How to Drill Pebbles
Pebble Art, as I like to call it, is becoming more and more popular as people find themselves appreciating natures treasures and the enjoyment of scavenging for things such as driftwood, beach stones, pebbles, sea glass and found bits of china.
In a time and age where we feel the need and desire to recycle and re-love old, used and found objects, Pebble Art has found it's place in many a professional jewellers repertoire and craft makers workshop.
With a small amount of equipment you too can begin to drill holes in small stones and pebbles and start to make jewellery, lamps, keyrings, succulent plant holders, mobile hangings, light pulls and decorative items for around the house. Why don't you follow along with me whilst I show you how it's done....
What You Will need:
- Pebble, beach stone or garden pebble.
- Marker pen or Chinagraph pencil
- Rotary tool such as a Dremel (I'm using a Dremel 3000), with Flexible Shaft (optional)
- Small Diamond Core Drill (I'm using a 2mm in these images)
- Collet or adjustable chuck such as the Dremel Multi Chuck that will hold the small diamond drill bits
- Shallow water dish such as a plastic food container or rectangular ice cream tub
- Piece of wood or rubber to rest your material on as you drill
- Safety goggles and mask
- Old cloth or tea towel to mop up any water or debris
Note: When you're picking out the right pebble to drill, to begin with try to opt for one that is solid in colour, rounded and thin, with no obvious flecks of white or tan coloured pieces in them. The flecks of white you see could be crystals of quartz and the pieces of tan colour could be flint. Both of which can be beasts to drill through! Often, as I've done many a time, you only discover there's flint running through the middle of the pebble once you've been drilling for about 30 minutes and you're still only halfway through making your hole.
However, don't be put off by drilling through these harder pebbles as all stone can be drilled through, you may just need a bit more time and possibly a couple of drill bits if it's really super tough.
If you've picked a thin, smooth stone it should take you less than a few minutes to make your hole.
Don't wait until you've gone on your summer holidays to look for your pebbles on the beach, other places to look are on driveways, in your garden, lake shores, streams and river beds. As with sea glass collecting, finding the pebbles can be just as fun as what you finally do with them.
What Size Diamond Drill Bit to Use
The size of the drill bit you choose to use will depend on what you'll be using the drilled pebble for. Have an idea in mind before you start your project as to what you will be doing with it once it's finished. For instance, if it's going to be a keyring, then you need to know the width of your keyring fitting to make sure you drill a big enough hole. As an idea, I tend to use mostly 1.5mm, 2mm and 3mm diamond core drills for jewellery work and hangings. If you need a larger hole than 3mm try a Bottle Neck Diamond Core Drill. These will also fit into your rotary tool.
If you've drilled your hole and then discover its not wide enough don't despair, you can always open it up further by using a diamond twist drill. These twist drills have diamond grit that is bonded vertically up the shank of the drill bit so they're perfect for expanding hole sizes that have already been created, grinding away at the insides of the hole to make the walls of your hole wider.
Step 1. Setting Up
- Mark your stone with your marker pen or chinagraph pencil where you wish the hole to be.
- Set up your water tray by placing your piece of wood or rubber into the tray, place your pebble on top and pour water in until the stone is covered by about 1cm of water.
- Select your drill bit and attach it into your Multi Chuck (see below video if need help with this). As mentioned before, ensure there is enough of the drill bit so that as you drill into the stone the water doesn't touch your chuck or any part of your drill.
Tip: It's possible to drill halfway through one side of the stone, flip it over and carry on drilling through the other side. If this is your preferred method then you will need to measure the stone to find out where the entrance and exit hole will be so that they line up.
To do this, take two pieces of cotton. Wrap the cotton around the stone so that they cross. Where the crosses meet on the top and underside of your stone, mark with your pen.
Before we start, lets make sure our working area is nice and clear, and free of any clutter. When using a drill always make sure there's nothing around that will get caught on your lead or that you could knock with your elbow, and no floaty arm sleeves or scarves please! If you have one, using a stand with a flexible shaft can help to keep things tidy and out of the way of your working area a little bit better.
It goes without saying that you should
always be extra vigilant when using water near a drill. On this
particular occasion I had my drill plugged into an extension lead that
comes with a safety thermal cut-out to prevent overheating.
Keep your old cloth or tea towel to hand to ensure your drill, working area and hands stays dry at all times. No touching electrical appliances with wet hands!
Furthermore, as you drill into your pebble make sure the drill bit is always far enough out of your chuck so that the chuck or drill doesn't touch the water.
And lastly, please wear your mask and goggles and make sure your working area is nicely ventilated.
Step 2. Drilling
- Whilst keeping your stone immersed in water and holding your stone either with your fingers (please be careful) or a clamp or vice of some kind, start your drill on it's slowest speed setting.
- Angle your drill at about 45 degrees and take the drill to your stone and make an initial cut (left image in the picture above). As soon as this cut has been made, slowly move your drill into a vertical position (top right image in the picture above) and continue to drill, always on the slowest speed setting and with very little pressure. Let the drill do the work. By drilling at an angle to make the initial cut this helps to prevent the drill bit from sliding and skittering across the surface of your stone.
- As you drill, occasionally move the drill bit up and down to let in some water. This will help the water flow in and around your stone and wash out any debris. This will also help to keep the drill bit and your stone cool. Overheating can cause the diamonds to dull or come off the drill bit and the stone to crack.
IMPORTANT: Please don't be tempted to speed up your drill or apply further pressure. Some pebbles will take a long time to drill through but speeding up the drill or applying more pressure will shorten the life of your drill bit by dulling or burning the diamond grit off. You will make a hole eventually, so patience is the key!
Note: If you are using the method whereby you flip the stone over and begin drilling again from the other side, do so once you've drilled about half way through and follow steps 1 to 3 again.
Note: The image in the above picture, bottom right hand corner, is to demonstrate how the hole will look after some drilling. This was a different stone and I used a 3mm diamond core drill.
Step 3. Finishing & Further Ideas
As I mentioned previously, if you discover the hole you've drilled isn't large enough you can expand the hole by using a diamond twist drill.
For further help on using diamond drill bits, you might like to read our article, 12 Things you Should Know about Diamond Drill Bits. All of your questions are answered here such as how long will my drill bits last? what is a core drill? Will they fit my drill? and lots, lots more.
If you've managed to drill some holes and you have the hang of it and would like to try something a little different, why not try carving a heart into your pebble. Click here to follow our easy tutorial.
Ideas for your drilled pebbles
- jewellery: necklaces, pendants, earrings and bracelets
- Mobile hangings. Mix pebbles with sea glass and driftwood for a coastal effect
- Lamp stands
- Garden sculptures
- Light pulls
- Door and cabinet knobs (drill the hole part the way through to attach the bolt)
- Tea light candle holders (drill part the way through the stone with a large diamond core drill)
- Air plant or succulent plant holders
Some of our customers inspiring work is shown in the above picture. From left to right is 'Heart Cairn' pebblestack pendant by Binks Edmunds of BinkArt, Pebble keyring by Driftwood Dreaming and earrings by Alek Lindus of Infinity Stop.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and I hope it inspires you to get creative and to start drilling! We would love to see any finished pictures of projects you've embarked on, please send them into us.