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How To Drill Small Beach Stones

Want to learn how to drill holes in beach stones?

Well, I’ve got good news for you: drilling small river stones is easy and I’m happy to tell you how it’s done!

Slate Petals river stone statement necklace by Jenny Hoople of Authentic Arts

Slate Petals river stone statement necklace by Jenny Hoople

I had been making this Natural Stone Jewelry for several months with pre-drilled stones that I purchased from fellow Etsy artisans. It took a little bit of internet research and guessing to figure out the best way to go about drilling my own, indigenous Wisconsin stones. Some sites said one thing, some said another.

I took the best advice from several different sources and did some experimenting and found that drilling my own, small river rocks is not only possible, but pretty easy! I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people asking how to drill their own stones and I’d be more than happy to share with you :)

Choosing the Right Stone for Drilling

Almost any stone that you find CAN be drilled, but I recommend starting with softer, sedimentary rocks (sandstone, mudstone, limestone, etc). If a pebble you find on the beach isn’t rounded like the other ones around it, that’s a good clue that it’s a harder igneous or metamorphic rock that would take a loooong long time to drill.

Other ways to tell if a rock is too hard to drill is by checking whether you can see crystals in the stone or whether the stone is shiny or glossy like quartz (ah, those magical wishing stones of my childhood!) Sedimentary rocks will be much easier to drill, so start with those. But, don’t worry if you can’t tell what kind of rock it is. If it takes significantly longer to drill than the other pebbles, it’s probably igneous or metamorphic. ;)

Igneous rocks that would be hard to drill, better to start with sedimentary!

Igneous rocks that would be hard to drill, better to start with sedimentary!

Smooth sedimentary stones are easy to drill for jewelry making!

Smooth sedimentary stones are easy to drill for jewelry making!

Equipment You Need to Drill Your Own Beach Stones

  • High speed rotary tool – (ie. a Dremel. I got the Dremel 4000, high performance, I figure that since drilling stone is heavy duty work, it’s a good idea to have a heavy duty tool!)
  • Hollow, diamond-tipped coring bits (I use the 2.5mm bit) – These are much faster and effective for drilling holes in pebbles than a solid drill bit. There’s also less chance that you’ll break the stone when drilling and it’s much much faster! Not only do solid drill bits drill more slowly, you’d need to drill a small hole and then change to an ever larger bit until you widened the hole to the diameter that you wanted. Ridiculous! For drilling holes in small beach pebbles to use in jewelry, a 2.5mm diameter hollow coring bit works well. The bits they sell that are officially for Dremels are way too expensive, you can buy economically priced 2.5mm bits here on Amazon (affiliate link) or you can get higher end bits from Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. (Note that the bits wear out pretty quickly, so don’t feel weird buying a 10-pack, you’ll use them!)
Diamond-tipped hollow coring bit for drilling holes in river stones.

Diamond-tipped hollow coring bit for drilling holes in river stones.

  • Dremel Collet Nut – The Dremel rotary tool comes with a Collet Nut (that’s the thing that holds the drill bit in place) but the 2.5mm coring bit is a different size, so you’ll need a Collet Nut that’s the right diameter. If you don’t have time to run out to the hardware store, you can get a set of collet nuts for your dremel here (affiliate link). The larger sizes in the set will come in handy for all the other projects you dream up to use theDremel for. It can do so many things, my next experiment will be engraving poems on stones!!
You'll need to buy a set of collet nuts (only one size comes with the dremel tool!) - affiliate link

You’ll need to buy a set of collet nuts (only one size comes with the dremel tool!)

  • Small plastic container – This is to hold a little water so you can drill your beach stone under water. Drilling underwater cools off the bit and lubricates everything which will make the drilling go faster, keep your stone from heating up and keep those little diamond crumbs from getting ground off of the drill bit too quickly. I like to use the little plastic container that my lunch meat came in (cleaned out and sans lunch meat, of course!)

    When drilling tiny rocks, I use a 1.25mm drill bit and hold the stone between my fingers like this.

    When drilling tiny rocks, I use a 1.25mm drill bit and hold the stone between my fingers like this.

  • Little Piece of Wood – Like a shim or what have you, to place under your river stone so that you don’t drill through the bottom of your water container!
  • Goggles – Please always wear goggles when drilling! I always wear them even though I’ve got glasses. Real danger is minimal, it’s not like there are *usually* shards of rock shooting out all over the place, but it’d be a shame to lose your eyesight over some natural beach stone jewelry! Better safe than sorry!!
  • Rocks – Yes, don’t forget your beach stones, river rocks or what have you! Small (~1″) pebbles are ideal. It’s easier to make river rock necklaces when the stones are small and thin (~1/4″ thick). That way they lay next to each other better.

humpback-whale-rock-with-lichen

Let’s Start Drilling!

