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 yourself. A rosary on its own is a beautiful way to incorporate prayer into your everyday life. Rosaries allow you to arm yourself for spiritual battle in our secular world and cultivate your relationship with God. Creating a custom rosary takes those blessings of prayer a step further as it allows you to hand-pick the elements that will be most meaningful to the recipient.
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 every rosary because we know these will be spiritual weapons that will 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.
Let’s start with the base material of your custom rosary, the cord which holds everything together.
In all of our rosaries, we use U.S.A. manufactured micro cord or 95 paracord, which are thinner —yet powerful— versions of 550 paracord used in the military, parachutes, and survival kits. We love using these cords because of their flexibility and durability as we expect that our rosaries will stand the test of time. Both paracord and micro cord are lightweight, yet still offer a tensile strength of 80–90 lbs. We want your rosary to last as long as possible, but also so you feel comfortable using your rosary every day. It shouldn’t feel as if you have to set your rosary aside in a display case and only use it at home to avoid breaking. Our hand-made rosaries are designed to use often! Our 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 it is always at hand.
Choosing Your Rosary Cord
There are two primary 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 choosing 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 selecting a cord color that matches your bead color.
The other option that some patrons use is to look at 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 convey major lessons quickly and clearly, so specific colors came to represent significant 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, such as wearing violet on Sundays during Lent and green for Mass 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 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 creates a combination of the meanings in the chart above.
|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.|
When it comes to choosing the beads for your custom rosary, this is where it can start feeling pretty overwhelming. There is a huge range of different colors and styles 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 wax-finished dyed wood beads. You can find plenty of options out there, but we stick strictly to beads that match the quality of our cord for a few reasons.
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 and stones because they offer the best long-term durability. Glass beads are durable enough but are more inclined to chip and leave sharp edges. Additionally, cheap plastic beads are often coated with a superficial color or finish that wears off with repeated use.
Our hardwood rosary beads are a beautiful option for longevity because they will 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 found on a plastic rosary.
This the reason we use dyed wood rosary beads instead of painted options. Dyed wood provides a beautiful, even color that allows you to still see the wood grain. More importantly, since the color is infused in the wood, you don’t have to worry about the color chipping or peeling off over time. Dyed wood rosary beads age well; they develop a gentle patina and may only slightly lose the color, but otherwise don’t show their age.
The other big reason we choose to use hardwood beads is for sustainability. We get our natural hardwood beads from the Philippines and Brazil, both predominately Catholic nations. We work specifically with craftspeople who use a sustainable harvesting model to gather wood. Meaning, they gather branches rather than cutting down whole trees, therefore retaining the overall health of the forests in which the wood originates.
In addition to sustainable practices, these nations provide 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 feeds back into their families and communities.
Choosing Your Rosary Beads
Our advice for choosing your rosary beads is much aligned with what we said above about choosing the cord color. All of the wooden rosary beads we use are durable and thoroughly inspected before being used on our rosaries.
Almost all of our beads have a wax finish which allows for a natural wood appearance. Recently though, we began carrying Imbuia (Brazilian Walnut) beads. These beads are coated in a shiny, gloss finish that provides greater defense against the elements.
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 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 example from above, if you choose the blue cord and the blue Marian beads for the Hail Mary beads, you may 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 if you so desire, you can 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 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 add-on medals.
- Coated/plated metals is the most cost-effective option and provides a silver or bronze appearance. Over time, you can expect the silver or bronze coating to wear away, offering a weathered appearance that will show the true copper color underneath.
- Pewter is a darker, gun-metal tone that is generally more masculine. As this is true pewter (and not coated/plated), the color will not chip away with wear. This metal is more prone to bending and fading than our genuine bronze options.
- Genuine bronze options are available in both silicon bronze (red-brown toned) and a white bronze (sliver toned). Bronze casting offers higher levels of detail and is stronger than pewter. This is the best option for long-term use and highly recommended if you intend on wearing your rosary as it will not rust or fade.
Here’s the breakdown of the options we offer and their meanings:
Premium Pardon Crucifix (White and Silicon Bronze)
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.” This is an original to The Catholic Woodworker that exemplifies the beauty of this popular crucifix.
