Drilling Sea Glass for Jewelry



Drilling glass is something I thought I would never do. Never wanted to do, never thought I could do. But after collecting a sizable amount of sea glass I decided it was probably in my best interest to learn.

I looked online and found some articles. There is a  lot of information on the Internet. However, it never hurts to get a new perspective. So, this is my take on it. I've been asked many times about drilling glass and how to go about it.

For my work, I use a drill press. I have it set up in the garage. There are other ways to drill and I wont talk about them here because I have no experience with any other way.

Please note this is not so much a tutorial but rather a brief pictorial with explanation of my experience and helpful hints for those who want to give it go or just have some curiosity of how it's done. 
Diamond Twist Drill Bits from Rio Grande
What you'll need:
Drill Press (or other means to drill)
Diamond Drill Bits
Safety Glasses
Pencil
Sea Glass
Shallow Bowl with Water
Rubber Puck
Towel
Good Lighting
I have a variety of diamond drill bits to use for my glass. The kind I use, and have had the best luck with are these diamond twist drill bits from Rio Grande. They can be purchased online through their website or catalog. Nice, high quality bits manufactured in Switzerland. I use a variety of sizes from 1.3 to 2mm.
I use a pencil to mark the glass where I am going to drill. Once the glass is underwater, your perspective will be distorted. You will need that dot to guide you. Once under water the pencil dot will be silvery shiny and easy to spot.
Safety glasses are a MUST. 

This is my set up. Messy, yeah, I know. It is a garage! 
And I share this space, so I will blame the mess on him. (evil grin)

In this photo you will see my FireStorm Drill Press by Black & Decker, a fire extinguisher (for other stuff) a small box of sea glass, some drill bit packs, a lamp, a plastic tray for water, a black rubber puck inside the tray, my glasses and a cup for filling the tray with water.
 Glass must be drilled under water to keep things cool.
The puck is great for holding the glass steady. And it's not going to hurt anything if you drill into it. I bought this years ago from http://www.metalliferous.com/ I am unsure if they are still for sale there. I've seen others use a block of wood.

 I position my bit so that it will come all the way to the puck. 
Place the glass and make sure it's completely submerged.
Before turning the drill press on, I will lower the shank to make sure the bit will hit my mark. If not, rearrange and move the glass till your pencil mark is directly centered with the bit.
 Every piece of glass is going to be different and you'll want to figure out the best way to hold yours. I find this method works best for me in most cases. I am able to hold the piece down and keep my figures out of harms way.
You only want to drill half way through the glass. This is a tricky part, not going too far. And it's really a matter of practice. Learning to ease off the pressure, and knowing when to stop. I have even found with a new drill bit and going super slow, I have been able to drill all the way through without having any blowout or breakage. I do no recommend it!
..........................
For best results, 
drill very slow, 
under water 
and only go half way through the glass.
Turn over.
..........
Dry your hands and glass off and hold your glass up to the light.
 
 I have a great set up here in the garage because of the large window, I get lots of natural light. I turn the glass over and hold it up to the window. I can see the hole as a black mark in the glass. Here I can mark the other side. I have found it best to find the hole this way so that your perceptive is not distorted. Mark the other side where you see the black dot with your pencil.
Again, position your glass and drill bit so they meet before turning on the machine. Once you find the pencil mark, hold the glass and turn on the machine. Again, carefully and very slowly pressing down. You'll feel it give way once it meets the hole on the other side. 

And finally holding it up to the window again I can see the hole is clean and has gone all the way through. Yeah! Success! 

I recommend beginning your practice on pieces that you don't so much care about. Maybe you'll get it on the first try and be a natural pro. Maybe not. Best to work on some ugly pieces first! 

Good luck and have fun! Let me know if you have any questions. I will answer as best I can. 

(as with all the earrings here on the EE blog, these are examples and all designs are copyright the original artists. Thank you!)  Here are some of my success stories... 
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Sea Glass + Fine Silver Available@ Art and Soul Jewelry

http://www.artandsouljewelry.com/

2 comments:

  1. I get extra happy when I see one of your posts in my morning email...always something beautiful to look at. I too am very hesitant to try my hand at drilling glass, but your gorgeous jewelry is pushing me to try it. Thanks for the encouragement! Drill on!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, that's very kind of you. I do hope you'll try it. It's very satisfying - like walking a tight rope -almost- when you get to the other side! :-D Please let me know if I can help. Cindy

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