want to choose the same type of wood for the Hail Mary beads and the Our Father beads, or if you want to have two different options. If you’re going to go with two different colors, we suggest keeping them either neutral or tonal. Using the same examples from above, if you choose blue cord and the blue Marian beads for the Hail Mary beads, consider a darker blue bead option for the Our Father beads. Or, if you choose a green cord, consider something like black Hail Mary beads and brown Our Father beads. Just be sure to stick within a tone family if you’re mixing multiple different colors — meaning dark brown Our Father beads rather than light brown if you’ve chosen black Hail Mary beads and a colored cord. 

Of course, this is all just advice from designs we’ve seen in the past. The whole point of a custom rosary is to make it entirely your own, so throw the guidelines out the window and choose the options that appeal to you. We’ve got the digital rosary builder so you can see what the finished result will look like, so use that to guide your final decisions. 

 

The Crucifix, Centerpiece, and Additional Medals

The final key component to designing your own custom rosary is choosing the Crucifix style and centerpiece you want, as well as any additional medals you would like for devotional guidance. 

Choosing Metal Options

We offer three different types of metal for most Crucifixes, centerpieces, and medals. 

  • Coated/plated metal is the most cost-effective of the options, and can provide a silver or bronze look. Over time, you can expect the coating to wear away, offering a weathered appearance that will show the copper color underneath. 
  • Our bronze options are available in both traditional bronze (the yellowish-brown color) and a yellow-tinged silver color. Bronze casting offers higher levels of detail and is stronger than pewter. This is a great option for long-term use because the color won’t fade and it’s not prone to bending like pewter. 

Here’s the breakdown of the different options we offer and the meanings behind them: 

Crucifixes

 

Classic Crucifix

As the title implies, this is the traditional depiction of Christ crucified. This design features a sunburst halo behind Christ’s head and the “INRI” inscription above. The slight flaring on all four ends of the Crucifix mirror the sunburst halo design. 


 

Sun Rays Crucifix

Like the classic Crucifix design, the Sun Rays Crucifix features a design that mimics a stylized version of the sun’s rays to create a halo behind Christ’s head.


 

Sword & Spirit Crucifix

Taken from Ephesians 6:17, the Sword and Spirit Crucifix is an In Via design made to represent “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” This Crucifix is made to look like a sword, and was designed to serve as a reminder to fight the good fight for salvation everyday.


 

Holy Matrimony Crucifix

Keep the power and value of your marriage at the forefront of your mind when praying the rosary with the Holy Matrimony Crucifix. This is another design created by In Via, and features interlocking rings and hearts over Christ’s head and hands to remind you of the love our God has for us and the importance of your union sanctified by God.


 

Pardon Crucifix

In 1905, Pope St. Pius X declared the Pardon Crucifix to have been approved of certain indulgences in the pardon of the living and souls in Purgatory. Carrying, devoutly kissing, saying invocations over, and remaining devout to the Crucifix gains indulgences toward the “temporal punishment of sin.”


 

Three-Way Pardon Crucifix

Like the Pardon Crucifix above, this Crucifix carries the same indulgences. It also has a St. Benedict medal and a Miraculous Medal. The first honors St. Benedict and carries several abbreviations, including the letters “CSSML,” which translated means “Holy Cross, be my light.” The Miraculous Medal shows the Blessed Mother standing on a globe, crushing a serpent, and is wrapped with the words “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”


 

St. Benedict Crucifix

This Crucifix is a simple design with a St. Benedict medal positioned behind Christ’s head in a halo position. There are eight different sets of abbreviated letters, each of which stands for a different Latin phrase. As mentioned above, there is CSSML for “Holy Cross, be my light,” but there are also abbreviations for phrases that translate to “Begone satan!”, “Peace,” and “May the dragon never be my overlord!”



Centerpieces

Just as each of our Crucifix options carries spiritual meaning, so too do all of the centerpieces. Choose the right option that has the most meaning/impact for your spiritual life. Options include: 

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe — this centerpiece depicts Our Lady as she appeared in Guadalupe. It’s an image that is especially important in Mexican and Latin American heritage and this centerpiece offers a way to venerate Our Lady and carry her with you.

This centerpiece and the Sacred Heart centerpiece are exclusive options commissioned by The Catholic Woodworker and feature incredibly detailed images on front and back.

