Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pebble Drilling Tutorial

Ashley Akers and Victoria Takahashi are two metalsmiths who utilize pebbles in their jewelry designs. Each artist drills holes in their pebbles, both as a means of connecting the pebble to their metalwork, and as an integral part of their designs.

Ashley and Victoria use similar, but slightly varied pebble drilling techniques, which they will share with you here.

Both artists use a few basic tools.

A means of drilling: Ashley uses a dremel tool and Victoria uses a drill press.

Diamond Coated Drill Bits: Ashley uses hollow core bits and Victoria uses cylinder bits.
*more on this below

Water in a shallow dish: Pebbles need to be drilled under water.

The key factors in drilling pebbles are:
Drill under water

Go slowly

Back your drill bit out often.

Backing your drill bit out of the pebble allows the water to flush out the slag, or debris, that builds up in the hole. Don’t push down too hard, but rather allow the drill bit to do the work. Be patient! As Victoria points out, “if you go to hard or fast you will completely overheat and melt off the tips and they go "squeeeeeeeeee" really loud, oopsy, $ cha-ching!”

Ashley finds it helpful to start out with a small pilot hole that you can drill outside of the water. This helps because the water quickly clouds up and you can’t see your hole, but have to go by feel. The pilot hole will be very shallow, just enough so that your drill bit doesn’t move around on the pebble.
*Ashley uses hollow core drill bits but is not completely satisfied with them. They are more costly than the cylinder type, and the small ones clog up very easily. After trial and error Ashley has decided that starting with a smaller drill bit and working your way up to the size you need the hole to be is quite helpful. The less material you take out at one time the easier this process is, and incremental drill bits allow you to do just that.

Don’t get impatient and push through the pebble on the back side. This will cause a fractured look where the bit breaks out a bigger section of the pebble. Sometimes even if you are patient this can still happen. Trial and error as well as patience are essential parts of this process.

You can expect to go through a lot of the diamond coated drill bits in the beginning. They can break and the coating can wear off, but this lessens with practice. It takes a while to get the feel of drilling pebbles. The denser the pebble the harder drilling will be, and longer it will take.

As always, it is important to take safety precautions when drilling. Be sure to wear safety goggles and keep hair and loose clothing out of the way.

Have fun, and happy drilling!

Here are some Pebble Jewelry Designs by these two artists.

Victoria Takahashi

Ashley Akers


miznyc said...

oooh very cool! I have been wondering how it was done :D

Eve Smith said...

Oh what great info, i also have a few pebbles and sea glass and was wondering how i was going to drill them, so i could add them into my jewellery

Maureen Bz said...

great article and fabulous work ladies! yay etsy metal!

gloria said...

I might just try this! I have diamond bits that I used for drilling shells. And even have new ones. Thank you!

MaribelleCampa said...

Wow! This tutorial came from heaven! I just found three amazing black beach stones and I was afraid they may fracture. The water tip worked great!!! Thanks for sharing our experience!! MaribelleCampa

Dr.InSectus said...

oh wow, thanks for this. question: is there any reason why you couldn't use a diamond-tipped pointed drill bit? Do the cylindrical shapes reduce fracturing or something?
EtsyMetal is a wonderful blog. :)

Ashley said...

Romy, I think any diamond drill bit will work. I sometimes use the twist ones that are coated with diamonds too.

Cynthia Del Giudice said...

Wonderful information! Thank you Ashley and Victoria for sharing!

Victoria Takahashi said...

Im so happy this has been informative for you guys!
ALso I am so pleased you used the tutorial with success!!!!
woo hoo!

Maggie said...

I just wanted to let you know that I'm launching a new site that's a collection of different jewelry projects, www.AllFreeBeadedJewelry.com, and that I linked to this project:

I would like to know if I can link like this to you, including a photo, in the future. Or if you would be willing to allow me to post projects in full on the site - full credit will always be given to you, of course. It would be yet another source of traffic to your blog.

Please let me know, I would love to work with you further.
Maggie Kmiecik

Diamond Core Drill Bits said...

You have done a great job.. How do you get such cool ideas..

Anonymous said...

Can this technique be used for drilling clay/ceramic tiles as well?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about this, thanks for tip, have a lovely collection of pebbles from a beach I regularly visit! thanks

Unknown said...

Hi folks, David here from DVHdesigns. Beautiful work! I'm a lapidary artist and make custom cut focal beads from unusual stone and found objects. I've given classes in drilling holes in almost anything. Your advice is all very sound!

I recommend crystalite triple ripple diamond drill bits that one can buy from Indian Jewelers Supply for about $2 each. They are more expensive than the discount Chinese ones that you can get for $1 but they last longer because of the fluting. I swear by them.

Core drills are great if you want to make circular patterns in stone, but for drilling through they can be costly and less effective. It's easier and cheaper to make a 5mm hole by starting with a 2.1mm triple ripple (the largest size) and then enlarging it with a 4 or 5mm cone or bullet shaped diamond bur.

Regarding water, doing it underwater by "feel" is ok if one is doing a few pieces, but if one does a lot, I recommend a flow through system where the water flows in a small stream to your drill point and then is collected in a basin underneath and drains into a bucket where it can be recirculated. I made a simple set up with a bucket,a pond pump, some plastic tubing, and the bottom of a plastic box. Private message me if one would like to see pics and a schematic of my drilling set up.

You're both doing beautiful work! Love it. Have a great day!

Regards, David at DVHdesigns

Joan Hough said...

This is some really great jewelry. Not only is drilling stone so cool, but what you've done with them is beautiful. I always end up coming home from the beach or camping with stone that I just love the feel of. Now I know what to do with them. Thanks a lot.

sharijanewharton said...

I have been looking at your work - its brilliant - can you tell me what and how you get the silver tubular (don't know the technical term) in through the hole and what is it called x

Cool boy said...

I think this is the best blog I have been through all this day.
universal tile cutter

carol_ladouce47 said...

TY for sharing always wondered how it could be done. I live near the beach and I'm always coming across beautiful stones of all shapes n sizes. TY again

davidbaeley said...

It's a nice art. I liked it. Drilling machines can play vital role this type of art.

Victoria Takahashi said...

Thank you David Horst aka DVHdesigns for your input! I respect you, your art and your opinions! <3

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