(This is the very first stone I drilled with my friend Jeff Plath)
I will never forget sitting at my jewelry desk and looking at the above pendant and saying to myself. If ONLY it had a hole here and there I could do this and that! I remember walking away from my desk and literally saying Hmmmph!
Boring Boring Boring. I am so limited by what everyone else puts out there.
IF ONLY I KNEW HOW TO DRILL STONE!
As jewelry design goes some of my biggest design successes have come out of this very frustration of not having the skill , equipment or material. Problem solving has always been the chief motivator to moving my jewelry design ability into unique and innovative ways. My ability to drill stone did just that for me.
Here is some work by Staci Smith, gorgeous and unique as always where she drilled some fossils for her jewelry designs. What I love about drilling your own materials is that you can really come up with some very unique designs that can be very identifiable to you. This is good branding for your line. You look at these rings and you know that they are Staci’s.
You can put together a personal love of found treasures…..note all the little lovelies that Tracy Bell collected for this bracelet. She told me this bracelet had to have an animal, mineral and vegetable. We will have to ask her what the vegetable is?
Here is a lovely ring that Melissa Cable made. It is made from beach glass, faux bone, sterling silver, gold foil and a tube set CZ. She made it for Eva Sherman‘s Organic Wire and Metal Jewelry: Stunning Pieces made with Sea Glass (in the gallery section of her book). She said the glass was from the neck of a bottle. I bet now when you are walking the beach you will never look at that beach glass as trash but as treasure.
I am not a pioneer but had great teacher named Jeff Plath. He is a wonderful individual that wears many hats in the jewelry world in Minnesota. He is a lamp worker, bead store owner, wholesaler and educator. We got to talking about stone at one of his shows and I was talking about my frustration and he said to me. Why don’t you come up and I will teach you how to drill stone. My jaw just dropped at his generosity and the next time I was up at his shop he said, come on lets go over to my studio and I will teach you how to drill those stones you want. I am not an expert but know just enough to accomplish the task. So this is what I learned and how I do it. I will also add a couple things I have learned on the way through practical experience. If you see these stars *** this is what I have learned along my drilling journey.
(Here I am learning from Jeff Plath with a Flex Shaft Set Up…My First Drill!)
SO HOW DO YOU DO IT? IT”S EASY!
Here is my set up.
1. Dremel – You don’t have to have a Flex Shaft or Foredoom if you want to put it in a press like I have here. I have a Dremel 4,000. Seriously though any Dremel will get you started. I bought my Dremel and Dremel Press at Home Depot. Here is a little Dremel Talk if you want to learn the terms and more about the Dremel.
2. Drill Press, Flex Shaft or a Foredom – You do not want to drill directly holding the Dremel you would have no control and it would be really hard on your wrist and hands. ***I use the drill press because I feel like I have more control and it is easier on my wrist and hands*** BUT *** It is easier to push hard when using a drill press and you will wear your bits out quicker….so just remember slow and steady***
3. Water Resistant Base to fill with water and a Solid Surface for the drill bit to hit when it goes though. I bought these plastic display bases from my friend Jeff Plath they are deep enough to hold the depth of water you need and I have a flat Agate slab at the bottom for the bit to hit when I make it through. Agate has a good hard Mohs hardness for this. ***Some of these plastic bases have a small rise in the middle and you may need to sand them down for your stone to lay flat*** *** A rocking stone while drilling makes for a not so clean hole….darn I have done a ton like that***
4. Drill Bits – I think you will find many opinions out there on this one. I like the economy bits! There is a lot of blah blah blah out there. You can all learn from trying with all those expensive bits if you like…..no thank you! I buy the diamond cylinder economy packs at Rio Grande. You buy the mm in diameter you want. I have one expensive hollow core one…..that I haven’t used yet but I wanted to drill some larger holes and then you pay $$$$$. ***If you drill under water…..go slow and steady with the proper technique your bits will last plenty long*** ***If you are impatient and drill fast you will go through more bits*** ***The stone you drill makes a difference on your bit life to, Jasper is easy…Agate not so easy and LAVA Stone will kill your bits, I have to read about that one yet*** *** Its all in the MOHS hardness baby*** ***I started with the 1.5mm and the 2mm bits, this just depends on the work you want to do*** *** Don’t use these drill bits on metal or wood***
Note my drilling base setup & keyless chuck.
5. Universal Keyless Chuck – What is a chuck? It holds your bits and as you know they are all different sizes so when I started I had all these different sized chucks until BEAD AND BUTTON and Melissa Cable says “you know all you need is a universal keyless chuck” …. I’m Like WHAAAAAAAATTTT!!!!!! How come I didn’t know that and why didn’t the Home Depot guy sell me that rather than all the different sized chucks. ***With this you don’t EVER have to change out your chucks, just your bits *** (okay I best not make a crack here as I am trying to keep it rated G)
6. Safety Goggles – Protect your eyes!!!
7. Paper Towels – Drilling can be a messy business, don’t wear your evening gown!
8. Items To Drill – This is the fun part. Don’t overlook your pendants that don’t work for you as a necklace. They may make a great bracelet. Add some holes at the bottom of a pendant to make a new more interesting pendant. Drill sea glass, cabs, coral, pottery, shell, driftwood, fossil…….it is endless the list of materials that can make for fun designs. You can find free materials on your local beach. Become a scavenger!!!!
