Introduction: Drilled Sea Glass Necklace

Grab all of those beautiful pieces of sea glass you've picked up (or bought) over the years and get ready to make them into stunning one-of-a-kind necklaces to keep and give away.  Learn the "secret" of how to drill your own hole through sea glass!  Then, just slip on a jump ring (or make your own bail like I did here), slide it on your favorite chain and...BLAM!  Gorgeous! Just in time for summer.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Tools
Dremel
Dentist drill bit (ask your dentist for a couple of left overs or buy some from a dental supply store)
Wire cutters
Round nose pliers
Safety glasses

Materials
Sea glass (1/4 inch thick or less - the thinner the easier)
Small shallow bowl (not glass or china)
Cup of water
Chain necklace
German jewelry wire (for bail), or large jump ring, or small silver paper clip

Step 2:

Place your sea glass in your shallow dish and add just enough water to cover the sea glass by 1/8 to 1/4 inch.  The water keeps the glass cool while it is being drilled which helps prevent it from fracturing.  Make sure you use a dish that will not be ruined or break itself if you accidentally hit it with the drill when your drill bit makes it all of the way through the glass.  I use a small, flat-bottomed, hard-plastic monkey dish.  The small size allows me to rest my hand that's holding the glass on the sides to steady them while I'm drilling so my fingers don't slip and get in the way of the drill.

Warning....you must press down on the glass very hard with your fingers, and hold the sea glass VERY FIRMLY so it doesn't move at all while you are drilling it.  If it does slip, the glass can fly out and hit you, shatter and hit you, or jerk your finger into the Dremel and...yes, hurt you.  I've done all three over the years and so I've learned to use great caution whenever I drill sea glass.  Just exercise caution and be sure to wear your safety glasses (rubber finger guards wouldn't be a bad idea either if you have them - I've never used them myself though.

Step 3:

Put your dental drill bit into your high speed Dremel and turn it on high speed.  My Dremel is a variable speed that goes up to 35,000 rpm.  Choose which end of the glass you want to be the top and decide where you want to drill your hole.  You may want to use a black sharpie to place a dot at the desired location so there is no guesswork once you are ready.

Use your left hand (if right handed) to press and hold down your sea glass VERY firmly so it won't move at all, making sure you leave enough room for the drill bit.

Begin drilling the hole by pressing the drill bit firmly (but not forcefully) onto the glass making sure you pull back pressure and pull the bit all the way out every 5 seconds so water can flow back into the hole and the glass can cool off.  After a couple of seconds carefully put the drill back into the hole while at full speed and press down again for another few seconds.  Continue this pulsing type action (3-5 seconds drilling 2-3 seconds rest) until you make it all of the way through your piece of glass.

If you've been at it a while and not sure how much progress you're making, turn your Dremel off and pull your sea glass out of the water and hold it up to a light.  You should be able to see the hole through the side and be able to determine how much farther you have to go (see second picture).  It is important that you don't push too hard (especially near the end) because that will cause the glass to break (I've broken several beautiful pieces being impatient and that is very frustrating).

When the drill makes it through the glass, quickly pull back (without letting go of the glass) so you don't drill through your bowl or over drill the glass.  Turn your Dremel off and take your newly drill sea glass out of the water and admire your handiwork!

Note: If you plan on drilling multiple pieces of glass you will want to change to a new bit each time.  Glass is tough on the bit and if you try to drill with an old bit you are more likely to have to press harder and brake your beautiful sea glass.  Rule of thumb, new piece - new bit.

Step 4:

There are numerous ways you can incorporate your drilled sea glass into a finished piece of jewelry.  If you like using jump rings, you can open and thread a large jump ring through the drilled hole of the glass and then through a hoop on a chain before closing it.  Or,  thread it through the hole in the sea glass and close it and then slide it onto a chain.  I also like making my own bails which I think "class it up" a bit.  In this example, I used a small length of 20 gauge German jewelry wire and a pair of round nose pliers to fashion a curly bail that looks like ocean waves.  If you don't have any jewelry wire laying around, you can just use a small silver paper clip instead to fashion an attractive bail!

