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!
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. ;)
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!)
- 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!!
- 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!)
- 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.
Let’s Start Drilling!
- Put on your goggles.
- Firmly hold your beach stone on top of the piece of wood and just under the water.
- 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!
- 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. :)
- 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!!