  1. Put on your goggles.
  2. Firmly hold your beach stone on top of the piece of wood and just under the water.
  3. Turn on the Rotary Tool with your other hand and hold it perpendicular to the pebble. – Please be careful when working with the Rotary Tool around water! Don’t get any part of the tool wet that’s not absolutely necessary and don’t grasp the tool with wet hands. To make it safer to use the dremel around water, you should get a GFCI adapter that plugs into a regular outlet. Short Circuit was a great movie, but it’s less great when it happens to your precious rock drilling equipment!

    How to drill beach stones using a dremel.

    This is the way I hold the dremel for drilling the stones!

  4. Begin Drilling. – Let the weight of the tool do the drilling for you. Be sure to periodically lift the drill up and down. (This lets cooling water get into the hole and helps the sediment from the stone to flow out.) The water will get cloudy, that’s ok, just keep drilling. :)
  5. You’ll feel when it breaks through to the other side. You’re done! – With these small beach stones, I’ve found that drilling one takes about a minute. (I’m sure it’ll be faster when I’m not so new at it!)

The only way that I alter the stones other than drilling a hole in them is to rub them with the residue left on my hands after I’ve rubbed in some unscented hand lotion (after the stones are dry, of course!). That helps to condition the stones so that the natural oils from your skin won’t leave uneven dark spots and enriches the natural color of the stone so they aren’t all dusty looking. After the lotion has some time to be absorbed by the stone, any excess should be wiped off with a clean, dry towel so you don’t have to worry about whether it will mark your clothing with an oil spot!

Now get out there and start making some fabulous beach stone creations! Good luck everyone, Happy Crafting!!

If you’re not feeling up to making your own jewelry just yet, stop by my online shop and buy a one of a kind piece of river stone jewelry to tide you over (pun most certainly intended!!)

Natural stone jewelry by Jenny Hoople of Authentic Arts

Natural stone jewelry by Jenny Hoople

If you’re not feeling up to making your own jewelry just yet, stop by my online shop and buy a one of a kind piece of river stone jewelry to tide you over (pun most certainly intended!!)

Posted in: Arts and Crafts Tutorials, Authentic Living

121 Comments

  • After seeing your post on how to drill beautiful beach stones, my husband bought me my first Dremel today! Now to order the diamond-tipped coring bit. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this art with everyone.

  • I am having a hard time getting started dremmel told me they didn’t carry a 2.5mm hollow coring bit. Lowes and home depot do not. I was the 150 caller in line to place an order with Rio Grande,, I live on lake Ontario and have a tone of nice stones I would like to try and drill a few holes in stones to start a hobby at age 72 Thank You Vic Mason

    • Sorry you’re having trouble ordering drill bits Vic! I order mine online through rio grande, never tried by phone before. I don’t know what else to tell you except good luck with ordering and with your new hobby!

    • Dear Mr Mason, There is a company named Contenti out of Rhode Island that I believe offers these bits item # 201-325. They also carry diamond twist drill bits I use on sea glass and stones when in need of a smaller diameter hole is necessary. I hope this helps. Dee from High o Silver in Maine

  • Instructions very helpful thankyou. Mel

  • I live Here in the kingdom of Denmark on an island called Samsø (also spelled Samsoe).
    DO you coat your pebbles/Stones with anything before making a piece of jewelry ?
    I ask because, i think that the natural fat that people have on their fingertips would or could discolor
    the stones. how to prevent this ! I can not find any useful infomation on the internet.
    Thanks, Greetings from Jonathan Sandberg

    • Hi Jonathan! Either I rub the stones with a light coating of neutral, scent-free moisturizing lotion to give them a natural sheen that would only be enhanced by natural body oils, or I wear the stones as-is and then if they get dark oil spots on them from being worn next to the body, I wash them with gentle soap and water.

      The smoother the stone, the better it looks with a coating of natural oil! It can really bring out the subtle colors :)

  • Is this tool battery or mains driven? If mains is there nota real risk of electrical shock or worse if it slips when drilling in water ?

  • Would you know what a small stone with a stripe of a different colored stone through it is called?
    Thanks!

    • No special name for it Karen :) rock types are all about igneous (volcanic, you can see crystals in it), metamorphic (regular rocks pressed and heated under great pressure) or sedimentary (laid down by rivers or oceans or wind). Everything else is just the details of how it happened :)

  • I’m using some thicker, 3/4″ to 1″ thick, polished rocks and will need two holes minimum in each rock. Can you advise me on the complexity of drilling thicker rocks after the rocks are polished and how to determine which rocks are likely to break under certain conditions? Also, do you know a source for identifying rocks that is as wonderful as your complete and easy to follow instructions?
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I am so grateful. I really like your jewelry!