If you do fashion your own bail, make sure that you do the bulk of your wire twisting before you slide it through the hole in the sea glass so you don't put too much stress on the rather thin edge of the glass.  If you try to bend a heavy gauge wire using the sea glass as a pivot point, the sea glass may break.  I have found that using two pliers for final adjustments once the bail is threaded through the hole works best; one to anchor and hold the bail firmly while the other bends the wire to the desired position - keeping the bulk of the tension/pressure off of the glass.  Get creative with your bail - it doesn't have to look like mine.  There are countless designs that you could use.  Just think about how you want to ultimately attach the sea glass to your necklace and what look would compliment the finished piece of jewelry and go from there.

In my example, after forming the bail I then threaded the big end through the bottom center hoop of a 18' length of chain and finished it off with a lobster claw and jump ring on each end.  If you want to make this even simpler, you can buy a finished chain necklace complete with end clasps (such as lobster claw and jump ring or a toggle clasp) at most craft stores or jewelry departments in other stores, and then just add your stunning sea glass pendant to the finished necklace making it a gorgeous new piece of custom jewelry!

I hope you have fun making beautiful sea glass jewelry that you can wear proudly this summer.  There's no better way to display and enjoy those rare and precious mementos from the shore!

Comments

author
MaryM403 (author)2017-08-21

cool ! Thanks I have been look for this for awhile.

author
blkcherywin (author)2016-11-22

I've been looking for this for a while, thank you.

blkcherywin

author
PatriciaC107 (author)2016-05-08

will work well on a wire collar

author
PatriciaC107 (author)2016-05-08

many thanks cant wait to try

author
PinkBandar (author)2015-04-17

Looks Beautiful! Fabulous!

author
summerlane (author)PinkBandar2015-04-18

Thanks!

author
Laura Holman (author)2014-12-20

So drilling in the water, what about getting electrocuted? My drill plugs into the wall.

author
summerlane (author)Laura Holman2014-12-20

Thanks for bringing up a good point/question. Probably not the ideal solution, however, the dish I use is tiny and the motor could not fall into the water. I think of it like a dentist drilling teeth with water being sprayed in your mouth. I am not an electrician (to be sure), so I do not want to say that this method is totally safe. I personally have never been shocked while doing it though. But it would be interesting to hear from others who knew the science behind the situation : )

author
bkonfuzius (author)summerlane2015-03-24

shouldn't be a problem unlessypu do it in the bathtub and water goes inside the device ;) seriously if you could get a shock while the head is in the water, you would also get one by touching the drill itself. Since that would make it very hard to change the head, the dremel is isolated pretty well

author
stephenfitton (author)2013-06-26

Just a hint for those who would like to use an electric drill -DONT!! Unless it is cordless
You -water -and mains voltage makes a shocking mix.

author

Thank you! I just asked that and then saw your post. Bummer I only have an electric one. I just got.

author
Laura Holman (author)2014-12-20

So drilling in the water, what about getting electrocuted? My drill plugs into the wall.

author
emilyvanleemput (author)2013-07-22

Congratulations on winning second prize!

author
donedirtcheap (author)2013-07-17

What a beautiful piece. Best of luck with the contest!

author
summerlane (author)2013-07-16

Like the hot glue idea - thanks! Going to try that next time. But still going to glue to bottom of shallow dish so I can drill it just submerged in water. A tuna can (like someone's earlier helpful feedback) would be great if I didn't already have a "throw away" dish. Can't wait to try it. Will post results.

Thanks again!

author
spark master (author)2013-07-02

1) dental burs and bits can be bought by mear mortals at a dentists supply and believe me they do not care if you ain't a tooth napper

2) I used hot melt glue gun with cheap sticks to fasten the glass down to wood to drill.

Jewelers use "dope", to keep stones fastened to surface to work them, hot glue worked for me same way. As Hot melt is pretty crappy except on some surfaces and certain sticks so test first, but give it a try. Peeled right off when I needed it to come off.

just some thoughts on stuff you might try.

author
rakuspirit (author)2013-06-27

Just a couple of suggestions. Daria Spiotto who taught a class on this at Upland California's Garden of Beaden had us put a cut up piece of sponge (the kind with scrubby on one side and regular sponge on the other) into a tuna or similar can. That prevents the piece from slipping and you don't have to hold it and possibly injure your fingers. If you decide to use this info please give credit to her and the store...thanks.

author
paqrat (author)2013-06-26

A beautifully done instructable. Might I suggest instead of plastic bowl you use something like an aluminum ash tray which would then allow you to use super glue to glue the sea glass down to the inside base of bowl. This would allow you to get your fingers out of harm's way. So long as you are keeping the stone cool with the water I believe the superglue should hold and should be safer than trying to hold it with your fingers. AFter you have finished the drilling acetone or fingernail polish remover should remove the glue May I commend you on a beautiful bail. Both simple and beautiful and it appears to be fairly easy to do. .