The below necklace was made by me but the stone was drilled by my friend Jeff Plath. Basalt makes for some really great jewelry, a pick off the beaches of Lake Superior. Your next interesting drilled jewelry might become a feature in a magazine, like this one did in my Designer Collection in Belle Armoire Jewelry Spring 2014 issue.
SO HOW MUCH IS ALL THIS GOING TO COST & WHERE TO BUY IT ALL
Your start up cost should be around $160.00 for all of the above using my set up. Some links are below for you to shop. ***I did note that they sell the Dremel and the Flex Shaft in sets on Amazon & they have a New Press Work Station that will fit a flex shaft*** My set up will get you started at minimal cost. Shop around for the best buy or support your favorite supplier.
Dremel 4,000: $77.51
Dremel Rotary Tool Work Station: $38.23
Drill Bits: $24.95
Universal Keyless Chuck: $8.30
Water Resistant Tray: $3.00 You might be able to find them on Amazon to.
Agate Slab: $10.00 or less I found this link on Etsy but Amazon has them to …. guessing you could find many more but really you don’t need to pay a lot……buy the flattest and cheapest one you can find. ***Flat is important so buying in person maybe helpful if you can***
Safety Goggles / Glasses: $5.50
SO NOW TO THE NITTY GRITTY. WHAT DO YOU DO?
1. ALWAYS DRILL UNDER WATER!!!! Why? For starters you don’t want to breath in that stone dust, glass and any other dust you bring up…not good for your health. This keeps the dust in the water. When your water gets muddy just change it out. Water lubricates your bits and stones. This aids the speed of drilling and it keeps the temperature down. All those RPM’s (revolutions per minute) make for a hot stone and a bit. Drill stone, glass, pearl, pottery and fossil under water. Have your stone at least a 1/4 inch under water. ***I found it harder to drill with a flex shaft if you go in at an angle then your hole will be angled to***
2. WEAR SOME EYE PROTECTION. If you loose your grip on the stone or if it breaks it becomes a potential projectile. I have had this happen and if you start to drill it will happen to you to.
3. MARK YOUR HOLE PLACEMENT. I use a sharpie. You might have to remark your hole if doing more than one because sharpie can wash off as you are drilling. ***This part stinks and has ruined many of my drills but when your stone is under water there is a visual shift….so make sure to mark your hole!!!!!!!!*** ***Before you start to drill lower your drill bit on the spot and look at it from different angles while under water to make sure you are in the right spot*** Now you can drill.
4. START OUT SLOW. Like making a divot in metal for the drill bit to grab onto you need to create a divot in the stone or glass so the bit can find a home or sweet spot. Once in than go slow and steady. You will know you are drilling when you see a dust slurry in the water, at least with stone. You will need to raise the drill bit up now and again…..why? so water can circulate down into the hole (if you look it is a little tornado going in the hole) ….it cleans the hole of the debris you are drilling and will help you to drill faster. You need this to keep things lubricated. ***Going up and down can change your hole size if you are not holding your stone steady*** How many RPM’s …. You dial the amount of RPM’s you want on your Dremel. I am usually at 10-15 RPM’s (10,000 – 15,000 yes that is fast ) . Some may do it slower to start but this works for me. I mostly start at 10 and move up. Slower speed drilling will save your drill bits but in some stones you need the RPM’s to get through (Agate). ***The stone you are drilling makes a difference, very slow for less stable stone like Turquoise and less pressure…Turquoise breaks very easily if not stabilized or of poor quality*** ***MOHS hardness Matters*** ***If drilling fragile stone I would start with less than 10 RPM’s***
5. PRESSURE RELEASE. You made it through! You will hear a pop or feel the pressure release on the flex shaft or drill press bar.
***I have found that I can drill nearly everything in the same technique as drilling stone, of course minus wood and metal***
***Don’t throw your mistakes away …….sit on them a bit…you never know what you might think up. The photo below was the result of a happy accident. It was a drill gone bad that turned into a new idea***
***Be logical and research the material you are drilling… is it fragile, this all makes a difference in how you drill***
***Develop a pattern as you drill a mental checklist as you go so you have success every time. Impatience will give you some failures…..possibly some happy accidents. If you are drilling an expensive stone you really want that mental checklist***
***Experiment with found objects or some castoffs. They might turn into your next favorite piece***
***Above all have fun and be daring, try anything that pops in your mind. It might be your biggest design success***
***You can use your Dremel to ream out your flatter beads for a larger hole. Especially for leather and other cording. I typically use my Euro Tool Electric Bead Reamer for that. It is easy to hold smaller and rounded stones as you ream, you will have more control. If you buy one get these bits here, they are the only bits I have used and they are inexpensive***
***Don’t RPM your fingers, it really hurts***
***I keep all my old bits, thats a secret for now***
Here my “Happy Accident” turned out pretty nice. I hope in your drilling journey when you have your first “Happy Accident” it will be a big success.
Remember in order to learn you must first begin!