Instructables
Picture of Drilling Glass
I do a lot of glass work of all kinds.  Since I recently acquired a kiln, I have started branching out in some of the work that I do, and some of it has even worked out ok!  But I know from experience that drilling into glass isn't always the easiest thing to do, and I did learn a lot by trial and error.  I personally don't like to have a lot of the "error" part, nor can I afford it..... So I thought I would share my way of drilling into glass that seems to give me good results almost every time. It really isn't too hard, but then if you don't do it right, it can seem impossible!
 
 
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Step 1: What you will need:

Picture of What you will need:
There are few things you will need to have to get a good clean hole drilled into your glass. Glass can not only be very durable, but it can also be very susceptible to the changes in temperature that occur when a friction (such as a drill bit) is applied to it.
So first off find the glass you want to drill. You can drill in almost any glass there is, but some glass is a little more difficult just because it is harder to keep a steady stream of water applied to the surface friction point.
   
  • SO gather up some glass.... or even a mirror if you want.  This is a great way to add elements into a mirror such as placing your faucets "through" the vanity mirror when they are back mounted, or even adding lighting sconces on top of a mirror and the wires going through it. Just a note on drilling through mirrored glass, make sure you start on the coated side.  You are less likely to knock off the coating or have a "blow out" chipping away more of the mirror surface than you would like to lose if you do this. There are mixtures sold through stained glass supply companies that help to keep the mirrored surface in tact, but they are really more expensive than I want to pay, so I just try to be a little more careful.

Hi thanks, I needed this instructable. I have a jewelry kiln, and want to do some glass fusing. Do you have any other recommendations, like a special book or ebook? thanks, J
sflorsch1 year ago
Great instructions! But how patient do I have to be??? I have some glass flamework pendants that have been annealed that I would like to put holes in to make necklaces. I am using a dremel drill with a diamond drill bit and after 20 minutes of alternating speeds I broke the piece I was working on because I pushed down on it. I have the pendant immersed in water too. Thank you!
deletha2 years ago
ok im going to start drilling shortly and it does sound as if your way will work.. wish me luck and have great weekend
barefootbohemian (author)  deletha2 years ago
Best of luck to you! Let me know how it goes.
Ronyon2 years ago
Excellent content, just what i was looking for.As with the best Intructibles, it has a lot of great info in the comments as well.
Thanks for all the sharing of info!
whiteoakart4 years ago
Would this work the same way with small stones?
As nn3_shay says, use a drill press. I put a length of metal pipe on the handle of mine, just heavy enough to overcome the drill return spring.
Yes, though the harder your stone, the longer it will take -- have patience!  A driil press is almost a must for anything harder than glass.
snarke nn3_shay4 years ago
 Coincidentally, I just drilled a 1/8"s hole in a granite bead I made for a friend. Small diameter diamond-coated 'dremel' bit in my rotary tool; with bead clamped in a small vise. I kept a small stream of water pouring over the bead while I held the bit against the stone, and let it grind its way through. 

Worked like a charm. 


Thanks to nn3_shay and snarke.  I will give it a try.  I already have the diamond tip bits.  I have been collecting Lake Michigan beach-polished stones that I would like to use for jewelry and flute making.
MayB2Okie4 years ago
Thanks for the education on drilling holes.  Can you share how you make the beautiful glass pieces?  I just got a kiln w/intention of recycling glass into jewelry, but haven't a clue where to begin.
One important thing is to match the expansion of the different types and colors of the glass you use. There are special colored glass rods you can get, with an internal picture (boy, flower,...) but they cost $100+ Experiment with little bits of white, green, brown glass to get the feel. Expect quite a few stress breakages as they cool down, EVEN for small bits. You can make a glass "bimetal" strip by drawing out 2 bits of different (eg pryex and soda) glass. After cooling (only a few sec, if the drawn glass is only a millimetre thick) it will bend with only small temp changes.
barefootbohemian (author)  MayB2Okie3 years ago
MayB2Okie, Sorry haven't been around lately, but had a long sickness bout, but I was wondering how the kiln work is coming along? I absolutely LOVE my kiln, even if it doesn't always love me back. I get the idea you want to recycle the bottles by firing down the glass, but not necessarily lampworking them, which is more bead making and melting down small amounts of glass to manipulate using a mandrel or other object into something else. I really want to make some time to put a few instructables on here regarding glass work, with the exception of lampworking since I don't really do much of that. My main work is in leaded glass, stained glass and warm glass. So if you are still interested, let me know and maybe I can make some time and take some photos of the processes. :)
May,
Check this instructable out:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Glass-Beads-From-Broken-Bottles-video/

You can google "lampworking" which is the term used for melting glass & sculpting it, or winding it onto mandrels to create beads.

You can also check out:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Waffle-Iron-Adapted-into-MIni-Kiln...or...The-Bava/

which has annealing schedule information I believe.
(If not, feel free to ask me, I have them)

Good luck, don't burn your fingers!