author
artdreams (author)2013-06-25

Good job with your instructions.
I do this as well, using the diamond dust bits with little ball heads, easy to get online or at the hardware store.
My Dremel has a remote head so no electricity near the water and I have never felt my fingers were endangered. I use a small plastic storage container (like Glad or Ziplock) so light can go through the sides - improves visibility - and I set the glass on a chunk of rubber eraser (think: Pink Pearl). Have to change the water a lot, gets foggy with the glass dust. Originally thought I'd want to clamp it but found that unnecessary and would be inconvenient with small pieces and dumping the water regularly.

author
timstoy (author)2013-06-25

Get some florist clay and a small piece of soft wood. Use some clay to stick it to the bottom of the bowl and then you have a piece of wood between your glass and the bowl. If you need to use a small piece of clay to help hold your glass to the wood. Just add more water to correct depth. Hope this is an OK addition. Thanks, loved the idea.

author
sharpstick (author)2013-06-25

If I ever do this, I will rig up a clamping system. Lessee, a rectangular slab of some thick rubbery material, sidewall of an old tire maybe. Carve out a hollow depression that is roughly the shape of the glass piece, bore an oversize hole where the hole will be drilled. Place the glass in the bottom of the bowl, rubber piece over it, then clamp in place with two C-clamps with strips of wood to bear down on the sides of the rubber. This will hold the piece securely without endangering your fingers.

author
summerlane (author)sharpstick2013-06-25

Sounds good! I had thought of trying something like that but never got a clear idea of how. Keep in mind that you want to keep the drilling area submerged in a bit of water to keep it cool. I guess you could do that with your idea by just filling in the hollow depression with water - and then ditch the small bowl. Worth a try at any rate. Thanks for sharing!

author
sharpstick (author)summerlane2013-06-25

Just clamp the whole thing inside the bowl, or a metal baking dish, onto a slab of wood.

author
elbowmanufacturing (author)2013-06-25

Thanks for the detail description, and I love the curlique bail you made.

author

Thanks!

author
r_harris2 (author)2013-06-25

Really good work, and that old cobalt glass is a great find. My sister has a large collection from Lake Michigan, and good cobalt blue and deep red are two of the rarest colors.

By the way folks, there are very similar drill bits available as industrial "Glass drill bits." Some look like twisty bits covered with diamond dust, but others look just like the example bit, so that's a possible alternative. I like the "Ask your dentist" idea, though. If you can get one or two old ones free, it's a plus for you and the environment. After all, most dental equipment is thrown away after one use now (although some dentists may still sterilize and reuse bits).

author
artfulann (author)2013-06-25

wonderful! Now to find dental drill bits...

author
Anastasiaych (author)2013-06-24

So pretty, love it! Now I just need to get my hands on some sea glass :)

author
WEWonder (author)2013-06-21

What a beautiful and eye-catching necklace. Love the pictures and steps. Never new how to drill glass? I have to give it a try! Thanks

author
festeezio (author)2013-06-21

This technique also works great on seashells. I made a bracelet for my niece by drilling several shells and joining them with sterling jump rings. Never thought of using it on sea glass. Great idea! BTW if you are concerned about having your expensive 110V dremel that close to water (I was), Harb0r Fre1ght has a tiny "mini" version of the dremel tool that will set you back about ten bucks. It comes with several diamond bits in the package and runs off of a wall wart transformer so the voltage entering the tool is around 15VDC rather than 110VAC. It's not nearly as powerful as a dremel, but for this kind of work it will more than do the job.

author
Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-06-20

Very pretty! I attempted this the other week, but didn't know what I was doing and only managed to break my drill bit.

author

Broke plenty before I figured out this method! Thanks, and better luck next time!

author
jessyratfink (author)2013-06-20

I love the way you drilled it - that's so clever. :D Never would have thought of that.

author
summerlane (author)jessyratfink2013-06-21

Thanks.

author
BrittLiv (author)2013-06-21

I always wondered how to do that, thanks a lot!

author
Goodhart (author)2013-06-20

COOOOOL

About This Instructable

108,123views

390favorites

More by summerlane:Drilled Sea Glass Necklace
Add instructable to: