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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Drilling Glass

I have been asked many a time about how to drill glass. Actually I was self taught and by no mean an expert, but here’s a step by step account of how I do it, and some tips on how to do it well!

Equipments:
1. Electric Drill and drill bits


















To begin with, you will need a drill. I use a hand-held electric drill which I bought from a local hardware store. It’s light-weight and easy to use.

The drill bits should not be made of just any metal, but should be hard enough to cut through glass. Otherwise, you may just scratch the surface. Drilling on with force will just crack the glass.
I use diamond coated drill bits in several different sizes, all bought from ebay (just search 'diamond coated drill bits’ and you will have a variety of suppliers). I was told that aluminium carbide drill bits could cut glass as well. I tried, but learned the hard way that it did not.
2. Work surface


















You will need something to support the glass. Like it or not, once the drill bit got through the glass, it would mark your work surface. If you don’t want dimples all over your workbench, place a wooden board underneath the glass. A board made of pine wood is soft enough for the drill bit to penetrate and perfect as a shock absorbent. A metallic surface is too hard and will always break the drill bit. A plastic surface is not good either: bits of plastic will melt and stick onto the hot drill bit.

3. Fix the glass in position before drilling
















Fix the piece of glass firmly before you start drilling. Use the drill bit obliquely to make a nick first so that the drill bit won't slip. Then drill vertical to the glass surface. It’ll be great to have a device to clamp it down, holding it firmly with the other hand is good enough for me.
4. Water

While drilling, always keep the drill bit and glass wet. This will keep the temperature down and also lubricate the drilling. If the drill bit become dry but you kept on drilling, it will get stuck to the glass and eventually break or the glass will crack. always keep a spray bottle handy.

TIPS:
1. Clean cut edges on both sides of the hole


















If you drill on through the glass from just one direction, the edge of the hole on the other surface will be rugged. Why? This is what happens: the glass over the drill bit become so thin that it cracks when the bit is about to emerge.



















To make a hole with clean-cut edges on both surfaces, you will need to drill from both sides of the glass. I know there are expensive commercial drills that approach a gemstone or pearl simultaneously from both ends, it is slightly clumsier but not impossible with a hand-held drill.



















I start drilling from one side, and stop from time to time to check the depth of the drill bit. When it’s about 1mm from the other surface, I flip the glass over, hold it to the light to see the tip of the hollow track. Make a mark, aim, drill and finish off. When the drill bit is about to emerge, you will hear a difference in the 'whirring' sound.

2. If you don't want your glass to crack


















To avoid cracking your precious piece of sea glass, remember to well support its underside. DO NOT drill from its convex side and leave the hollow without supported: it’s bound to crack that way. Always drill from the concave side.

3. Clean the drill bit




















During and after drilling, the drill bit will be covered with a white paste, which is wet, powdered glass. To keep your drill bit sharp, brush this off in water from time to time.

4. Enlarging the hole

















What if you need a hole larger than any of your drill bits? Hold the glass firmly, press the drill bit firm against the 'wall' of the hole and move it around and and around, enlarging the hole to the right size.
5. Clean and oil your piece with olive oil to bring out its true color. It's done!

















So you’re all set to go! Thanks for reading through. I welcome all comments and questions!

48 comments:

Soov said...

Thanks for the tip about drilling from both sides. Your photos are great, too. Love it!

Kim said...

really nice tutorial! Thanks!

Baroness Bijoutery said...

Great information..thank you for sharing it..

Darlene said...

Very informative! Thank you.

Randomocity said...

Thank you so much-very informative! And you make beautiful things, I might add ;)

BitchenStitchen2 said...

Very informative, thank you!

Ecstasea said...

Right after posting this tutorial, I've read from a discussion on the Sea Glass Lovers site that one can actually drill underwater, without having to stop and spray like what I've been doing. Submerge the seaglass and drill bit in a saucepan, backed by a piece of wood or dish-cloth, or even sponge. That is so clever!

Scott said...

Great post on making jewelry from sea glass. You also have some good tips on the proper use of the jewelry drill.

Ros said...

This is great info about drill bit looks just what i need.

Dharmendra said...

You have really imparted useful tips/ knowledge about drill bits. I am little curious to know more about it.

Marti said...

Be sure and wear an appropriate mask
so you are not breathing in glass particles!

Sea Glass Jewelry - genuine beach collected treasures at Ecstasea said...

That is so true! Thanks for the reminder! One thing about drilling under water is to reduce possibility of breathing in the glass particles/dust and I'm doing just that :)

Nicola Kell said...

Thank you for sharing, it is always lovely that most crafters are willing to share rather than covet.
Your designs are beautiful.

eileen alexander said...

Thank you for breaking down the process so well. One of these days I will get brave enough to try it.

Lynne B Hanson said...

Well, I found your article after I went and bought all that I thought I needed to drill through beach glass, but I see that you are using a 'proper' drill bit, just diamond coated so off to the shops I go! thanks for your help (although I wish I know just how long if takes for the drill bit to reach the other side of the glass!).

