Rock Drilling 101

I get asked about this a lot, so here’s what works for me.

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Put a layer of hot glue in the bottom of a shallow glass dish. Settle a third or so of the rock into the glue before it hardens. The top of the rock should sit below the top edge of the dish.

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Fill dish with water. Insert diamond drill bit into flex shaft handpiece.

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Start drilling slowly through the layer of water into the rock. The glue will hold the rock in place. Peck gently once you have the hole started. Moving the drill in and out of the hole so the bit cools in the water and fresh water flows into the hole. The water will start to get cloudy. If the drill is held in place for too long or the drill is too fast, the bit will overheat and the diamond pieces will start to flake off. You will know the drill is through the rock when you feel the change as the bit goes into the softer glue beneath.

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Dump out cloudy water, refill, and drill the next rock. When all rocks in a dish are drilled, run the dish under hot water to loosen the glue. It is usually easier to get the whole piece of glue out of the dish. More hot water will make the glue bendable so the rocks can be worked out of their glue hole.

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I find that a diamond core drill bit works better than a twist drill bit. The best advice I got about learning to drill rocks was to be patient!

23 Comments

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23 responses to “Rock Drilling 101

  1. Barbara,
    Thank you for the clear and graphic instructions for rock drilling. The photographs are great too!Having failed a couple of times with the rock drilling, I can look forward to making this project work.
    Also, just the time it takes to drill one rock makes one of your necklaces priceless!!!
    Have you ever tried to drill sea glass?
    Thanks for the tips.
    Sember

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  3. Thanks for instructions for rock drilling. You have used many images so it has been easy to understand this process.Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Thanks for sharing this these instructions. I am happy for these things.Thanks for you every thing.

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  5. Brittany

    Barbara,
    i was wondering..
    i know you mentioned that you have dont this on sea glass and ocen rocks.. but i was wondering if you still think it is the best drill for this? and if not what is?
    Thank you:)!

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    • fernald244

      Hi Brittany,
      I use a Foredom flexible shaft and diamond core drill bits to drill the beach rocks. (From Rio Grande) I used this particular drill because it is the one I have on hand in my studio. I use it for other jewelry work too. I think the core diamond drill bits work better than the screw shaped diamond drill bits. So, I still like it the best for the amount of drilling I do.
      I hope this helps.

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  6. Pingback: Rocks, rocks, and more rocks | Barbara S Fernald Jewelry

  7. BrendaJo Cox Byrnes

    hello: My nearly 10 year old daughter would like to start making jewlery out of the rocks and shells she has collected since about age 5. Could you recommend a specific type of driller for her? I wasn’t able to tell the exact type/model of your drill. She has been asking to do this for a few years now so we purchased a rock tumbler but our next step is the driller. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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    • Barb Fernald

      Hi,
      Your comment went into my spam filter. Sorry to take so long to respond. The drill I use is a Foredom flexible shaft. http://www.riogrande.com/MemberArea/ProductPage.aspx?assetname=117560&page=GRID&free_text=flex+shafts
      It’s pretty heavy duty, since I bought it specifically to drill a lot of rocks. The drilling requires quite a bit of patience to go slowly so as not to overheat the diamond drill bit. With any flexible shaft, protective eye wear should be worn. I don’t feel comfortable recommending this kind of equipment for anyone other than an adult. I’m not sure what I would recommend for a 10 year old. (That said, Rio Grande sells a number of flexible shafts, and that is the piece of equipment I use. )
      Has your daughter considered wire wrapping with her shells and stones? I’ve seen several books on the subject on Amazon. I don’t want to discourage anyone who wants to make jewelry! And, the rock tumbler you have will come in handy for tumble finishing silver items, later on.
      Good luck!

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  8. Lois

    I have been wanting to make some rock jewelry for a while so I got a dremel tool and watched a tutorial video on YouTube… it was helpful and I have been able to drill thru some rocks but…. the rocks that are small or rounded were getting the better of me — until your info!!!!! HOT GLUE in a bowl… with the stones in it!!!!!!!!! thanks!!!! I’ll try it! :)

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  9. Erica

    Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Lisa

    I was looking to make home decor items out of larger stones. How big do these bits get?

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  13. Soazig Ruelland

    Thanks a lot for sharing. Just a little question, what kind of glue do you use ?
    thanks for the answer
    Soazig

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    • Hi Soazig,
      I use a craft type hot glue gun that uses regular hot glue sticks. I’ve learned to spray a little mist of water in the bottom of the dish before adding the hot glue. The water works as a release for the whole piece of glue when you are ready to take the rocks out. I recommend holding down the rocks/glue a little bit with your other hand to help keep them in place while you are drilling.
      Good luck!

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  14. i have had a lot of success drilling by using generic silly putty from the $1 store i jam the rock into the putty so the putty comes up around it and fill that little cavity with water. We have the work station so i use a 2 inch board under the putty tied with my mini bungi cord (elastic hair headbands) through the holes in the base of the work station

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