Drilling Beach Glass

by Shirley Graves.

After living near the beaches of Lake Erie for the past 12 years and designing jewelry for over 18, I naturally became an enthusiast of collecting beach glass and transforming these “Gems of the Lake” into unique and recycled glass jewelry.

Beach glass and wire earrings by Shirley Graves

Beach glass and wire earrings by Shirley Graves

My adventures in designing beach glass jewelry began last summer and since then I’ve found my own secrets to drilling holes in beach glass.

Beach glass is found on the beaches of the oceans and the Great Lakes, where it begins as pieces of broken glass refuse and are tossed and tumbled by the water and sand over many years to create a frosted gem.

For those who are not fortunate to live near the Great Lakes or the ocean, you may find beach glass for sale at Etsy, eBay, Craigslist and through Google searches.

In addition to drilling beach glass, the following instructions may also be useful for drilling through ceramic tile and various rocks and minerals depending on the size and density of the material.

Beach glass pendant and earring set by Shirley Graves

Beach glass pendant and earring set by Shirley Graves

Drilling Beach Glass


  • small shallow Pyrex ® dish
  • kitchen sponge
  • variable speed Dremel ®
  • Dremel brand diamond drill bit

Setting Up

Place a wet kitchen sponge (non-scrubby type) in the Pyrex dish and fill with water almost to the top of the sponge.

You may want to place a kitchen towel under the Pyrex dish to keep any water off your work surface.

For drilling use a variable speed Dremel tool (plug-in kind, not battery powered) set to the lowest speed. The battery powered kind does not have enough power or speed to do the job.

I recommend using a Dremel brand diamond drill bit that can be purchased at the local hardware store (Dremel Diamond Point 7134). They run about $9 each but are very durable. The size of hole you desire will determine the size of bit you purchase.

Safety First! I recommend that you use safety glasses (or prescription glasses) to protect your eyes from splashes or accidental flying glass.

Why Use a Sponge?

The sponge allows the beach glass piece to be submerged when drilling, keeping the glass temperature down to prevent shattering and also helping to wash away the glass debris.

The sponge also keeps the piece of beach glass in place and adds a bit of cushioning for the drill bit once it goes through the piece, which helps prevent the bit from hitting the bottom of the Pyrex dish.
How to Drill the Beach Glass

Begin by placing the piece of beach glass in the middle of the sponge and holding it down with your thumb and index finger.

With the Dremel on at the lowest speed, carefully place the drill bit on the beach glass. Initially keeping the glass above the water will help the drill bit begin the hole.

Once a small hole is started, you can add more pressure onto the glass and submerge the piece under the water.

For thicker pieces use a good amount of pressure to drill about 3/4 of the way through the glass, then turn the glass over and drill from the other side.

Ease up the pressure when you know you are almost through.

Beach glass bracelet by Shirley Graves

Beach glass bracelet by Shirley Graves

Tips for
Better Beach Glass Drilling

Drilling takes a little practice and a bit of trial and error.

Optionally you can go straight thought the glass without turning it over, but the hole may not be as clean on the exit side.

For thinner pieces be careful not to use as much pressure as they will can easily break in half.

Sometimes smaller pieces may get stuck on the drill bit after you’ve gone through.

Don’t panic. Calmly and carefully turn off the Dremel.

Then firmly grasp the piece of stuck glass with one hand and the drill and bit in the other hand. Gently turn the piece of glass back and forth until it releases, being careful not to bend the drill bit.

Most importantly, be patient. It may take a couple of minutes to drill through a thick piece of glass. Better to take your time than to break your one-of-a-kind treasure!

Creative spirit Shirley Graves loves camping, fishing and spending long hours walking the beaches of Lake Erie in search of rare pieces of beach glass. Her jewelry sells in local charity events, craft shows, bazaars, home parties.

If anyone knows of a current link for Shirley Graves, please let me know so I can add it here! Thanks. ~ Rena.

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  • Aubyn Veno says:

    Thank you!

  • kim says:

    I would like to make pearl and blue sea glass garland for my christmas tree an would like to know if u sell already drilled sea glass i found the glass by the pound on ebay

  • Jean Pustulka says:

    I love the pieces shown and thank you. Where did you get the tongs sandals? I just took my first class from Diane Waterman at W. Seneca School and she mentioned you.

