Drilling holes in glass can be a bit frightening to start with. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to hang suncatchers and fused pieces up without unsightly hooks.
You don't need lots of expensive equipment.
The most crucial thing to remember when learning about drilling holes safely and without breakage is that you need water. It acts as a coolant and stops the glass from over-heating and cracking.
- Wear goggles to protect your eyes.
- The cooling water is provided via a wet sponge that you keep under the glass.
- Introduce your stained glass slowly over the top of the drill bit at an angle to start with, and then slowly straighten it up so that it’s flat on top of the drilling bit.
- Don’t press too hard otherwise it will break. The diamond will do the work.
- Just before the drilling bit comes through the top, reduce the pressure a bit so that it doesn’t chip the stained glass.
Here's a helpful 51-second video of drilling holes in stained glass with an Inland grinder:
Video showing how to drill a hole in stained glass
This is the cheapest option for drilling holes in stained or fused glass. You can buy drilling bits that fit on your grinder head, either 1/8”, ¼” or 3/8” in diameter.
Most manufacturers supply diamond drilling bits for their grinders, so you should be able to find suitable drill bits.
You may have to buy an adapter too, depending on the make of your grinder. It can stay fixed on top of your day-to-day grinding drum, making it ready and easy to use whenever you want to drill a hole.
Delphi Glass sell all these types of products, along with the Inland Wizling Cg grinder. All you need to do is screw the Inland Bit Adapter on top of your grinding drum, and then screw the diamond drilling bit into that.
- Put on an apron and goggles.
- Put the glass in a shallow container. I use a plastic photographic tray, but ice cream tubs will do.
- Put a bit of newspaper or polystyrene at the bottom to stop you drilling a hole through the container.
- Cover the stained glass and paper with about ¼” (6.5mm) water.
- If you can’t find a tray big enough, simply dab water on with your left hand throughout the drilling/engraving process so that it doesn’t get hot and break.
Here's a very helpful 2 minute video showing how to drill a hole in stained glass with a Dremel.
Drilling a hole in stained glass with a Dremel
- Turn the drill on.
The fastest speed is best for drilling holes.
- Holding the handpiece like a pen, introduce the drilling bit to the glass slowly, from the side to start with to make a small dip to prevent slipping and scratching.
- Once the hole is started hold the drilling bit vertically and let the diamond burr eat into the glass with a little bit of pressure.
- Gently move up and down, so that water can get into the hole.
- Don’t push hard or you’ll break it; let the diamonds do the work.
- When nearly through to the other side reduce the pressure even more so that you don’t chip around the hole.
This type of drill is very similar your dentist’s drill, with a moveable ‘arm’ and a handpiece that holds the diamond drill bit.
These drills are the most flexible of the drills available as it doubles up as an engraving tool.
The speed is adjustable with a foot pedal. Go fast for holes, slower for engraving.
- They’re small, inexpensive and excellent for drilling smaller holes. This is
great if you want to hang your glass work up invisibly with thin wire or fishing wire
, or bolt a small shape of glass on to a base glass.
- These drills are also fantastic for engraving pictures or text on to the surface of the glass. You could use it for copying your children’s drawings or your favourite poem on to your stained glasswork.
Cons More expensive than a Dremel.
- Very good drills for all sorts of craft work.
- You won't have the flexibility of the arm, so engraving will be more difficult.
- You will need to buy specialised diamond bits for drilling glass.
The best quality and value drill with a flexible 'arm' is the Rotary Tool Set from Delphi Stained Glass.
It’s been rated 4 out of 5 stars by reviewers, who say it’s a “good quality tool” and “great value”.
The only thing it fell down on was that the instructions weren't very good, and that you had to buy the bits separately for glass.
You need decent drilling bits, the cheap ones go blunt too quickly and end up being a false economy.
This packet of six diamond drill bits from Delphi are rated quite highly in the reviews, but if you really want the best, you need the impregnated diamond coated bits which cost more. I get mine from a specialist drill supplier and they last for ages.
You can buy Dremels from any Do It Yourself store.
Stained glass with holes and bolts
So that’s it, simple! Hopefully you’ll have a really good idea now about drilling stained glass, and the equipment that you need to do it.
If you don't already own a grinder, there's a page of reviews of the best available here.
Tech Talk - Drilling Glass
You can buy diamond drill bits with three different types of diamond coating, ranging from single layer (cheaper and not so durable) to impregnated (longer lasting but more expensive). The diamond drill bits come in sizes from 1/16”- 2” (3-50mm) – the bigger the bit the slower the recommended rpm. To give you a rough guide; drill bits up to ½” (13mm) can be used at speeds from 3500-4000rpm, for ½”-1” (13-25mm) bits go at 2000rpm, slow down to 1000rpm for drill bits between 1”-2” (25-50mm)
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