An old dog learns a new trick…

…from herself.

This is my usual method for enlarging the holes in pearls. The jeweler’s saw works well to help hold the pearls and to saw a larger hole in them. (And it’s an easy job to do while watching TV.) But, when I planned to include pearls on a knotted necklace, strung on a  waxed cotton cord, I wanted to find a faster way to make a larger hole.


I realized I already had the knowledge I needed. I could use the same technique I use to drill rocks. (D’oh! Why didn’t this occur to me sooner?)

Since the pearls are much softer than rocks, I am able to use a regular twist drill bit in my flexible shaft instead of a diamond drill bit. I use a layer of hot glue in the bottom of a glass dish to hold the pearls. Then I  fill the dish with water and drill through the water and pearl to enlarge the hole. I use a pecking motion, moving the drill out of the hole regularly so the water clears the chips from the bit. The water keeps the drill bit cool and contains the pearl dust rather than releasing it into the air.

I have to admit I’ve had a hard time, in the past, getting some of that glue out of the dish to release the stones or pearls after I have drilled them. I  figured out a new trick to make the glue layer easy to take out!  I spray a thin layer of water in the bottom of the dish as a release agent before I add the hot glue. (Again, d’oh! Why didn’t this occur to me sooner?)IMGP4695

I use a thin layer of hot glue for the pearls, and place them with the help of a straight pin to keep the hole oriented at 90° to the base of the glass dish.



I add water to cover the pearls, and then drill.


The glue layer comes out easily since I sprayed a mist of water, first, as a release agent.


I bend the glue to make it easier to take the pearls out.

IMGP4718 IMGP4704

Voila! I now have a selection of large-holed pearls in much less time than it would have taken me to use my saw to make holes this size. I’ll still use the saw  when I need to make the pearl holes only slightly larger, but this method is pretty quick when I need a batch of these to knot up with other large hole beads.



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28 responses to “An old dog learns a new trick…

  1. Wow! First I reread your post using a saw blade..I would never have thought of that one…not even sure I could do it! Today’s tip is amazing…right down to the spritz of water as release! Thank you for sharing! And BTW, your necklace is stunning!


    • Hey thanks Patti. What was surprising to me was that I’ve been drilling rocks like that for quite a few years, and I’ve been using the saw to enlarge pearls for at least a couple of years. I never put the two together until last week!


  2. Actually Barb, you are a genius. I have been drilling pearls for years and I use a diamond drill bit holding each pearl with my hand under water and drill.with the other hand. Can you believe it? It was always risky that I would slip and drill through a finger and I was only doing one pearl at a time! It was the only way I could figure out how to do it. Plus – I have to admit – the risky part is always a draw for me. Love you.


  3. Hear me gasp! I always loved pearls but the holes were always too small. What a great way of doing it! The necklace is stunning.


    • Thanks Roberta. I have to admit I don’t always get those little pearls lined up just right in the glue. Sometimes I drill through and end up with two holes on the other side, the original smaller one, and the new one I just drilled. But it works out for me 95% of the time.


  4. holly

    patricia is right…you ARE a genius….i’ve always said so!


    • So funny. You know me…my first thought was not: hey, this is kind of clever.
      My first thought was: why didn’t I do it this way sooner after drilling rocks for so long.
      Miss you lots.


  5. My first thought was, How does she get the dried glue off the pearl? Thanks for answering that question!


  6. Pingback: Working to get ready to work | Barbara S Fernald Jewelry

  7. Andrea

    Barb it seems to me not so difficult when you See the picture and explanation, I Will try to drill my pearls under water. But i have a question anyway what kind of glue do you need and use?
    Thanks a lot !


    • Hi Andrea,
      I use a regular old hot glue gun with glue sticks like you might use for a number of crafts. I spray the container with a layer of water (as a release agent) so I can get the glue off the bottom of the container easily. Then I squeeze in a layer of hot glue and set up the pearls. The glue hardens as it cools.
      Hope this helps!


  8. Wow – what a great idea! I haven’t gotten around to drilling stones, pearls, etc. yet because I couldn’t think of how to hold them safely. Thank you!


    • Glad you like the idea Natasha! Just make sure you use enough hot glue to set the stones in at least halfway, so they don’t pop out when drilling. I still keep a finger on them while I’m drilling, but the glue helps so much.


  9. Jo Tellinghuisen

    Well, well aren’t you a clever “old dog”! Not only did you teach yourself a new trick, you taught another old dog! THANK YOU!!! ;) ;) ;)


  10. That’s a great idea! Do you think it would work for drilling shells? I have the hardest time drilling into snail shells (from the beach, not garden snails) because they either move around too much or crack halfway through.


  11. I tried this method and it was a mess. I used a Drexel. I don’t know what I did wrong. Any suggestions?


    • Sorry you had trouble with this, Christina. Maybe the problem was in using a Dremel tool. I used a flex-shaft with a foot pedal to be able to control the speed of the drill. I think a Dremel only runs at a set speed, so that may have been the trouble. I like to be able to start drilling slowly.


  12. Jessica

    Thank you so much! Brilliant! I just got some of those new double pearl stud findings (the ones that have a big pearl on the back). I’m using Swarovski pearls for them. I have ruined a few 10mm pearls trying to get them drilled without burning or chipping. I am going to try this method. I have a feeling I will be much more successful this time around. Also, another tip I had to find (since I don’t have a hot glue gun), I took the hot glue sticks, put them in the bowl, then used a heat gun to melt it. I suppose a hair dryer would work too. It would take a long time, but I’m sure it would work. :)


  13. Mona

    Can u rescue the glue


  14. Rael Picot

    Hello Barb, I would never have considered glue as a medium as I’d have assumed they would be stuck there forever. I have on occasion used wax to hold smaller objects in place – not so much for drilling but to hold a nut, large seed or other round item in place in order to paint, etch or work on it in some way. It has worked for me, but, unlike the glue, isn’t flexible.

    However, if you want to hold a slightly bigger item, wax does work.
    Use an egg-cup or silicone cup cake mould, supported in metal tray.
    1. Melt a layer of wax into a small container. Refrigerate.
    2. Hold your object in place whilst you pour more melted wax around your object.
    3. Cover slightly less than half way.
    4. Paint or dye your object.
    5. Reverse the process if you want full coverage.

    I used the wax because I could re-use it, and because I didn’t even consider glue! The wax can crack, but usually it’s still ok to paint, and it stops my object from rolling around. Great lateral thinking Barb!


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