  • Jane says:

    Jean… the Tibet Silver thongs/sandals can be inexpensively purchased on ebay.

  • Roz says:

    Wow. Thanks for sharing. I hope I can make a few things as pretty as yours

  • shelby says:

    Hello! I just wanted to know if the same technique can work for polished stones as well? My husband and I just got back from a trip for our aniversary, and i Purchased 17 polished rocks that I would like to turn into a necklace. Something like a token of our memories from the trip. Thank you!

  • Kathy says:

    I just moved to Cayucos,Ca and have been collecting sea glass. I design and make dichroic glass and I wire wrap. I actually wNt to do some simple seaglass pieces for a Chamber of Commerce event next year and your info wS just perfect!! Thank you!!

  • stephanie Rasmussen says:

    Thankyou so much for the great tips.I have been beach combing;since I was about 20;and now im44years old.My mom has collected since she was18yrs old;its now something that’s shared amongst my two other sisters as well.Being since I live so close to the beach;its wonderfully.I spend many hours there.It brings all of us together;being since we all live in different cities;its been a treasure worth sharing;when we can get together.So again thankyou for sharing.I have always wanted to learn different ways;and with your thoughtfully ideas;I can now proceed with my crafts&beach glass projects.

  • Lisa Webb says:

    Thank you so much for the info. We just returned from a trip to Lakes Erie and Ontario and picked up about 1,200 pieces. We want to try some jewelry pieces for family and friends, but we were not sure about drilling. Shirley, you have some beautiful pieces and are a true inspiration!

  • Heather Ott says:

    Is there a book available with ideas and instructions?

  • Jon Graves says:


    Amazing that I find this. Your name is that same as my late mothers. I am in Cleveland, where are you located? Do you sell your jewelry or just for a hobby?

  • Julia says:

    Thank you for this great information. I have been wanting top drill holes in my sea glass to make some jewelry but was afraid to try it. The sponge idea is wonderful! I had read that inhaling glass dust is dangerous and wondered if you use a
    mask or if the submersion in water prevents dust. Is it safe to use the electric dremel in the water? Thanks again!

  • Tammy Lagan says:

    What is the dremel to purchase for drilling seaglass

  • Hi Tammy, a Dremel is a multi-purpose tool that you can buy at hardware, home improvement, etc. stores as well as online (amazon, many jewelry suppliers, etc.). For drilling sea glass you will probably want a diamond drill bit for your Dremel. I’d love to see what you make with the sea glass you drill!

  • Cindy says:

    Hi I’ve enjoyed this article/information. I was just wondering how long or how many pieces does this drill bit last/do? Thank you.

  • Julia says:

    So glad to find this great info! Thanks for sharing! I have a Dremel and have been trying to drill thru seashells…unsuccessfully, I might add. Wonder if anyone has tried this method with shells?

  • Olivine says:

    Very helpful and thanks so much for sharing from your experience. Yes I have drilled thru shells with dremel and much easier and quicker than glass although too powerful for some shells.

  • Gayle says:

    I’ve been toying with the idea of coating shells in ICE resin & then (maybe?) drilling them. Has anyone tried this?

  • Jane Petersen says:

    I have some beach glass, but the edges are rough and shiny. Would you still use these or is there a way to smoother the edges?

  • fathima says:

    Thank you

  • Beth Martin says:

    I have been an instructor at a local art community for several years. Drilling 101 is part of my “teaching agenda” and have taught hundreds of students. I would like to stress that if you are going to drill any lake or ocean shell it is imperative you wear a mask or respirator. The chemicals from any type of shell can be toxic. And follow the directions thoroughly. Which means turn off your cell phone!

  • FBoggs says:

    If the edges are rough and/or shiny, it is considered not finished. Jewelry quality sea/beach glass is smooth with no sharp edges or shiny bits. It takes decades of rolling around in the water to be shaped into finished glass. The process is part of the beauty of it. Some people tumble their glass. It is up to you but if you tumble it to smooth it, it is not considered true beach/sea glass.

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