Drilling through glass isn’t as hard as it looks, and it’s a specific skill that is honestly pretty amazing to have.
The bummer thing about drilling through glass, though, is that it requires a couple of special tools, and a very specific setup. That glass drilling bit that you’ll need costs something like fourteen to eighteen dollars, depending on where you buy it, and if you choose to get up to your glass drilling hijinks in winter, like me, you, too, will find yourself freezing your fingers off in your unheated garage while you do this project.
That’s because diamonds and water are your secret weapons for drilling through glass. Diamond grit makes this drill bit more expensive than your average high-speed rotary tool bit, and water mixed with glass dust isn’t something that I exactly want sprayed around my usual indoor work spaces. So when I want to drill holes into a vintage glass bottle in order to make an awesome upcycled suncatcher, I head out to my garage with my Dremel with an 18-dollar glass drilling bit installed.
Even then, and especially if you’re working with vintage glass, it’s not a sure thing. Sometimes glass cracks even when you do everything right. Everything isn’t always about you, you know? I haven’t worked with a lot of new glass to compare my experiences to, but my guess is that working with vintage glass is even riskier, because you don’t know what kind of history might have put what kind of invisible stress on your glass before you started manhandling it.
But there is a whole new world of DIY available to you when you can confidently and consistently drill and cut glass yourself, using your own tools. Whether you’re making pendants from tumbled glass, wine glasses from wine bottles, or the upcycled soda bottle suncatchers that I’ll show you next week, read on for the best and easiest way to drill through glass.
To complete this project, you will need:
- high-speed rotary tool and glass drilling bit. I have a super old-school Dremel and this exact glass drilling bit.
- plastic container and water. Repurpose whatever you’ve got on hand for this. I happen to be using the top of the thrifted salad spinner that I also use for spin art!
- glass. If your piece is small, add in a pair of plyers to hold it with. The glass drilling bit is for glass, not fingers! This tutorial also works with porcelain and ceramic objects, so feel free to also drill all your antique china plates and thrifted tea cups while you’ve got the supplies out.
Step 1: Set up your work area.
The setup is the most important part of this project. I ruined a couple of expensive glass drilling bits before I figured out how to… not do that, basically. Fortunately, not ruining my expensive bits right away also makes my drilling go better and the drilled holes look cleaner!
Sooo… debating about whether or not it’s okay to use a Dremel around water is a whole internet THING. The people who do it know that they’re not exactly supposed to, but are pretty sure they can be careful enough not to submerge the Dremel’s entire motor and thereby electrocute themselves. The people who don’t do it love their lives and don’t want to take the slightest chance of dying while crafting.
Want to guess which type of people I am?
Here’s how I drill glass with my Dremel literally in water!
I fill a plastic container with enough water that what I want to drill and the working end of the bit can both be submerged, but the water shouldn’t be deep enough that I could accidentally submerge the body of the Dremel. Unless I accidentally drop it, I guess, and then my obituary will read that I died as I lived–making poor choices and ignoring basic safety guidelines!
Step 2: Drill!
The picture above is what your glass drilling bit should look like. Notice the diamond grit covering it, and the hole at the side. The hole is a handy way to let glass dust escape the hollow bit without having to lift it, but you DO still want to lift the bit up every few seconds, regardless. If you don’t, friction will quickly wear the diamond grit off the tip of the bit, making it pretty dang useless at drilling.
ASK ME HOW I KNOW THIS.
Drilling just a few seconds at a time, lifting the bit often so that the water in the plastic dish can cool and lubricate the glass, it shouldn’t take long to drill through, say, the wall of a soda bottle.
Here’s what it should look like when you’re done:
Now it’s ready for its new life becoming my upcycled glass bottle suncatcher!