Introduction: Drilling Holes in Glass Bottles

Picture of Drilling Holes in Glass Bottles

In this Instructable I will show how I drilled holes in GLASS BOTTLES for a couple of my past Instructables. Instead of trashing your glass turn it into something beautiful or practical. A bottle out of the Trash can be your next Treasure. But, first we need to be able to drill holes in glass.

I will show my success, and explain my failures.

My success is displayed at the following links.

Drilling glass came about from Instructables and the ideas that have been shared by others. The deeper I dive into this community, the more first time experiences I have.

My Rules for Drilling Glass

  1. BE SAFE!
  2. Be Patient
  3. Be Smart
  4. When in doubt, go back to Rule 1.

With this Instructable I hope someone else takes on the challenge and creates some wonderful stuff.

Step 1: Be Safe

Picture of Be Safe

Some important SAFETY points when drilling glass.

  • Practice on some junk bottles before working on your desired piece of work
  • Be Safe- wear safety goggles to protect from flying chips of glass.
  • Be Safe- wear protective gloves to protect from shards of glass if your bottle cracks or shatters during the drilling process. My first two attempts at drilling glass ended in destroyed bottles.
  • Be Patient- do not force the drill bit. Let the tool do the work.
  • Go Slow- just a reminder of being patient.

Step 2: Failure

Picture of Failure

The Growler is the fourth piece of glass I had ever drilled. My first two attempts on other bottles were failures. Couple ideas why I failed. First was probably the area of the bottle where I was drilling. With my first design ideas, I wanted to totally hide the wiring. With that said, I tried to drill through the bottom of bottles to hide wiring once mounted on base. Due to the structure of the glass, this might cause too much stress on the glass causing cracking. Right at the point of drilling through the glass bottles, the entire bottle cracked. Unsure if that is just a bad place to try to drill, or if it was the bits I was using.

For my first two failures I was using Carbide Tile and Glass Cutting Drill Bits. The auger style seemed to grab the glass right at the point of making it through the glass and cracking the entire bottle. Perhaps if I was being more patient and moving slower the auger may not have grabbed and cracked the glass. So, I changed to the Diamond Grit Hole Saw AND went through the SIDE of the bottle instead of the bottom. Have been successful ever since changing.

Sorry, no pictures of my failure. Broken bottles went flying into the recycle bin faster than I could even think of taking pictures.

The tools above were purchased from Harbor Freight (local retail) and Amazon.com.

Step 3: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

For the longest time I used a hand drill for all my drilling. In the past year with Instructables, I have found myself in need of more precise and controlled drilling. Therefore, I invested in an inexpensive drill press from Harbor Freight. While Harbor Freight does not provide the highest quality tools, I feel a lot of what they offer is great for hobbyists, makers, and tinkerers. Or, for that tool that you know you will not use all that much and don't want to spend a bundle.

I found this drill press on sale for $59.99 and used a 25% off coupon. Great deal that will make your life easier.

  • Cushion (placed between drill press table and glass)
  • Drill Press (preferred instead of power drill, much more stable and easy to handle)
  • 1/4 inch Diamond Grit Hole Saw
  • Leather gloves to protect your hands from broken glass. (just in case)
  • Water
  • Glass Bottle

My personal preference for success is the Hole Saw style for reasons mentioned earlier.

Step 4: Drilling Glass Skull

Picture of Drilling Glass Skull

While I do not have much experience drilling glass, I have learned to look for a hidden thinner area to drill when possible. I would have preferred to drill the hole in the bottom of the skull to hide the wiring, but that would be over a 1/4 inch of drilling. An earlier attempt of drilling the bottom of a bottle with near same thickness resulted in a broken bottle. Hence, drill the backside where the glass is not as thick. Glass on the back was less than 1/4 inch thick.

I prefer to place a cushion of material (old sweat shirt) on the drill press table to absorb a little pressure from the drill bit pressing on the glass while drilling. It also protects the glass from getting scratched.