Caspar3 years ago
(1) As well as cooling, water gets into the cracks and weakens the glass, and also stops glass dust getting into your body. (2) I have drilled glass many decades ago by using a 1/4 inch copper tube (as a drill) which had a few saw-cuts in the end. The glass sheet to be cut had a plasticine dam around the "drill" , and water, and Carborundum powder. Pressure on the drill had to be very light because when the drill broke through, the glass could shatter. Took about 10 minutes to drill window glass. (3) The other way is to etch through it using Hydrofluoric acid, which you could get when I was a boy. Not recommended - if spilled, causes skin/bone/eye damage which is not apparent until hours after the splash.
In order to do this ALITTLe easier...ask your DENTIST to save DIAMOND BURS [after they are sterilized!]  for you..they cut faster and cleaner....and even porcelain polishers as well...they use them daily  [they are expensive] but after a few uses..and sterilization...they are tossed!
barefootbohemian (author)  elisafaith133 years ago
Hmm wonder if my dentist would go for that idea.... can't hurt to ask! :)
OK, this is coming in late, but if anyone reads this and can help me - THANKS!  I need to drill a 7/8" hole in a Christmas ornament.  Any suggestions as to how to do it??  I've tried a diamond tip drill bit in my dremel - no luck.  Maybe I needed to keep the ornament wet??
wow, that has been a while since you wrote that, and even longer since I got on here to reply. Sorry, I've been really sick, as in that kind of sick where you do nothing for months and when you feel like finally doing something you are so far behind that you aren't sure where to start, but maybe you still need to find out how to do this. First off, not sure what you are doing.... drilling a hole in a Christmas ornament I understand, but is in a glass ornament, or what kind, and where in the ornament are you looking to drill it? Maybe i can still help a bit if you still need some help. I think karnold70 has an interesting idea with using a small fountain, it would probably work pretty well, just keep in mind that water and electricity are not friendly together.
moonmyst5324 years ago
 Wow, great instructions and comments, too. I have a large 5 carat amethyst that I need to drill only partially through. This is a lot of help. Thanks...off to Harbor Freight.
karnold704 years ago
I would think that a very price-effective way of circulating the water would be to get one of those 'tabletop fountians' and use that pump. (I found just the pump for 15bucks at a parts surplus store here in MN)
sunshiine4 years ago
I absolutely love this!  beautiful!
(removed by author or community request)
 For glass all I use are diamond tips.  I do get the cheaper ones at Harbor Freight and they seem to work great!  I imagine there are other places that have the cheaper brand of diamond bits also, just not sure where.
nex_otaku4 years ago
When I tried to drill the glass, I've just grab the dremel with diamond drill, and start drilling without any water, then very soon drill smoked and glass broke.

But it seems to me unsufficient just to put bottom of glass in water. Does the glass need to be wet in place where you are drilling?
barefootbohemian (author)  nex_otaku4 years ago
 Yes, you do need to keep some water up onto the glass piece you are drilling.  The water is the key to keeping the piece in a whole, and making the hole. 
:))
Quick tip I just learned. If you put a piece of masking tape double thickness where you want to drill your hole, especially on something smooth, it's easier to control the slipping. No scratches or anything. Just my thoughts.
Love your work and you are so lucky to have a kiln.
Take care and God Bless!!
 Hey, you answered a question for me, I had wondered if that would work and hold on in the water.  Now I am going to have to try that!
Thanks for the compliment and yea, I do feel pretty lucky to finally get my kiln, but not so lucky when the electric bill comes in LOL! 
I need to find a way to build me a propane kiln that won't use up a bazillion tanks of propane..... that is getting as expensive as the electric anymore! 
God Bless you also! :)
John P4 years ago
I have quite often successfully used fine silicon carbide powder /water slurry confined in a circular "Plasticine" dike around a piece of brass tubing in a drill press, to  drill holes in "Pyrex" beakers. File "reverse" teeth on circumferential edge of the brass tubing, sloping away from direction of rotation, so that as you gently raise and lower the rotating brass tubing, the slurry gets caught under the down-sloping edge of the brass and grinds an annular groove through the glass, with outside diameter about same as OD of the brass tubing plus twice grit size of silicon carbide powder used. A very old trick in ancient science manuals!
barefootbohemian (author)  John P4 years ago
 Cool trick.  I think I might have to try it, 
barefootbohemian (author) 4 years ago
 I'm with them, if you possible can go through the frame.  It would be difficult to drill a good hole in a horizontal position (not impossible, but very difficult), and the risk of losing a seal on the window is pretty high even if you did get the hole drilled.  You can seal up around the hole in the frame better than you can on the window and minimize air leakage. 
Also, once the hole is drilled, the window is much more susceptible to fracture with changes in temperature and pressures.  I think I would personally rather try to drill a hole through the wall to the outside than to risk a window (but then I have double paned argon filled windows) .
Good luck with whatever you decide to try! Let me know how it comes out :)
 I can add a bit to this lesson.  If you want to drill a larger hole use a piece of copper tubing with the external diameter the size you want.  Anchor it in the drill press and set the glass under it.  Make a small clay "well" just larger than the tubing and add some water and some sand.  Probably the best sand is silica sand for this use.  Raise and lower the drill so there isn't too much heat generated.  The water will keep it relatively cool but it too will heat up if you try to go too fast.  Work it until it is through the glass - voila!  A nice hole!  This same method can be used with drill bits.  Also, when I use diamond dremel bits I use a sponge resting against the bit and just to the side of the part I am carving or drilling.  Sponge keeps the surface wet and is less likely to interact with the electrical part of the drill.,  Happy drilling!
 I have never tried the idea of using copper tubing. I guess because I have a grinder with larger bore drill bits I never really had to think of anything, but that is a brilliant idea of yours. I do use the sponge a lot of times when the sponge on my grinder is not sufficient for doing the trick.  
Thanks for sharing, thats great info to know :)
hlhenry4 years ago
Depending on the size of the item, I've always placed it in a dish of water.  I've drilled bottles and windows just to see what would happen.