    • Hello Anne :) Something I’ve done when a rock is thicker is drill through it halfway and then mark with a pencil where to drill on the other side and drill the rest of the way. Sorry I can’t be more help than that! Good luck!!

  • how do you hold the rocks in place

  • I know this is off topic, but am wondering if you ever write on pebbles? I’ve tried painting with a fine brush, using black acrylic paint – leaves a wide mark; I can never get it fine. Tried a few different marker pens, including Sharpies, but they only work for one or two pebbles then won’t continue writing. Any suggestions of what really will work would be most appreciated.

    • Hi Lorraine :) No I haven’t painted on rocks, but I would be willing to bet that acrylic paint also chips off easily. Why don’t you try a really fine brush with some india ink?

  • Love it [them]. You need a ‘pinterest button’ on your site so we can share with others. Thank you–you’ve polished off my Christmas list for me.

  • Stephanie Boismenue

    Beautiful jewelry and thank you for the terrific instructions. I’m in Northern WI and spend a great deal of time rock picking on both the lake I live on and Lake Superior. My collection is large and have lots of beautiful rocks to choose from. Excited to get started.

  • I would like to start a small jewellery business, but the Dremel 4000 is awfully expensive, and so are the coring bits. Do you have any other recommendations?
    I am also getting a set of bead reamers for stone, glass and ceramic. Would these work on pebbles? I would also like to use sea glass. Would a drill work on this?
    Thanks,
    Ollie

  • Thanks so much for taking the time to share these steps and answer questions. I’ve been a rock hound since I was a kid and can’t wait to start making things out of all the pebbles I’ve collected through the years. SO glad I found your blog!

  • Thank you for the tips!Your jewelry is beautiful!

  • Thank you for all your tips and the time you tak to answer us. Where do,you,find most of your rocks, beaches, rivers, ocean, streams etc?

    • I find most of them on lake shores :) The bigger the lake, the better the rocks :D I bet the ocean would have some nice rocks, too, but as I live in the center of the country, the Great Lakes are my ocean!

  • great tutorials, still searching for one on wire wrapping stones/rocks

  • Hello thank you for sharing this information, I am looking for the best place to purchase small basalt jewelry stones and beads if you could suggest a online store please.

  • Wonderfull tutorial, Iv’e been wanting to do this for ages.I don’t normally leave comments but I really love it when people go to a great deal of trouble to find out how to produce things and then, out of the goodness of their hearts share it with the rest of us. Thank you what a kind lovely person you are.

  • Beautiful jewelry. I used to be a tool demonstrator for Dremel and have a lot of experience with them. I’ve etched glass(mugs,wine glasses,vases,etc.)and I’ve done quite a bit of wood carving as well. I enjoyed your tutorial and intend to try the stones. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wow! My husband just found your blog and sent your tutorial to me! I am so jazzed to see the tutorial. I just have to order the bits. I had gone to a local class in drilling and they used the solid bits. The hollow one makes so much more sense! Thanks for your tutorial! I have so many collected beach stones and shells (I live in California but have been a collector since childhood) that I occasionally wire wrap into beautiful one of a kind necklaces and earrings. Now I will be able to expand my jewelry making if I have the patience to drill a lot!

  • Hola, soy de León Gto. México, y me encantaría saber donde puedo encontrar esta herramienta para perforar piedras, en cada viaje que realizo a la playa siempre cargo con un montón de piedras, pero nunca se me había ocurrido la perforación. Excelente idea, Felicidades

    • Hola Alejandra! Mi esposo es de Salvatierra, Gto!! Le dije que vamos a Leon este envierno cuando estamos visitando para buscar piedras :D Donde esta la playa donde vayas (si no te importa compartir!!)

      Estoy segura que la herramienta lo puedes encargar de Amazon.com para envio a mexico :)

  • Thanks for the tutorial. Just came home from Slaughter Beach DE with a bunch of “Tumbled by God” pebbles and stones. I’m having fun doing some wire wrapping. But a lot are very tiny stones and I want to drill them. I AM concerned about one hand in WATER and the other on my very old Dremel, which is plugged in to ELECTRICITY!!
    Really?? I’m a bit hesitant to try that. I beat cancer twice, but electricity (including lightning!) does put a bit of fear into this gal. :)

    • Hi Sharyn! You can buy an adapter for your outlet called a GFCI adapter (ground fault interrupter), then you don’t have to worry about electric shocks :)

  • Hi,
    It’s a while since you wrote your tutorial. Have you changed anything that has made it easier? I have tried drilling but never seem to get near enough the edge of the stone.

    Any more tips?

    I love your jewellery. Thanks for the tutorial.

    • Hi Helen! I updated the post within the last month :) If it’s not drilling through what’s probably happening is the stone is too hard or the drill bit it too worn. Or both ;) There are some stones that I start drilling and never finish because they take so long and are just ridiculous :)

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