Drilling

  1. Place cushion material on press table.
  2. Insert 1/4 inch diamond hole saw.
  3. Check press depth to be sure you will drill through the glass.
  4. Set glass under hole saw where you would like to drill.
  5. Hold glass firmly with gloved hand.
  6. Start drill and beginning drilling slowly.Do not apply much pressure, let the saw do the work
  7. Pour a little water onto drilling area every 20 seconds or so to clear dust and keep glass cool.
  8. Repeat water and drilling until through glass.
  9. Rinse glass dust away.

At a slow patient pace it took about 2 minutes to drill the hole.

Step 5: Drilling Glass Growler

Picture of Drilling Glass Growler

Sorry, but I do not have any picts where I actually drilled the hole in the growler as I needed both hands to operate the drill press and keep the Growler in place. SAFETY FIRST!

Basically I used the same process as this YouTube video for drilling the glass. My press is same size and used the same type of Diamond Grit Hole Saw. The only difference in my process was that once I started the drilling process, I only added a little water to the drilling area as drilling progressed. I did not use the reservoir as the video shows. Hole was drilled easily in about 2 minutes of slow patient drilling. Use a file to smooth edges of the hole.

Step 6: Summary

Picture of Summary

This Instructable was for those of you who have wondered how to drill bottles or been reluctant to do so. I hope this has eased doubts or sparked an interest to drilling glass.

Don't Trash It! Drill It! Treasure It!

Vote if you feel worthy!

Thanks for viewing.

The Water Dog

Comments

DiyWaterDog (author)2017-03-19

thanks to the community for making this a finalist. hoping judges are as generous. very excited!!!

Oliver Murphy (author)2017-03-02

Thank you ! From long time I was thinking how can I do it

stepinfech (author)2017-02-26

Hi There

I had a friend who used to make telescope mirrors and all he did was to make a dam with a little putty & a slurry of grinding powder. His cutter was a piece of copper tubing the size needed for the hole with a few notch's filed in the cutting end.

Jerry66 (author)stepinfech2017-02-28

That is the same way that Egyptologists believed was the method for drilling a line of holes in stone in order to crack it for large blocks (e.g. Obelisks). The copper was not notched. They drove wooden stakes into each hole, and then poured water in. The wood would swell and break the stone in a straight line. The wood/water method is still used today all over the world.

DiyWaterDog (author)stepinfech2017-02-26

Interesting!

bpark1000 (author)2017-02-26

A word about safety. First, you need to establish that the glass is not under stress. You can do this by building a polariscope. Get a cheap pair of polarized sunglasses, and remove the lenses. Set up in following order: light source, diffuser, lens #1, glass being inspected, Lens #2, eye. Rotate the lenses so without glass in place view is dark, then insert glass between lenses. if view remains dark or dim, stress is low and it is safe to drill. Dazzling dark and white bands indicates stress. Don't drill! A lot of modern glass pieces are "tempered" (such as newer "Pyrex" glass kitchenware) and will shatter if drilled.

Back-up pad: you do not want a "soft" pad! It will give, then release at the moment of break-through. You want something rigid but not so hard. Wood is the excellent choice. For irregular glass piece, cut wood scrap to support only right below where the drill breaks through. Fasten this to drill press table lined up with drill.

If possible, drill from inside to outside, even if you must rig an extension onto the drill bit. If the outside is flat in the region of hole break-through, hot-melt a glass scrap on so the drill can go into the scrap part-way. Bottle can also serve as a reservoir for the coolant. The bottom of the bottle is probably the safest place to drill if it is not stressed. The thicker the better!

Regarding the coolant: on core drills (the best type to use), the coolant needs to get inside the core. If you are drilling a bottle bottom from the inside, drill a small hole crosswise into the side of the drill bit just above the cutting end so coolant can get in. Better yet: extend drill bit with a long piece of tubing. Plug chucking end. Near chucking end, drill several small holes crosswise through tube. Fit plastic fitting around this with pressurized water feed, which enters tubing at holes, goes down through the center of the bit and continuously flushes chips out of hole.

