You may need to occasionally drill into glass for a craft project or a repair around the home. Fortunately, this is a simple, quick project that most crafters and homeowners can do with just a drill, a special type of drill bit, and plenty of water.
Basics of Drilling a Hole in Glass
Drilling into wood or plastic is a familiar project for many people. Other than adjusting for the hardness of the material, this is a straightforward task. Drilling into glass is different because the speed of the drill must be kept slow to control the temperature. If the glass gets too hot, it may break. In addition, starting the hole can be tricky since the drill bit has a tendency to skitter across the surface.
A continuous stream of water on the surface helps lower the temperature of the drill bit and the glass. An assistant can carefully pour a thin stream of water over the surface as you drill. Or you can use a plastic jug that leaks a steady stream of water, as described in this project.
Purchase a carbide-tipped drill bit for the best results.
Drilling into glass is hazardous. Be sure to wear safety glasses, gloves, and a dust mask at all times. Glass dust is very harmful, so never breathe it in, and keep it off of your skin. The constant flow of water will help hold down the glass dust and wash it away.
Equipment / Tools
- Cordless drill
- Eye protection
- Carbide drill bit
- Plumber's putty
- Empty plastic jug
Pad the Glass Before Drilling
Depending on your type of clamp, you may need additional padding between the clamp and the glass. If you are drilling flat glass, it must be supported from below.
Clamp the Glass
When clamping the glass, do so very gently.
Form a Dam With Plumber's Putty
Scoop out a ball of plumber's putty about 1-inch in diameter. By hand, roll it out so that it is about 1/4-inch wide and 3 inches long. Form a circle. Stick this circle on the glass.
Create a Continuous Water Source
Fill an empty, clean plastic milk jug with cool water. Cap the jug. Use a push pin to pierce the side of the jug, near the bottom. Keep the pushpin in the jug, for now, to prevent the water from flowing out.
Aim the Water Toward the Drilling Area
Move the glass material into position. Remove the pushpin. A thin stream of water should flow. Aim the water so that it hits the center of the plumber's putty dam.
Ensure That the Dam Spills to the Side
While the dam will fill up and flow over the sides, it is helpful to lightly press your finger into one side of the dam to create a flow in one direction.
Begin Drilling Into the Glass
Chuck the carbide drill bit into the cordless drill. Place the end of the bit on the drilling spot. Gently press the drill trigger so that the bit slowly rotates. Drilling at high speed will cause the bit to move away from the drill spot.
If it is difficult to get the hole started, remove the plumber's putty dam and tape a small square of cardboard on the glass. Drill through the cardboard; this helps to steady the drill bit. Then, put the dam back on and resume drilling.
Pierce the Glass With the Drill
Frequently dump out the water and check the progress of the drilling. Be patient. Drilling a 1/4-inch hole into thick glass such as a wine bottle can take about ten minutes. Toward the end, ease back on the drill.
Tips For Drilling a Hole Into Glass
- Keep the glass cool at all times.
- Continually flowing water, much like a wet tile saw, is better for keeping glass cool than compressed air. The water helps keep the glass dust contained.
- Curved glass can be drilled with a hand drill. But if you have a drill press, this will make the project easier.
- Always run the drill slowly.
- Breakage occurs when you drill too fast, move from hot to cold quickly (or vice-versa), or fail to support the back.
- Certain types of thinner glass do not drill well and tend to break.
- Small items can be drilled while submerged in water.