  • Sacred Heart — this centerpiece carries the widely known devotional image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus with the Latin inscription that translates “To Jesus through Mary.” This medal is a reminder of God’s “boundless and passionate love for mankind.” The rear of the centerpiece shows the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a representation of Our Lady’s joys and sorrows as well as her love for God the Father, her son Jesus, and for all people.
  • Miraculous Medal — this centerpiece offers an image of Our Lady depicted symbolically as Mother, Immaculate, Assumed into Heaven, Mediatrix, and Our Protection. This medal is intended to help people prepare to receive grace and cooperate with it. 
  • Our Lady of Grace — this centerpiece offers the same depiction as the Miraculous Medal, but done in colored enamel. Our Lady of Grace is another name of the Miraculous Medal. 
  • Holy Family — this centerpiece depicts Our Lady and St. Joseph with the child Jesus. This medal is intended to be a reminder of the Holy Family as a model for all Christian families. This medal is particularly meaningful in prayerful guidance for fathers. 
  • St. Michael — St. Michael the Archangel is depicted as fighting and defeating Satan in Revelations, and the Saint Michael the Archangel prayer specifically asks for his defense in battle. He represents leadership and protection, and is often used by fathers as a reminder of their own protective role for their families. 
  • St. Joseph — as the earthly father of Jesus, St. Joseph provides profound guidance. He is also the patron saint of fathers, unborn children, and the Universal Church, so this medal is a good reminder of the impact a father can have as well as a source of guidance for fathers who seek a little extra support. 
  • St. Benedict — the St. Benedict medal offers an impressive amount of spiritual guidance. There are eight different abbreviations for Latin phrases intended to remind the faithful of God’s love for us, the power of His protection, and the spiritual power in remembering to serve God with all your life. 
  • St. Michael (and The Catholic Man Show) — this centerpiece also features St. Michael the Archangel on the front, but it includes the insignia for The Catholic Man Show on the reverse as a reminder of the amazing help we have living a faith-filled life in a secular world. 

 

Additional Medals

We can also add an additional medal to your custom rosary. Typically, these small medals hang a bit below the centerpiece. Choose a medal of the patron saint you chose during your confirmation, or simply choose a saint medal or other option that is the most meaningful to you. Most of our medals are done in an antiqued silver, so they will match your Crucifix and centerpiece choices. Most options are available in bronze as well. However, some are enameled or colored, so pay attention to those notes as you select your option and consider how that will impact your overall rosary design

  • St. Michael — St. Michael is our defender in the spiritual battles of life and our reminder to take up those spiritual battles ourselves.  
  • St. Benedict — St. Benedict medals are a tangible reminder of his faith, and to serve as a guide for our own prayerful lives. 
  • Holy Family — The Holy Family medal reminds us of the role faith should play in our own lives and families. 
  • Miraculous Medal — This devotional medal is a reminder of the gift of extraordinary grace that is available when praying through Our Lady’s intercession/help. 
  • St. Augustine — Church theologian and author of the Confessions, St. Augustine represents (and reminds us to live) a life of fervent prayer and repentance. He is also a reminder of strength for those struggling to break poor habits. 
  • St. Thomas Aquinas — St. Thomas Aquinas was both incredibly faith-filled and also a scholar, a Doctor of the Church. He is a reminder of how faith and reason can come together to grow our faith in God, as well as a reminder to put God before all else. 
  • St. Christopher/St. Michael Medal — St. Michael is a protector, especially in spiritual battle and St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. Combined, they offer guidance through the journey and battles of life. 
  • St. Joseph the Worker — This depiction of Jesus’ foster father is a reminder of the toils of life and faith, as well as the importance of a father’s role. 
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe/St. Juan Diego — This medal represents the miracles and interventions from Our Lady’s appearance at Guadalupe, and the faithful role St. Juan Diego played.
  • St. Maximilian Kolbe — Founder of the Militia Immaculatae, St. Maximilian Kolbe is a reminder of the role we can plan in helping bring others to Christ and protecting our fellow people. 

 

If You Need Help Building Your Custom Rosary...

All in all, this guide is meant to be just that — a guide. Choose the options that pull together the most meaningful elements for your life and the support you need in fighting your spiritual battles. If you have questions about anything, connect with The Catholic Woodworker team and we’d be happy to offer our guidance!