Watch drill bit carefully. "Milky" appearance says drill is working. If water clears, diamond cutting edge is clogged (with the nickel plating it is held in place with) and needs clearing. Drill brick scrap for a moment, pressing harder and skidding drill sideways. Contrary to popular belief, diamond drills work best at high speed and low pressure IF coolant is present AT THE CUTTING EDGE. If not pressure fed, lift drill every second to allow coolant to flow back in. Any smoking or dusting indicates dryness; lift more often! This is not true of carbide spade bits. Coolant can get in easier. They must turn slowly and have heavier pressure or they will just rub and dull (sound of the drill will tell). They need frequent sharpening. It is almost mandatory to have back-up glass to prevent shattering at break-through.

Regarding gloves: gloves are usually a no-no when working on a machine with rotating parts. Be careful not to get caught into the machinery!

DiyWaterDog (author)bpark10002017-02-28

Very informative about the stress factor of the glass. Sounds worth the time to investigate the build of the polariscope. Please vote if you feel worthy.

DiyWaterDog (author)bpark10002017-02-27

Thanks for sharing. Great Tips!

CPUDOCTHE1. (author)2017-02-27

I have a cheap crappy little (Skil) bench top drill press. A while back, I bought a 22" Industrial floor standing drill press and NEVER use the bench top one. My wife has had me drill some glass blocks. For small holes, I use a carbide 1/2" bit from HD. The last blocks I drilled, she wanted a bigger hole. I borrowed a diamond grit hole saw that is used for installing sinks in granite. I chucked the bit in the metal lathe (has variable speed and will go REALLY slow). Put a pusher in the other end and shimmed the glass block up with wood. That worked well. I ALWAYS spray water on the glass when I am drilling it.

DiyWaterDog (author)CPUDOCTHE1.2017-02-28

Would love the higher end drill press. Just not in the budget at this time. Someday... And necessary space of course. As mentioned, benchtop is a good solution for those with a limited budget and occasional use. Thanks for sharing! Vote if you feel worthy.

jbrown2 (author)2017-02-27

here's a hint; take a hot glue gun and make a circle around where you are going to drill and make the walls of the ring thick and high then fill the area with oil or water for the drill bit, it's what I do to reduce dust and keep drill cool. Happy drilling....

CHZMANN (author)2017-02-27

Nice....

i have done some drilling using the round diamond bits. to help lubricate, i facsioned a Play-doh volcano and filled it with water.. ps dont tell my kids

NoelA11 (author)2017-02-26

A tip on drilling, as a lot have mentioned heat being a problem, the secret to cooling is use of soapy water, dishwashing liquid is best, and if necessary build a dam to keep the water where you wants it and keep it flowing as this will stop heat from building up. The dishwashing liquid acts to break the water tension that prevents the water getting directly to the cutting surface. This prevents an adverse temperature differential that can cause the glass to crack.

also find that smooth full circular diamond drills work best, as the consistent pressure leads to fewer vibrations which can also cause cracks to form. here in New Zealand i can get very good drills from Sutton Tools, and they also sell a dressing stone that also helps.

NoelA11 (author)NoelA112017-02-26

http://www.suttontools.com/products/diamond-core-bits-blue-ceram-d605/

DiyWaterDog (author)NoelA112017-02-27

Thanks for sharing.

DennisO22 (author)2017-02-26

My dad had a hardware store. I learned to drill glass and mirrors while I was still at school. The secret is SLOW drilling and NO Pressure. We used to do it with a carpenters hand brace and masonry drill bits. We never had to make a 'dam'. But we used to cover the intended drill area with some masking tape to prevent the drill from 'skidding' before the bit made its initial indentation.

DiyWaterDog (author)DennisO222017-02-26

Slow and easy is a great philosophy!

DennisO22 (author)DiyWaterDog2017-02-26

In more ways than one!

