Drilling Glass

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About: Finally have enough of an internet connection to get back to Instructables.com! And the infinite number of emails that are clogging my in box ?. Guess living on a mountain top has some drawbacks- but who ca...

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!
 

Step 1: 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.

Step 2: A Drill or Rotary Tool, and the Bits

  •  A good drill or rotary tool is a must.  I prefer to use my "Faux" dremel rotary tool since it has a flex shaft attachment that makes it lighter than using a standard drill. You can use a standard electric drill as well, just be sure you can hold it steady on the glass.
  • Diamond drill bits are the only thing I ever use when drilling glass.  There might be some other product out there that will do the job, but I have never found one.  If you have, please let me know.  I can imagine that somewhere there are drill bits tipped with corundum, but those would be way out of my price league! Harbor Freight and many of the Home Improvement stores carry these drill bits at a very reasonable cost.

Step 3: A Water Source to Keep the Glass Temperature From Fluctuating

  • You will need a small bowl of water for small pieces, but if you want to drill something larger that cannot fit into a bowl, you can always stream the water over the drill bit while drilling.  Keep in mind that water and electricity DO NOT MIX, so take precautions to keep the water from entering the drill or getting onto plugs and sockets.   
  • And always ALWAYS wear eye protection when drilling glass.  Even if the glass does not break while it is being drilled, small particles from the hole being drilled out can get into your eyes. 

Step 4: Get Ready, Get Set.... Drill!!!

But start slowly.... if the glass has no texture, or if it has a rounded edge such as these glass cabochons, there will be a strong tendency for the drill bit to skip.  Skipping will not only scratch the glass, but it can chip off the edged of the piece if it goes too far.
Place the bit where you want the hole drilled, and start out slowly so that a "dimple" or small indentions is formed, this helps keep the bit in the right place.
 

Step 5: Be Steady... Be Patient.... and Let the Drill Do the Work...

This is probably one of the hardest parts for me, I have never been good at letting the drill (or the saw, or the lawn mower, etc.) do the work for me.  I want to hurry it up and push down thinking that will increase the speed.  Instead it just makes it more likely for for glass to break from the pressure being applied.  
Just keep the drill as steady as possible, and eventually it will get through to the other side.  You will know when it does because of the "give" you feel from it going through. I have never used the drill press to drill glass, although I am sure it can be done.  I want to be able to feel how much pressure I am actually putting on the glass while drilling.  

Step 6: The Drilled Hole....

There it is, a nice round hole drilled into a piece of glass so that it can be used for jewelry, or really whatever you want to use it for.
.............That is all you have to do now, find something to do with you glass piece.  

Step 7: Now Just Keep on Drilling.... If You Want To!

 I try to drill more than a few pieces at a time, just to save on cleaning up my work area.  If you want, thread a jump ring through the hole and you can hang it from just about anything you want.  
I find drilling the holes much easier than trying to keep an open hole during the firing process of the kiln.  Also, it usually makes a cleaner hole, and I can decide where I want to place it by looking at what the glass did while fusing.
If you decide to try this, I wish you luck and hope you have fun doing it! 

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66 Discussions

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nbaker3

Question 11 days ago on Introduction

Hi, do you drill tempered glass? I want to attach a handle to an unused microwave glass plate which I presume, and I will check now, is a tempered glass plate to use as an frying pan see through lid.

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Caspar

8 years ago on Introduction

(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.

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KellyCraigCaspar

Reply 1 year ago

I have a pint of hydroflouric acid and it scares me even more than my big saws and things. Definitely a thing needing great respect.

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Casparwhiteoakart

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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.

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KellyCraigCaspar

Reply 1 year ago

As I read further, this reminded me of my tile saw trick (coffee can with weight hanging off the back). Great tip.

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nn3_shaywhiteoakart

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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.

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snarkenn3_shay

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

 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. 


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whiteoakartsnarke

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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.

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KellyCraig

1 year ago

Thanks the short and simple directions. From them one can take key points that will make you a pro (okay, that might be an exaggeration):

1) Keep the tip wet to keep the tip cool (the simple shop towel tip was gold); and,
2) Let the drill do the work (BE PATIENT) and DO NOT press hard.

I set my big tile saw up with a three pound coffee can hanging off a cord tied to the back of the moving sled. I drop a few rocks in it and it goes slower than I tend to push. The weight of a drill or Dremel might do the same, if [controlled and] allowed to push through on its own.

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kathynv

1 year ago

Wonderful! Is the hole neat and clean on the back of the glass? Many of my drilled pieces look great on the front, but the back side of the piece has a chipped and gnarly hole. Would love to know. Thanks!

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ChrisR393

1 year ago

Love it! I'm going to try to mount some glass bits in some woodworking pieces, this instructable has totally empowered me! :)

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effylover

2 years ago

Has any one tried to drill a hole in a Glass microwave turntable? I would be keen to give this a go!

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deekay42

3 years ago

Thanks for your readable and explicit instructions. I, too, have my share of failure anecdotes, but am challenged to try again using your instructions and comments about being patient as a guide.

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

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sflorsch

6 years ago on Step 6

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!

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deletha

6 years ago on Step 7

ok im going to start drilling shortly and it does sound as if your way will work.. wish me luck and have great weekend

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Ronyon

7 years ago on Introduction

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!

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MayB2Okie

8 years ago on Introduction

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.