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How to Make a Giant Abacus

Make a big decor statement with this archaic math tool – a DIY Pottery Barn giant abacus.

With the ingenious use of styrofoam fishing floats, you can count how much money you save on building this when you’re done!

How to build Pottery Barn abacus

Abacus Project Background

KariAnne of Thistlewood Farms had been dreaming of making her own Pottery Barn-inspired giant abacus for years.

She had almost the whole project planned out, except for the counting beads, which is a pretty important component of the abacus.

Then inspiration finally hit while she was visiting friends who were commercial fishermen – fishing floats!

From there it didn’t take KariAnne long to construct that giant abacus she’s been pining for over the years – “courtesy of those fishing floats.”

diy giant abacus inspired by pottery barn

Project Tips

Basic steps

  1. Build a mitered frame to size, cut some dowels and add some L-brackets
  2. Stain the frame and dowels
  3. Add the counting beads and secure tightly

Fishing floats

Ok, so these exact kind of fishing floats are actually kind of hard to find just anywhere since most floats come in super bright colors (so fishermen can see them easily on the water).

Don’t despair, there is a place online that sells them. You can check that out here.

Honestly, while the shape is very similar to the original version I think it’s okay to venture away from the “donut” design for the counting beads.

In fact, you’ll find lots of abacuses using round beads.

So, one idea is to check in craft materials for some larger beads. Some like these barrel beads could work well and are a good size. The also offer a couple different colors.


Dark Brown Wood Barrel Beads

Craft beads for a big abacus

Whatever you find, check the diameter of the holes and compare with the size dowels you get.

If you can avoid drilling and boring the bead’s or fishing float’s center out, KariAnne says that can definitely save you some extra work and time.

KariAnne was inspired by this abacus that is no longer available from Pottery Barn.

pottery barn giant abacus

The Full Tutorial

KariAnne shares her how-to tutorial at Thistlewood Farms.

Sharing is Caring!


Sunday 7th of September 2014

Thank you so much for the shout out! I truly appreciate it!

Have a wonderful day! karianne


Monday 8th of September 2014

Always a pleasure featuring you, Girl! :-)

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