Burs tips and techniques?

I have a heck of a time drilling tiny holes in gold. The burs get
dull so quickly (yes I use bur-life). Does anyone have any tips on
burs or techniques?


I have a few tips to share that may help to extend the useful life
of your burrs. Heat is one of the biggest culprits in causing a burr
to dull. High speed builds heat quickly so I try to go slow and as
you mentioned use the bur life or beeswax liberaly. If the hole is
larger than a millimeter I drill the first hole with a #70 twist
drill and then use several burrs of increasing diamater to enlarge
the hole to the proper size. In this way no one burr does more than
it’s fair share of the cutting and each time you change burrs you
start with a cool burr. Some alloys contain Silica and there is not
much you can do to prevent a burr from dulling rather quickly when
working with such alloys. If you commonly work with such alloys
consider investing in Carbide twist drills wich are about the same
hardness as the Silica.

Best regards, David


I would not use a bur to drill holes with. I would use a small drill
bit. Most bits are cheaper than burs. If you are trying to make a
seat for a stone drill a pilot hole with a small drill bit then use
your bur to enlarge the hole. If you are making decorative holes use
a drill bit first then use a bud burr or flame burr to clean the
edge. You can also use a flat graver to clean holes in metal. I
typically use my setting burs for setting. I use bud or flame burs
and round burs for removing metal and clean up. I use cone burs for
enlarging holes. You can grind burs to create shapes to suite your
needs. Experiment on some scrap to get a feel for what different burs
can do. You will develop a feel for using the bur that way and over
time will have favorite shapes of burs for different jobs. The type
of cut on a bur matters as does the type of steel. Carbide burs and
bits are more expensive but tend to last longer with proper care.
High speed burs are harder to control for beginners the cut is
different. Diamond burs are used for specialty jobs usually and must
be kept cool. Get yourself a tool catalog from Rio Grande and this
will help you familiarize yourself with the world of burs and bits.

J Morley

Use a small bur to center the hole then use the small high speed
steel twist drills. Rio Grande sells quite a collection as, I’m
sure, do other suppliers. I avoid the carbide twist drills because
they are so brittle, they break with the slightest lateral pressure.
I presume that if I had a micro drill press this wouldn’t be so
much of a problem. I have found broken carbide drills nearly
impossible to remove from my work.

Howard Woods
Eagle Idaho

If you drill the holes out first, a half millimeter smaller than the
bur you will be using, your bur will not have to remove as much
metal and should last longer.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

Dear Richard:

I was taught by an old German master twenty + years ago to use Oil
of Wintergreen to lubricate burrs and drill bits… I have rarely had
a burr break or get clogged up like burr life tends to… and the oil
smells pleasant as you use it. You can buy it at any pharmacy for
about $4.00 and it will last forever.

Take a film cannister and use the inside of the lid as a resivoir
for the oil (a small new felt wheel will fit nicely inside the lid
to use as a sort of dabbing surface for your burrs) Then just snap
the body of the film cannister on when you’re done and store it
up-side-down. The felt wheel will eventually become impregnated with
particles of gold dust so make sure you reclaim it when it’s packed
with gold.

I swear by oil of Wintergreen. Ditch the burr life and use what the
old masters have known about for centuries !

: )
Margie Mersky

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I’d bet money that you are pressing down to hard and also
overheating your burs. Do it in an drill/lift/drill pattern so that
the bur cools frequently.

Judy Shaw

just wondering if you are using vanadium (busch type) or high speed

I agree the twist drill is the best way to go. Try the new premium
gold cobalt twist drills. From stuller on vol 43 on page 193

Andy " The Tool Guy" Kroungold
Tool Sales / Technical
Stuller Inc
Phone 800-877-7777 ext. 94194
Fax 337-262-7791


I’m sure you’ll get many replies to this prior to mine (through the
daily digest).

I have never had any problems using a drill bit (as small as 0.5 mm
dia) to drill holes in metal.Using a bur at high speeds will burn it
out very quickly, probably before you “drill” the first hole.

Use a drill bit with firm but light pressure, not too fast, and well
lubricated with cutting oil. You may break a few drills at the
beginning until you “get the feel”, but you’ll know when the speed
and pressure is right by the tell-tale spiral cuttings you produce.