Everett MorganG (author)2017-02-26

Use plasticine to make a ring around your bit- fill with water it will cool the cutting- I did it for years in a glass shop using the spade bits slow and cool

BrainTwitch (author)2017-02-22

I had some success drilling with the carbide tips, but I did it with a hand drill, very slowly, in a kitchen sink full of water. I've found that heat it the biggest killer of glass. Nice walk-through and I really like the skull lamp!

Cheers!

DavidH908 (author)2017-02-20

This is actually something I had wanted to do a few years ago (I wanted to make some potting planters out of some cobalt blue bottles,) but couldn't find the right technique to do the job right.

This is fantastic, and your creations are very creative :)

DiyWaterDog (author)DavidH9082017-02-20

thanks! Hope it was helpful and good luck with your projects.

mikebyers47 (author)2017-02-18

It will help if you use some plumbers' putty to build a little dam around the area to be drilled. Use a squirt bottle to keep this dam full of water, and frequently back your drill out to get rid of glass dust and paste. I hate to tell you this, but buying the best, most-expensive drills will pay off if you have many holes to drill. Pay attention to what the bit manufacturer says about drill speeds: it makes a difference. And make yourself a cradle (a couple of pieces of wood) to hold the glass steady while you're drilling. A couple of big rubber bands around the bottle and cradle will keep the bottle from turning while you're drilling. Gloves: my take is that gloves around a drill press or lathe are dangerous, and more likely to catch on the drill shaft than bare fingers. That's just my take, but I've never had a problem in 30+ years of drilling glass in my studio. Be sure to remove any rings, too. Good article, and I hope this helps you some.

DiyWaterDog (author)mikebyers472017-02-18

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. They are valuable to all the readers. As mentioned I have only done a few projects where I needed to drill glass. I have shared my initial failure and what I have found to be successful. I agree with you to some extent on paying more for better quality tools. That is if the need is there. My philosophy is pay the most you can AFFORD and then try to pay just a little more.The HF drill press suits MY needs as I rarely use it. But, it is there when I do. On the other hand, I paid top dollar for a Stihl chainsaw almost 20 years ago. If I had bought a budget brand I probably would have been through 10 or more chain saws by now. I agree with your comment on gloves. This is the only time I ever wear gloves with the press as the risk is higher that the bottle can shatter and shard before getting wrapped in shaft. I like the cradle idea and have seen it in some YouTube vids. If I find that I will need to drill many bottles I will take the time to try out the plumber's putty and cradle. Thanks for sharing!

mikebyers47 (author)DiyWaterDog2017-02-19

I also should mention that if you're drilling holes in flat pieces of glass, you can make a little basin out of scrap counter top material, etc. and actually drill your piece under water.

DiyWaterDog (author)mikebyers472017-02-19

how is your succees drilling the bottom of the bottle? is that a bad stress point? do you prefer hole saw or carbide tip bits?

mikebyers47 (author)DiyWaterDog2017-02-19

I've done this a few times, and it involved building a fixture to hold the glass vertical and keep it steady. This will work with a diamond hole saw in a drill press, but I think you could also do it (working slowly) with a hand-held tool and a small diamond-coated bit to start. You'll definitely want to keep water on the area you're drilling. If you have access to a glass router, the tool that a lot of stained glass shops have, you can use this to easily enlarge the hole you made with the hand-held tool. Again, keep it wet with a spray bottle. Oh, yeah...eye protection is a must.

kess_gr (author)2017-02-18

What are the needed RPMs for this job?

Regards

DiyWaterDog (author)kess_gr2017-02-18

my press was set to low. about 800 rpm.

kess_gr (author)DiyWaterDog2017-02-18

Thanks a lot.

con_augs05 (author)2017-02-17

cool Mr. Urich

mrsmerwin (author)2017-02-15

I will be checking this out again when I get to my glass projects.

DiyWaterDog (author)mrsmerwin2017-02-15

wonderful to hear from a fellow educator. please vote.

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