Make Your Own Hole Saw and Drill Any Sized Hole in Glass

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About: I enjoy building all types of projects. I worked professionally in construction, boat building, furniture making and metal fabrication. As a teacher I have taught STEM classes, Computer repair and networki...

I learned how to make my own hole saws before cheap diamond hole saws were available. I still think this is a great way to drill holes, if you only have make a few or drill non-standard sizes. You could also drill very large holes that might not be available.

The key to drilling holes with copper is that the copper is soft and the grinding compound embeds itself into the copper and grinds its way through the glass. It will take a little longer than a diamond drill but not that long. The glass I cut through was 3/16" thick and it took about 7 minutes for each hole. The size of the hole really doesn't change the time it takes.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

This is a list of the basic tools and materials to drill glass

Step 2: Make Your Drill

There are many ways to create a tool to drill through glass. I am going to show you two. The basic idea is to create a cylinder of copper that you can mount into a drill press. Some other ideas that would work are to use a drum sander mandrel or ;you could put a bolt through a piece of wood and then turn it round on the lathe.

In the first pictures, I wrap a piece of 2" x 12" x 0.005" copper sheet around a 1 3/4" hole saw. Then secure it with a hose clamp. Be sure to move it down, after you wrap it, so that the teeth of the hole saw won't hit the glass. My original hole saw drill I made with an old hole saw that I ground the teeth off of and wrapped it with a single layer of 0.040" copper sheet. That worked really well and you can see a picture of it on the previous slide.

The next hole saw is made using a 3/4" copper cap. I drilled the center hole with a lathe but if you are careful you should be able to do it with just a drill press. I made the shaft with a 1/4" bolt, nut and washer. If I did it again I would have used a lock washer and a nylon lock nut because the bolt came loose a couple of times when I was drilling.

Step 3: Drilling the Holes

To drill the holes you will need to make a dam of modeling clay to hold the grinding compound and water around the drill. This cools the glass and drill; and provides the particles that do the grinding. I use aluminum oxide sandblasting media and water because it is cheap and I have a sandblaster. Valve grinding compound works a lot better and faster if you are in a hurry.

These videos play back at 16x


Step 4: Conclusion

All and all, it worked really well. I wasn't sure if the thin copper sheet was going to work but it did. If you look at the picture you can see that the copper was wrinkled and uneven but it still worked. I see a lot of Instructables on drilling through bottles. I haven't tried to do that but I think you could as long as you found a way to keep the grinding compound on the copper. I think if you used the valve grinding compound it would work because the particles are suspended in thick oil rather than water.

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    20 Discussions

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    squared59theerikjohnson

    Reply 16 days ago

    Yes, it works great on tile. In fact, I originally used it to help a friend with his bathroom tile.

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    sheba92766

    6 weeks ago

    Great Instructable! Does this work for any thickness of glass? Would 1/8" or 1/4" be too thin?

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    squared59sheba92766

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    Any thickness works. Also works on tile and other ceramics.

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    MikeP

    7 weeks ago

    Great solution, on the cheap!
    You will always get chipping on the bottom side as the drill punches through the last bit. If this is no good for you, drill from both sides-- drill part way through, then flip the piece over and finish the drill from the opposite side. Of course, repositioning the glass piece in exactly the same spot is pretty tough.
    Thanks for posting this!

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    BenH280MikeP

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    A solution to this could be to use a small diamond bit in the center that's longer than the hole saw meaning centering would be easier.

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    helijoc

    7 weeks ago

    Thanks for sharing. I don't need this at the moment but will put it in my "mental" toolbox.

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    squared59helijoc

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    This idea was in my metal tool box for over 20 years before I used it for the first time. A friend was remodeling his bathroom and needed a hole in his bathroom tile, so I drilled it using this method.

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    Eh Lie Us!

    Question 7 weeks ago

    copper... how on earth did you figure that ?! that is some great out of the box thinking. But seriously, how did you come to copper?

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    squared59Eh Lie Us!

    Answer 6 weeks ago

    One of my teachers told me about it a long time ago. They use a similar process to make cut crystal. They have a copper wheel and diamond dust.

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    mattwelds

    7 weeks ago

    It's called a tinker's dam. It's where the expression "I couldn't give a tinker's dam" comes from. My grandpa always taught me to use turpentine instead of water then you won't need an abrasive media. And using copper plumbing pipe is 100% safer. You should also teach everybody to overlap their copper sheet in the same direction as the rotation of the drill. Since you haven't joined your copper at the cutting edge, if it snags for any reason you'll be staring at a freshly sharpened copper knife spinning at 300-ish rpm. And that's if your lucky. It could very easily be a spinning glass blade too because glass isn't easy to clamp down. Sweat soldering the lap joint would negate the risk of this. Not trying to be a bummer, I've often thought about sharing this but safety should always take priority, especially when using spinning tools.

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    squared59mattwelds

    Reply 6 weeks ago

    I did wrap the copper the correct direction. I guess I thought it was common sense. The glass was clamped securely. Copper pipe is ideal but I wanted to show that you can wrap copper around any mandrel to make any size hole.

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    misterxp

    7 weeks ago

    forgot….thanks for sharing!!

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    misterxp

    7 weeks ago

    Wow this is really great! What is the biggest hole you have managed to make?

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    Paul Morrison

    7 weeks ago

    This is real nitty gritty thinking. Great info. Just one thing: what kind of drill speed do you use - I guess it's slow anyway?

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    resetxx

    7 weeks ago

    I rarely comment, but I was just thinking about this a few of days ago afor a project and... voila! Here it is! This is great!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Dave

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    stansford

    7 weeks ago

    Thank you for your time to write this instructable. I didn't need to drill round holes in glass, but now I really want to do it. The process you describe combines several techniques - like copper, being a media of grinding material, water, being lubricator, coolant, transfer media. Pure beauty.

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    jbein

    7 weeks ago on Introduction

    Brilliant instructable! I used to drill aquariums with a portable drill stand and diamond bits. I never heard of this technique.

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    cobourgdave

    7 weeks ago on Step 4

    Thank you
    ! This a great and practical instructable. I am certainly going to remember it and use it when I have to drill an unusual size circle

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    Coyoterav

    7 weeks ago on Introduction

    I'd like to add this to my favorites but for some reason I cant. Maybe I've exceeded my limit of favorites at 25...Anyway, great job!
    Joe