Thursday, March 31, 2016

Drilling Sea Glass, Stones, Fossils and Shells

by Staci Louise Smith

I did a free tutorial a few years back on how to drill sea glass.  You can find many many tutorials out there on the subject, and many ways to do it.  The nice thing is, there is no wrong way.  Find whichever works for you.  

sea glass and fossils waiting to be drilled

Personally, I don't have room to do a complex set up of a drill press with a water spray on it like some of the tutorials recommend.  My way is easy set up, and easy clean up, and can be done at the kitchen table while the kids eat lunch!

Since it is getting warmer and sunnier out here in PA, it made me long to dig out my sea glass, (that, and someone contacted me about learning to drill it, so it got my juices flowing!).

sea glass and fossils drilled

So here is the tutorial I wrote.  I am also attaching a link to a blog post which includes two video's I did.  They were filmed by my (then) 6 year old.  So please forgive the quality, but I like that you can put a picture to the instructions.  The first video is all about the set up.  The second is drilling the glass.


What is sea glass?

Sea glass, also known as beach glass or mermaids tears, can be found on beaches all over the world. It is actually, refuse, like old glass coke bottles, broken dishes, glass, taillights, ect….that were disposed of near or in the ocean. Over time, like a pebble, the ocean smoothes the glass into its new form. The lime in the glass also has a chemical reaction to the salt water, causing the surface to etch away, giving the glass a new, matte and pitted surface. 

How to Drill Sea Glass
What you will need:

1. A shallow glass dish of water with a drop of dish soap
2. A CORDLESS dremel, with a diamond drill bit and a 1/16” collet (if using my drill bits)
3. pliers to hold your glass and tiny wood shims 
4. a pencil
5. sea glass

What you do:

1. Take your pencil and mark where you would like your hole to be.
2. Place the sea glass in the pliers with the little shims in between the jaws and glass to keep it from getting scratched. Some people hold it with their fingers, I don’t like to do this, in case I slip with the drill
3. Take your Dremel with the diamond drill bit, and put it to medium speed.
4. Submerge the glass just below the surface of the water, so that the glass is in the water, but the drill won’t be (only the bit should be in the water) I have a flat piece of wood that goes under the glass for support.
5. Start to drill with the bit at a slight angle until it starts to catch and drill the surface. Hold it very steady to start, or else it may jump across the surface, scratching your glass
6. Keep the piece under water while you drill. Do not put too much pressure on your drill; you actually want it to grind its way through the glass. Too much pressure may create heat, crack the glass or wear your drill bit out faster.
7. Before you are completely through the glass, flip it over and finish drilling from the opposite side. This will prevent the drill from breaking a section of glass off the back when it breaks through the other side.
8. You are done!
Please note: This also works for drilling shells, but they MUST be done in water. Some shells can be poisonous when drilled, if the dust is inhaled.

sea glass drilling video
buy diamond drill bits

Please note that you can use this to drill gemstones, fossils and shells as well.  I always recommend drilling in water.  Doing so will cool what you are drilling and help your bit last longer, and it will also keep you from inhaling any dust from these.  Some shells are toxic in dust form!!!

So have fun drilling!  If you are interested in purchasing a small starter kit, please contact me. I have packs of sea glass with diamond drill bits available for $25 and plain glass available for $20

Please email me at if you are interested in seeing some.

(these are sold, but I have more similar in the seafoam and greens and some blues)

Learning to drill is amazing and will open a whole new world of possibilities for your jewelry designs!

Here are some pieces I have made using drilled sea glass, pottery and fossils.

(early work - this silver tideline piece)

drilled sea glass with polymer and gemstones

Drilled fossils

Drilled sea glass with polymer, fossils and gemstones

So try it out and have some fun.  If you collect sea glass and other stones and bits, this is a great way to be able to add them to your jewelry or wear your precious finds!

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