Sue Fortin said...

Great idea. I have a lot of glass from the ocean in pvr at my home. I will try to make things .sue nekvasil

Artie Karp said...

I am self-taught too. I follow these directions except I put a small piece of wood in a plastic container. Then I put a little piece of sponge on top of the wood. I cover it with just enough water so that when I put the glass on the sponge it will all be submerged. This way it cools the drill bit down as it makes the hole. Otherwise, I have found that the drill bit overheats and I go through bits faster.
I've also found the glass doesn't move around very much on the sponge and I get a pretty clean hole all the way through.

Marylyn(SuperNan) said...

Great tutorial. Thanks for all the tips. The photos are excellent and just as informative as the words.
The comments are helpful as well. thanks everyone :-)

pelynoz said...

Thanks for information anad lovely work! :)

charlene adams said...

I am not sure if this would work on sea glass but I found if you hed an ice cube while drilling you could drill small shells.Great photography and info on your tutorial.Thanks

bearcatnat said...

Great tips! I love that you have photos for every step.

Mary Hurlbut said...

Another very important reason to keep your drill bit and the glass wet is you do not want to breath in dry glass dust!

Also ALWAYS wear eye protection.

I learned this from 30 years as a profession stained glass artist

Felicia Vreeland said...

I read many views on diamond drill tips and the vast majority said to invest in Dremel and stay away from the cheap multi sets from Asia. Since everyone also suggested water I found that using a shallow bowl with a kitchen sponge placed in it and water added to top the sponge works great. Just place the glass on the sponge and basically you are drilling in the water. I rarely have cracks or problems. I do prefer a speed adjustable Dremel to any other drill.

Diane Martins said...

I was discouraged in home depot buying a dremel because the salesman went on into detail how I had to cover the dremel motor with a bag and also plug into a GFI or it was very dangerous to be drilling in water, because of shock from splashing. Do you find this is the case? I have a stack of sea glass from the beach I would love to do something with.

Carla Carew said...


I have been drilling shells with the same method and wanted to do sea glass. The tip about drilling half way is a good one. Thank you.

ujyara hassan said...

Its amazing thank you for the first place efforts

Jeannine said...

Thank you very much for this lesson of how to do it :) I hope I ll succeed. You do nice work.

Selkie said...

Great tutorial, thank you! I have moved on from Dremel to Foredom. Way better tool, and more versatile.

Sandra Wentworth said...

Thank you for your wonderful tutorial! This is basically the way I( cut tile.

prem gupta said...

Thanks for sharing this amazing post.
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What's Good said...

Can you clarify this?

Sea Glass Jewelry - genuine beach collected treasures at Ecstasea said...

Clarify which point?

Sea Glass Jewelry - genuine beach collected treasures at Ecstasea said...

Clarify which point?

Andreas Kless said...

I use watercooled hollow diamond drills to drill Sea Glass. My neighbour keeps me busy :-) Here's a video about drilling a blind hole into a piece of Sea Glass
https://vimeo.com/153624397

Sandra iwata said...

Thanks for the tips! I`m trying to start working with Sea Glass and your comments certainly will help a lot!

Steph said...

Hi there, Great tutorial! What area were you in when you visited Puerto Rico if you don't mind me asking? :)
Thanks,
Steph

Jana Hendrix said...

Just thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for the simple tut!

Jana Hendrix said...

Just thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for the simple tut!

Esther M. Cordeiro said...

gostei muito , espero conseguir usar a técnica. Muito obrigada!!!

Adrienne said...

Excellent instruction. Thanks so much! I'm on my way out to buy a drill!!!!

Annie Byous said...

Thank you so much. After reading your tip I got started, I cracked the first glass that I tried. But I got it throw on my second glass. I read threw the comments about using a sponge, i'm going to try it. So thank you again. Aloha from Kaaawa Hawaii;)

Alison Bell-Irving said...

Many thanks for the great information.

After much experimentation I finally found a system that worked for me.

I use a small, thick, wooden salad bowl with a lump of plasticine (or play-doh) in the bottom. I then cover it with water and set the seaglass firmly into the clay. The tip of the drill bit is below the water surface while drilling which has the added advantage of eliminating any possibility of chips or glass "powder" flying around. I don't have very steady hands so use a drill press to keep my drilling accurate. I don't turn the piece over and have never had a problem with ragged edges or cracking. Perhaps the plasticine helps with that, I'm not sure. Best wishes from the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC.

Unknown said...

Very informative for us beginners, thank you!!!

Unknown said...

Very informative for us beginners, thank you!!!

Unknown said...

Very informative for us beginners, thank you!!!

Unknown said...

Very informative for us beginners, thank you!!!

Christine K. said...

Thank you so much for the great tips. Anxious to get started on working with sea glass and this website was very helpful.

KimMac said...

Cool! I know I'm very punny. Lol.
No really I think this is a great share.