If the bit is too small to fit into the handpiece, get an adapter
(almost like a pin vice) to fit your handpiece.

Tel: 905.566.0950
Fax: 905.290.9398

I would add here just one little word
drill/lift/…OIL…/drill/lift/…OIL…this little added feature
will give more life to your twist drill or bur. Oil is cheap,…twist
drills and burs are not!!! Oil is a coolant and also a
lubricant,…use liberally!..Gerry!

also you must ride your burr smoothly on the surface of metal, with
as little chatter as possible, especially with carbide, which will
chip, take light cuts, also other alloys and coatings work well,
twist drills are excellent cutters, but it is important to get
quality steel, always, it is also important- very necessary to put
an optivisor on and sharpen (learn to) your drills with either a
stone barrel (for cutting steel or a separating disc in a flex
shaft), just try it with magnification, by copying what was already
the point of the drill, don’t go over center and you will get it in
no time(practice on old drills, first large then small, with mag.),
oh yea read a machinist’s drill sharpening pamphlet,


Hello Margie,

Thanks for the tip on putting the felt wheel in the cap of a film
canister as a “dabbing” surface. I’ve also tried oil of wintergreen
as a bur lubricant, but it was drippy and messy. This sounds like a
good idea. Now if I can just get past the odor - it reminds me of
the Pepto-Bismol with which my mother would dose me when I was
nauseated! (barf) I can’t stand wintergreen to this day!! How
about oil of peppermint?

Judy in Kansas

What no one seems to have mentioned is the reason you shouldn’t try
to use burrs for drilling. This is because the end of a burr has no
teeth and so can’t cut the metal. If you look at the end of a round
burr you will usually see a small round circle, often recessed, which
is just plain metal. If you try to use such a burr as a drill -
pressing it in line with its shaft, the teeth will cut around this
area leaving a small pillar of metal which will resist efforts to
push the burr further in. Even where burrs have teeth cut right to
the centre of the end of the burr, the ‘peripheral cutting speed’ of
the centre of the burr is zero and so it will not cut - that is, at
the centre, the teeth are not passing over the metal as is required
for cutting. Shallow holes may be ‘drilled’ using the side of the
burr but this is a little uncontrolled and haphazard as any end play
in the handpiece bearings or burr collet will allow the burr to
wander and cut an oval hole. Also, the depth to which you can 'drill’
in this situation is limited by the diameter of the burr.

Best Wishes,
Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

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I don’t remember the thread that the message came under, but someone
mentioned using a film canister with a felt wheel in it as a
lubrcant container and daubing the bur or drill in it.This is a
great idea and one similar to what I learned from someone many years
ago.I use a small dark brown bottle(about two inches or less,tall)
with a screw on lid stuffed to max capacity with cotton,then filled
with oil of wintergreen.Works great and with a screw on lid the oil
doesn’t evaporate.Best wishes, John Barton

If your burrs are sharp you can kind of apply their use in whatever
way is suitable, generallyl I wouldnt drill a hole all the way
through. However, they are a quick solution used on their side to
lay out spacing for channel and pave setting. By using a ball bur
slightly smaller than stones, say about .3mm with a small gap
between depressions created in the line.this save a lot of time
marking out if you can control the bur well enough because the do
tend to run away from you now and then. Cut a hole about 3/4 the
depth off the bur . The other advantage is when you complete the
hole with a twist drill you are drilling through less material
thickness. anyone who has broken a .8mm drill off in a 4 mm thick
shank knows that this can be a pain in the butt to get out.(anealing
than drill and punch, has been my most sucsessful way to remove a
broken off drill or perhaps acid.) I have always used saliva as a
bur lubricant and it works great on sawblades as well. Just lick the
end… But make sure its not spinning lol :wink:

Cheers Paul

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Recently a machinist told me how to sharpen a drill…there some
burs… Hold the bit parallel to the floor with the tip angled into
the wheel, Move the tip into the fine grinding wheel at just below
the middle of the wheel (like polishing), Move the bit vertically in a
straight up motion,

The tip will be grounded appropriately with the correct angle, Rotate
the bit and continue to sharpen!

I haven’t tried this as of yet…so if anyone does…please provide
the results in a new thread…May I suggest a 'Thread Title of…
Bit/Bur Sharpening

Jim C