How to Drill Pebbles and small beach or garden stones by Eternal Tools
Disclaimer. Using rotary tools near water has never been, to the best of our knowledge, endorsed by any of the rotary tool manufacturers. If you do choose to drill near water or with attachments under water connected to your drill then you do so at your own risk. Please be aware that mixing electricity and water can be very dangerous.
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 and pottery.
In a time and age where we feel the need and desire to recycle and re-love old, used and found objects, Pebble Art and the knowledge of how to drill holes in beach stones has found it's place in many a professional jewelers skills set, 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, key rings, 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), but you can also use a solid ended Small Diamond Drill Bit (great for really hard pebbles)
- 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
Choosing A Good Pebble to Drill
This may sound odd, but choosing the right pebble to drill through can make the difference from drilling for 40 minutes or drilling for 2 minutes.
When you're picking out the right pebble to drill, 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.
- Solid in colour
- Round and thin
- No flecks of white or tan
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.
You may wish to try the small diamond drill bits. These drill bits have a solid end and therefore more surface area so they're ideal for particularly hard stone and you may find on flint pebbles these last longer than the core drills.
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're at the experimental stage why not try a Diamond Drill Bits Set for your Dremel, which is mentioned above under the list of what you will need. This little kit contains the Dremel Multi Chuck, along with a variety of 4 diamond drill bits.
If you've drilled your hole and then discover it is not wide enough, don't despair, you can always expand the hole size 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.
- Measure the diameter of the fitting or thread that will be going through your stone
- Choose a popular drill bit size
- Buy an assortment of drill bit sizes in a set
- Expand the hole if necessary with a diamond twist drill
Step 1. Setting Up
1. Mark your stone with your marker pen or chinagraph pencil where you wish the hole to be.
2. 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.
3. Select your drill bit and attach it into your Multi Chuck (see the below video if you need help with this). As mentioned before, ensure there is enough of the drill bit exposed so that as you drill into the stone the water doesn't touch your chuck or any part of your drill.
Helpful Tip: It is 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.
This method is ideal if the depth or thickness of your pebble or stone is bigger than the length of the drill bit. Our 3mm extra long diamond drill bits will also solve this problem.
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 in 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.
Warning. 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.
- Clear the area
- No floaty sleeves or flowing scarves
- Vigilance near water
- Safety Goggles
Step 2. Drilling
1. Whilst keeping your stone immersed in the 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 will be answered in this article 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.
To add a natural polish to your stone, use a dab of Beeswax.
How to Drill A Hole in A Rock
The principle and method is exactly the same as above, except that you will need to use a larger sized diamond core drill bit. See the below notes for drilling a 'blind hole' for something such as a candle holder or a plant holder.
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 38mm large diamond core drill. See the helpful note below on drilling stones to make tea light candle holders.
- Air plant or succulent plant holders
Helpful Note: Tea Light Candle Holders can be made by using a 42mm diamond core drill. or the diameter size of your chosen tea light.
Have a read of our article : 'How to Make a Beautiful Stone Tea Light Candle Holder in 4 Easy Steps'
1. Drill halfway through the stone, or enough to sit your tea light into. You will be left with a core.
2. Using a smaller core drill, say a 10mm, drill the core away with many smaller holes until the core is broken down.
3. With a diamond cylinder burr, smooth the inside edges and the bottom of the hole where your tea light will sit to give a nice professional finish. A diamond disc burr would also be good to use for the bottom to grind away and smooth, but if you are on a budget then the cylinder burr will do both.
4. Sit your tea light into the stone and enjoy a candle lit dinner.
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.
Below is a beautiful piece done by James The Jeweller. The hole has been drilled into the pebble and a silver bail attached.
Take a look below at a workbench set up for drilling holes in agate using our Small Diamond Drill Bits:
"These were good for drilling holes in agate. I used a water bath - plastic container with plywood on the bottom (so I would not drill through the plastic) and agate piece on the ply with the water just covering the agate. The drill was connected to a circuit breaker just in case. It worked just fine and my partner can now get on with her project"
Using the core of your drilled pebble
I'm all up for recycling and using every last scrap of my material if possible, and some of the best bits from the process of our work is often cast aside, forgotten about, or worse - binned!
Ordinarily, diamond core drills are used to create a hole in glass, ceramic or stone. However, many artists and scientists use them to extract the core of the drill bit rather than make the hole.
If you use the diamond core drill bits to make a hole, have you ever thought about doing something snazzy with those little bits of core debris that are left?
Alek Lindus from Infinity Stop makes beautiful jewellery from the natural resources around her. Once she's drilled the hole in her pebble with a 4mm or 5mm diamond core drill she then collects the little bits of core and re-drills them using a 1.25mm drill bit to make stone Seed beads.
Carving a Design Into your Pebble
More on this can be seen in the following article: How to Carve Hearts in Pebbles and Sea Glass.
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.