Full Armor Crucifix (Silver and Bronze Color)
This beautiful crucifix is a Catholic Woodworker original. Inspired by Ephesians 6:11. We must put on the "full armor of God" and conquer temptation and sin with the aid of Jesus our Lord and Savior. This crucifix features The Catholic Woodworker's emblem on the back.
Sword & Spirit Crucifix (Pewter)
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 Trinity Crucifix (Silver and Bronze Color)
Keep the power and value of God in all 3 forms at your side and forefront of your mind when praying the rosary with the Holy Trinity Crucifix. This crucifix is the smallest we offer and is features God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a popular choice for pocket rosaries as it is small and versatile.
Pardon Crucifix (Silver and Bronze Color)
Similar to the Premium Pardon, this traditional pardon offers all of the same indulgences, but comes at a cheaper price as this one is not an original and is only available in Silver and Bronze color.
Three-Way Pardon Crucifix (Silver and Bronze Color)
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 (Silver Color Alloy)
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!”
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. We offer several centerpieces that have been commissioned by our team and are exclusive to our website. Centerpieces denoted with "TCW" are our originals.
TCW Sacred Heart
This centerpiece beautifully details the profile of Jesus with the crown of thorns and a halo around his head. The back features a stunning image of the familiar depiction of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This medal is a reminder of God’s “boundless and passionate love for mankind.”
TCW Immaculate Heart
Our Immaculate Heart centerpiece features an image of Mother May with a crown of 12 stars in a halo. The focal point on the back of this centerpiece is Mary's heart pierced by a sword as mentioned in Luke 2:35 "and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed".
St. Michael Defender
Centrally pictured is St. Michael the Archangel wielding a sword and standing atop Satan. We pray that this centerpiece reminds those of who we have Above protecting us and defending us in battle against evil and temptation. This centerpiece is brought to us by a wonderful Catholic artist Christian from In Via.
Shield of Faith
In a beautifully rendered image, we are met with the stoic face of our Savior Jesus Christ adorned in a crown of thorns. This centerpiece is also brought to us by a wonderful Catholic artist Christian from In Via. Christian describes this centerpiece as inspired by Ephesians 6:16 "And take the helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Antique Ave Maria
Also known as the Marian Auspice centerpiece, this piece contains the letters A and M under a crown. This signifies that we are "Under the protection of Mary". As our Spiritual and Heavenly Mother, this centerpiece is great for Mothers and others who cherish their relationship with our Holy Mother.
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.
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 Classic
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 against sin and temptation. He represents leadership and protection, and is often used by fathers as a reminder of their own protective role for their families as well as those who are combatting spiritual warfare.
TCW St. Joseph Guardian
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.
TCW St. Joseph Terror of Demons
Our centerpiece features Joseph holding child Jesus on the front and on the back we see the Most Chaste Heart of Joseph. Terror of Demons is one of the many titles that Joseph has received over the millennia. He is yet another saint we can fly to when those of us are feeling weight of the world and may feel hopeless in the midst of the chaos.
We can also add an additional medal to your custom rosary. Typically, these small medals hang a bit below the centerpiece in the 3 Hail Mary beads. You may consider choosing a medal of the patron saint during your confirmation or a saint medal that is the most meaningful to you. Most of our medals are done in silver color, but some are available in bronze as well.
Some of our add-on medals include:
- St. Michael — St. Michael is our defender in the spiritual battles of life and our reminder to take up those spiritual battles ourselves. (Available in Silver and Bronze Color)
- St. Benedict — St. Benedict medals are a tangible reminder of his faith, and to serve as a guide for our own prayerful lives. (Available in Enameled Silver, Silver, and Bronze Color)
- Holy Family — The Holy Family medal reminds us of the role faith should play in our own lives and families. (Available in Silver and Bronze Color)
- 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. (Available in Genuine Bronze, Silver, and Bronze Color)
- 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. (Available in Silver Color)
- 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. (Available in Silver Color)
- 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. (Available in Silver Color)
- 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. (Available in Silver Color)
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 are interested in creating a rosary that is not a standard 5-decade rosary, does not contain parts listed here, or if you would like more personalized help; please purchase a custom rosary Design Consultation and we’d be happy to offer our guidance! For any other questions please connect with The Catholic Woodworker team at firstname.lastname@example.org for other help and clarification.