Drilling tiny beads


I’m trying to drill holes in very small (2-3mm), sort-of-round 22k
gold beads, and wonder if any of you Wise Ones can tell me a trick
for holding onto the bead. I don’t want to use a drill press.

Hope this isn’t too stupid a question, but it’s driving me crazy!!
and seems like there should be an easy answer…

Thank you,

Hi Abigail:

I'm trying to drill holes in very small (2-3mm), sort-of-round 22k
gold beads, and wonder if any of you Wise Ones can tell me a trick
for holding onto the bead. I don't want to use a drill press. 

I just happened to go see someone today who told me about parallel
action pliers. Rio sells them. They open and close in a perfectly
parallel way so you can clamp the tiny bead and it won’t shoot off
into space like it would if you used regular pliers to hold it. I am
thinking you can clamp and hold the bead in your left hand and drill
with your right. I did this at xmas time with a pearl that had a hole
that was too small.

I also picked up a jar of “tool magic”. It is a rubber-like dip that
comes in different colors. You dip the ends of your pliers in it and
then they won’t scratch soft metals (or pearls). I haven’t tried it
yet, but it seems like it will be good. When you don’t want the
coating on your tools anymore, you just peel it right off. I got it
local, but you can google tool magic and you’ll get lots of sources.
It’s not expensive either.

Good Luck
Kim Starbard
Cove Beads (soon to re-org to Kim Starbard Designs website and all the
accoutrements :))

Hi Abigail,

I just did this to 6-2mm sterling beads (solid). I have a hand held
pin vise with a groove filed in the middle that holds the bead while
I first put a divot on the bead with my scribe to mark the drill hole
then drill using my foredom.

HTH, Marta


Easy is such a relative term, but here goes.

Get a cheap pair of pliers and remove the temper in the steel. Take
a round bur slightly smaller than the bead you will most commonly
drill and cut indentations into the jaws at the end. Wrap a rubber
band around the handles just tightly enough to secure the bead
without deforming it or allowing it to spin but not so tight that
it’s hard to pull apart the jaws to release the bead.

You can secure one arm of the pliers in a vise, an engravers block
or whatever contraption you dream up. This will give the hand you
normally have to hold the pliers with a rest, which is helpful if you
have to drill for long periods of time.

When you first put the drill to the bead, start slow and steady.
Keep an eye on the speed of the drill; too fast and the drill will
quickly mar the bead if it strays, too slow and it won’t bite the
metal enough. To maximize production I usually drill a few hundred
beads at a time and it’s too time consuming to use a drill punch.
You’ll have to practice to get the hang of starting the hole without
marring the surface, but the pliers will help protect a good portion
of the bead from the drill if the drill begins to stray. If you do
enough of these you’ll get the hang of it. Keep the drill well
lubricated and sharp. Have fun.


I frequently use a pin vise for holding small objects, including
“sort-of-round” objects…for material as soft as 22k, I’d polish
the inside of the vise collet first, so as not to mar the bead. Mark
the bead with a graver to start the hole, so that you don’t wander
off with the drillbit. Another idea is a pearl drilling vise. I made
one out of pine, so it’s a bit grippy, and soft, to conform to
semi-round shapes.

Matthew Crawford

Hi Abigail,

The usual way to hold beads for drilling is to buy or make a ‘bead
holder’! The way to make one is to take a strip of metal such as
brass maybe 1/2 inch wide and 3 or 4 inches long and, close to each
end of it, drill a hole which is a little smaller than the diameter
of the bead you want to drill. On one side of the strip, chamfer
these holes so that the bead isn’t marked and then fold the strip in
half so that the chamfered sides of the holes are inside and facing
each other. Now, if you have used suitably thick and springy metal,
the two legs should stand apart enough for you to be able to slip a
bead between the two holes and you should be able to gently nip the
legs together in the vice so that the bead is held firmly enough to
drill without damaging it.

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Hi Abigail: there is such a thing as a pearl holder for drilling
pearls. They are inexpensive, and basically consist of two flat
circular metal plates with differing sizes of holes drilled in each
plate, with a screw and spring adjustment in the centre to tighten
when you place the pearl in the appropriate hole size - I think this
would work well for beads, too. If you are in Australia, AJS sells
them -( about $30 from memory), anywhere else in the world, sorry
can’t help you,

Christine in Sth Aust

Hi Abigail and everyone:

I have to counter with a question that I am afraid to ask too. How
does one make tiny beads? I am a weaver of tiny beads, but the beads
that I use are 24k with a glass core (ie. plated). Would I start
looking at the process for making the granules used in granulation?
Does this process yield uniform beads? How small can the beads be
made? Are they pretty round?

Kim Starbard

Does this process yield uniform beads? How small can the beads be
made? Are they pretty round? 

If you want round, uniform beads, you just can’t beat
machine-made/store-bought. I doubt very much that it will save money
to drill solid lumps of gold-- machine-made beads are hollow, so much
less gold. And it will take a lot of time. It really only makes sense
to make them in you want something that is unique to you, as in,
hand-made, not “perfect”, in my ever-so-humble opinion.


Rio Grande sells a device for drilling pearls. But what about
placing these tiny beads in something like Styrofoam?