Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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
Sea Glass
Shallow Bowl with Water
Rubber Puck
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 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... 

Sea Glass + Fine Silver Available@ Art and Soul Jewelry


  1. great post Cindy, they are absolutely beautiful!!

  2. Beautiful earrings Cindy! Very informative too. I dudn't realize how involved it is to drill the glass. Is it the same with river stones?

    1. Thank you Donna! It is a similar process for stones. That's a whole other post! :-D

  3. Thank you so much for this great tutorial Cindy. And I love your earrings made with sea glass combined with your metal work. A great combination of materials.

  4. I adore your Sea Glass, they give your earrings such a wonderful personal touch and are beautiful. It sure is a process, thanks so much for sharing!

  5. That is pretty awesome. All those tools! Swoon! I don't think that I could do this with the Dremel that I have ;-) I guess this is why I pay someone who has the tools and expertise to do the things I can't! I think it lends a rustic softness to your designs that feels very authentically you! Enjoy the day and thanks for sharing this process, I find that fascinating! Erin

    1. Erin, I do think people drill glass with a dremel too. Don't get discouraged! Just remember to keep the glass underwater. I think you'll be fine! Get the Swiss diamond bits- too, they are totally worth the extra $! Enjoy! Thank you!

  6. I have a whole bunch of sea glass, but no drill. I hope that sometime I can find a drill to borrow. You've included lots of good tips here. Thanks.

    1. Thank you Linda! Yes, I hope you can try it too. It's kind of scary the first time- but after that, it's a breeze and fun! Even if you break a few along the way. Give it a go when you can! Have fun!

  7. Awesome information - thank you so much for taking the time to explain it all so well! You make it sound easy, but I'm sure there is a lot of practice, trial, and error involved!

    I love what you've done with some of your beautiful sea glass finds in your jewelry. xo - Julie

    1. Thank you Julie! I appreciate it! It's not too hard once you figure out the right pressure and I still have breakage. Usually it's when I get nervous and I'm not concentrating- on a piece I really don't want to break. The key is to relax and go slow. And have fun! :-) Cindy