Another option available to you if you have a press is to put a large pan under the item to catch the run off water and use a small pump to squirt water on the drill bit.

Takes practice.  I broke alot of bottles before I got it down.
norsmada4 years ago
I need to drill a small hole in a window pane to pass an antenna wire thru. Any Ideas?
Go through the frame if you possibly can, drilling a pane in place is VERY risky-- you're pretty likely to crack it.  Removing the pane to drill it might seem like too much trouble, but it's no more trouble than replacing it after you cracked it.  If you really want to try, a carbide spade bit is easiest to find, but I think a diamond core drill will be less likely to break the window.  Moderate drill speed, gentle pressure, and a wet sponge to cool the bit / contain the dust.
Be sure the pane of glass is NOT tempered or it will shatter. Usually there is a little faint insignia on the glass somewhere if it is. Usually. Also, be sure it's only single pane. If you drill through double or triple you'll lose your air seal.
coolcarla4 years ago
Here's a way to keep your drill bit from "skipping" across the surface. Hold, or attach with double-stick tape, or glue  (adhesive caulk, rubber cement, or similar  that you can peel off later)  a thick washer to the glass surface that is slightly bigger than the drill bit. This will "capture" the bit and keep it from wandering off while you're trying to get the hole started. Use this trick for drilling into tile too.
nn3_shay4 years ago
Some comments from a lapidary worker, who's also drilled a lot of glass:

1)The glass isn't the only thing you need to keep cool -- diamonds shatter if they get too hot.  It is helpful to do your drilling in a dish deep enough to cover your piece, so that the grinding interface is always kept wet.  This also helps with flooding out the ground glass for more efficient grinding.  And it keeps the dust from becoming airborn -- YOU DO NOT WANT TO BREATHE THIS DUST!  No one wants silicosis!  Even small amounts can be a significant irritant, and once it's in your lungs, it's lodged there.

2) To keep the heat down, do let the drill bit do the work -- use enough pressure to watch clouds of particles drift away from the point of contact, but no where near enough to slow the motor or you'll burn up your diamonds.  And if you can, use a drill press where you can lift the point (or just back off the pressure) every few seconds to let the drill cool and really flush out the hole.

3) Breakout on the back side is a problem, but it can be reduced by setting your piece on something relatively hard, like a slab of stone (slate is pretty easy to find) or scrap glass or a ceramic tile -- you can tell when you're through by a change in color of the particles drifting off.  Even a wood shim will help more than the rags.  If you want to flip over something opaque, you can make a jig with a piece of wood or tile and a small length of wire/tubing the same diameter as your drill bit -- drill a hole in your base, and set the peg in to it so it sticks up as far as your half-way hole, and set it directly under your drill bit; then slide on your piece, slipping the hole on the peg, and your drill bit should be centered over the first half of your hole (this requires adrill press).

4) If you want a hole much more than 1/8" (3mm), certainly by 1/4" (6mm), you are better off with a core drill (a hollow tube with grit on the rim) -- it reduces the amount of material you need to grind away, and therefore the stress (not to mention the time required).  Harbor Freight has these cheap too, in some sizes.  Or you can make your own with a metal tube (copper, brass, soft steel, NOT galvanized) and a slurry of silicon carbide grit and water, held close to the hole with a "dam" of clay (takes a while, but if you can't find a core drill, it'll work).

5) This is the same method used to drill ceramic tile and most stone, but how quickly it will work depends on the hardness of the stone.  Marble is pretty soft, cuts pretty easily; granite is harder than glass, and agate harder yet, so take your time.  Slate can pretty much be drilled with a regular carbide drillbit, but use diamond for anything harder.  The carbide spade bits will work on may of these too, but but I don't know how well.

6) ALWAYS, ALWAYS work wet, don't breathe the dust!
reeding4 years ago
 this works really well on bottles. never drill a 40 it will shatter to a million pieces.
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