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.
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.
Drilling Beach Glass
- small shallow Pyrex ® dish
- kitchen sponge
- variable speed Dremel ®
- Dremel brand diamond drill bit
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.
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.