How to Build a Giant Abacus

How to Build a Giant Abacus


how to build a giant abacus

This is a DIY project that has been years in the making.

I’ve wanted to build it ever since I saw it in the Pottery Barn catalog years ago.  I knew that I knew that I knew… would be perfect in the house.

If only I could figure out how to DIY it.

I could figure out the sides and I could figure out the metal corners and I could figure out the rods in the middle….but I couldn’t figure out how to make the beads that you used to count with.

Giant wooden discs?

Too flat.

Giant metal washers?

Too un-round.

Giant beads?

Too round.

And then one day I saw these.

fishing floats Fishing floats.

Can you believe it?

We have friends who are commercial fisherman and I saw these at their house when they were stringing up lines.

As we say in Kentucky….I almost had a come-apart.

Visions of that long ago DIY abacus danced round my head.

So here it is in all its glory courtesy of those fishing floats…..

… to build a giant abacus.

diy project build giant abacus


13 feet of 1 x 4 pine lumber

8 feet of small dowel rods

30 fishing floats

metal L-brackets for the sides

dark wood stain

build an abacus

Step 1:  Build your frame

The frame is 42″ long and 18″ wide with a center piece that is 40″ long.

Cut the pieces to fit (or have your home improvement store cut them for you).

Nail the center piece in place.

Don’t nail it exactly in the center.

Make sure when you attach the center piece you have one larger side and one smaller side.

giant abacus project

Step 2:  Make sure fishing floats fit

The fishing floats are styrofoam and the holes are different sizes.

You may have to enlarge some of the holes with a drill bit.

You could just buy a smaller dowel and save this step….

But some of us are stubborn. :)

build an abacus project

Step 3:  Drill holes

Line up the dowel rods and drill holes on both of the side pieces.

Drill a corresponding hole all the way through the center piece.

(Keep in mind….you have not attached the side pieces yet….so this makes it easier).

Step 4:  Stain frame and dowels with dark wood stain.

abacus diy project

Step 5:  Fit dowels into holes and attach side pieces

Thread dowel through center hole.

On the larger side thread four fishing floats on each dowel and two fishing floats on the smaller side.

Fit dowels into holes and attach side pieces.

This takes time and a little patience and lots of compliments. :)

diy project abacus

Step 6:  Attach L brackets

Just like jewelry.

A project isn’t complete without a little accessory.

Attach the L brackets to all four corners.


I LOVE how it turned out and every time I walked by it yesterday…..I smiled.

A DIY project years and lots of dreams in the making.

And it happened….all because of a fishing float. :)

how to build a giant abacus diy project


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