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Drilling Glass

Here is another beginner question.

I have spent many a year walking the ocean beach and collecting the
glass on the beach. It is so beautiful how mother nature has “sand
blasted” and smoothed the glass. I have gotten pieces that are
rounded that were the tops of bottles, and one large piece that has
the Seagrams name raised on it. I’ve collected a lot of years, and I
have even gotten my husband to collect. I have decided that I want
to make some jewelry from this. It’s time I took it out of my jars
and started to show it off. I have many jars! It’s nice to walk the
beach, collect and then look up and see the porpoise playing. "My"
beach is in Delaware. Sorry for being liquid lips here.

I have cooper chain that I like and don’t want to glue an attachment
to hook the chain on it. I want to drill a hole that I can put a jump
ring through. My basic question is how do I drill the glass?

I used a drill bit that I purchased from Rio and didn’t seem to make
a dent. I used a Titanium bit that I bought from Home Depot and it
made a dent, but the going was slow. A small scratch for about a
minute of drilling.


I found the glass on the beach. The colors indicate to me it is from
bottles that people either accidentally or on purpose discarded,
brown, white, greenish. It is not bought glass.

When I drilled I had a pan full of water with a wood block in it.

I used a flexible shaft drill and the drill can go really slow or the
label says up to 16,000 rpm, but I also have a drill press from
Harbor Freight that goes fast and really fast.

Pointed questions:

What type of bit is good to drill through glass?

Where can I get the bits?

How long should it take to drill through a bottle thickness of glass?

What speed should I drill it at?

Any thoughts on how to stop the drill from “running around” the glass
and scratching it?

Anything info you can get me is great. I don’t want to damage any of
my collectibles! It took mother nature a long time to do what she
did to the glass, it probably took decades to get to the smoothness I
found on the pieces.

Thanks: Carol Manion

You need a special drill for glass, its donut shaped and diamond
coated and you should work with a constant flow of water over the area
to be drilled. A thickness of 1-5mm should only take a few seconds to
drill, but take it slowly otherwise chips will crack off around the
hole. You can use Wet and Dry paper with lots of water to smooth down
the hole. In order to cut a piece of glass in half you can score it
with a glass scorer (looks like a surgical knife but with a rotating
blade) and snap it with your hands (takes a lot of practice this one.)
Or you can score it with a disc shaped diamond drill. . Sounds a bit
obvious this but be careful not to cut yourself on freshly cut glass,
you can hold a cut edge quite tightly if your grip is perpendicular to
the length of the cut, but if you even slightly slide your hand along
the cut edge you are in for a very painful and bloody cut. Watch out!

Carol: Drilling glass can be a very slow process. The best “drill
bit” to use is diamond coated. You can buy small ones at your local
hardware store in the dremel tool section and from Stained Glass
supply houses (ie Sunshine Glass 1-800-828-7159 or ). They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
I have sizes from a small pin head to drum units an inch across. The
easiest to “drill” with is the ball shaped tip. As long as the piece
is well anchored in the pan of water, a drill press is probably the
most comfortable ( for the person doing the drilling) means of
drilling the hole and should stop the walking of the “Bit”. Speed is
a relative thing and not as important as controlling the downward
pressure you place on the piece of glass. What you need to realize is
that your not drilling thru the glass in the same manner as you might
drill thru gold or wood. With those types of drills and materials you
are actually cutting away the material, hence the shavings. With
glass you are grinding away the surface a layer at a time. You wont
have shavings, you’ll have grit or sand. Continuous even pressure needs
to be applied with the occaisionaly lift to allow fresh water to wash
over the hole. Like all things it takes a little experimenting, too
much pressure and you’ll snap the glass, not enough and your just
spinning your wheels. As you drill you’ll see a cloudy swirl rise
from the drilling area. This is an indication that you are removing
material, the glass is being broken down into grit again. The amount
of time it takes for you to grind thru the glass varies with the type
of glass and the condition of the diamond surface of the bit. Don’t
forget that glass is extremely hard in and of itself and the diamond
fragments on the bits wear away rapidly and lose their bite. Hope this
helps a little. Good luck. Leslie

Greetings Carol You wrote of having difficulty drilling glass. Glass
drilling requires the same techniques used in lapidary for drilling
slabs of hard minerals and rock. As has been posted before, you need
to use diamond tools to accomplish this in a reasonable amount of
time. Use diamond burr’s for small holes, say up to 2 mm. And
diamond core drills for anything larger. Go to to
purchase these at the lowest prices I have found. Also as posted
before you need to keep these tools immersed in water, drilling at a
medium to high speed. With a very lite touch. lightening up still
further as you begin to break through the backside, or you will chip
your glass there. I use a drillpress, because of the control, it
gives. And because the Dremal people claim that the spinning action
of the tool tends to wick water up into the handpiece. Destroying
the bearings, and rusting the flex shaft cable within. There is also
an electrocution hazard. Giving up your life for the sake of art is
not considered cool. But for those times when you must use a moto
tool, with water as a coolant. Drill a hole in the center of a 1/2"
disk of plastic, to match the diameter of the shank of your tool with
a slight press fit. And install it between the cutting end, and the
chuck on your hand piece. At high speeds this will spin the water
off before it can reach the handpiece. And hopefully avoid any
damage. Be sure to anchor your work securely. I use dopping wax, but
any of the releasable glues would work. Use a backing that wont wreck
your tool. I use plastic, but wood will work, if you don’t leave it
wet to long. Glue your glass to the backing, clamp the backing to
the drill press table. Build a levee around the area to be drilled
with modeling clay, fill this with water. happy drilling…(remember
the safety glasses)

MIchael Turley

    What type of bit is good to drill through glass? 

G’day; Only a diamond drill is worth bothering with; they are
available from 0.5 mm to 50 mm.

    Where can I get the bits? 

A dental supply company (see your yellow pages) or a good jewellers
supply (rio, etc) and quite often a rock shop. > > How long should
it take to drill through a bottle thickness of glass?

No more than 3 or 4 minutes

    What speed should I drill it at? 

can’t say exactly; I find a medium speed around 1000 - 2000 rpm at
the most Drill UNDER WATER, remove the drill every 30 seconds or so to
help clear the ‘dust’ I find that too high a speed only helps to wear
out the drill faster.

    Any thoughts on how to stop the drill from "running around" the
glass and scratching it? 

Using the drill in a flexishaft, make the mark using the drill
carefully at a low angle at high speed, or use a ball ended diamond
drill similarly to provide a ‘punch’ mark. Glass is one of the easiest
of rock-like materials to drill –

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

    What type of bit is good to drill through glass? Where can I
get the bits? 

Precedence: bulk

Ask your friendly neighbourhood dentist for his unwanted used drill
bits. They cut through almost anything and the hole is small enough
to suit your jump ring.

Kelvin Mok


A friend needs to drill many 1mm diameter holes—quickly and
inexpensively—in glass that is about 3mm thick. I’ve read the
excellent posts in the archives and just wondered if anyone has
recently come up with a different approach.

Also, is there one best quality diamond bur/drill for this purpose?
Not the cheapest; the best!


Arguably the best manufacturer is Crystallite ( Abrasive

A good supplier who also carries other brands as well is :

Water lubricate and be careful not to push the drill… The biggest
problem is to not shear punch out a tapered plug plug from the back



Check out … it’s the “Orchid” of warm
glass! Search under “drilling glass” in the Bulletin Board … I’m
sure you’ll get several posts to help your friend out!

~ Sonje
Moonlight Creations
Yarmouth, Maine

Hi Bill,

The appropriate solution depends on how many holes are to be drilled
in the glass and how quickly. If it’s a production situation of let’s
say hundreds of holes I’d suggest you contact Bill Ritter of CES
Solutions. Bill markets ultrasonic drills. I’ve seen them at work.
You hear this high pitched ziiippp…and there’s the hole already
finished. Bill’s email is I know he was
having problems with that addy two months ago, so if you have
trouble, mail me privately and I’ll put you in touch. (Usual
disclaimer - no commercial connection but simply good guy, good

For smaller runs use the rotary diamond drills, run in a water bath.
Build a dam of plasticine around the hole to pond the water in. Use a
drill press. Hand-held is generally not good for precision. Raise and
lower the drill frequently, in a sort of constant light pumping
motion. To counteract breakout as the drill emerges glue a piece of
scrap glass under the hole-to-be with something water soluble, or use
crazy glue or dop wax, whatever is convenient for the piece in
question; drill through, into the scrap glass, and dissolve the glue
to detach the scrap. Or you can drill from both sides but then
alignment gets tricky.

Hope that helps -
Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada

Or you can always send it out to have it ultrasonically drilled for
the best results.

Precision ultrasonic drilling link:

Regards, Steve at Rough and Ready Gems
and rare gemstone briolettes