Drilling Through Glass

November 23, 2010

Remember the lights in the wine bottle? That idea has been stuck in my head and I’ve dying to try something similar. But I was intimidated to drill through glass. I’ve never done it before! So of course, I stopped at my local True Value to get the low-down on how it’s done (I adore my local store. It’s so easy to find someone to help.) I asked lots of questions. Do I need to buy a Dremel tool? How slow do I need to go? What drill bit is best?

The True Value guys said I could use the drill I already own, but that I should add a drill bit made specifically for glass and tile. They told me not to go full power on the drill and that I should think about it like “carving away the glass” instead of drilling through. Very helpful imagery for me.

So I gave it a try. Ben Blair took turns too. And it was a success! I used a 3/8″ bit — just right to fit a twinkle light through. I have a full DIY project in mind for this and will definitely share when I’m done, but in the meantime, I’m setting aside all the most-interesting bottles that come into our home.

What about you? Have you ever drilled through glass or tile?

P.S. — This is another project as a True Value Blog Squad Member. It’s been such a great way for me to try new tools and ideas. A big thanks to True Value for helping me make it happen.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carrie November 23, 2010 at 10:56 am

I’ve never drilled through glass or tile — totally intimidated. I did watch my dad drill through my newly-tiled bathroom to install a toilet paper holder, and it freaked me out because the drill threw off smoke, didn’t push through the tile very quickly, and because if he made a mistake, that was one expensive slab of tile (plus labor)! But your info here makes it seem a little more do-able. (Although I still would be scared to drill into freshly-installed kinda-pricey bathroom tile — thank goodness for my awesome dad!)

What safety precautions did you have to take? Eye protection? Looks like you were working over a towel or padding, too. Did you have to take temperature into account — like, can it be too cold to drill into glass? I’d love to know — I might get even LESS intimidated. Thanks for sharing, Gabrielle!

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2 judith November 23, 2010 at 11:13 am

I love it! We’re iced in today, kids home from school, and I have a crafty itch. I think I’ll try this.

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3 Cris Marsh November 23, 2010 at 11:25 am

I tried once before but stopped because I was intimidated. I ended up just bringing the extra cord over and down the backside of the bottle. A drilled hole would look much better… I will look forward to the tutorial.

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4 marcia at Child in Harmony November 23, 2010 at 11:35 am

Ohhh I am so happy you posted this! It’s something I have wanted to do but didn’t know how. I should have gone to the store to ask like you do. . . they LOVE to help :)
Thanks for sharing!

happy day!

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5 octaviaorca November 23, 2010 at 11:50 am

oh lordy! just drilled 5 glass globe vases for a chandelier… thought it as going to be much more dramatic and shrapnel-ey than it was. i say, drill baby, drill.

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6 Kelly@TearingUpHouses November 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I have! I’ve also drilled through a lot of plexi. I’ve had luck by bracing it between two pieces of wood.

Kelly

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7 amelia November 23, 2010 at 12:39 pm

hmmm, this has me thinking about all those baby food jars I have saved up because I feel bad about throwing such nice little jars away.

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8 Evelyn February 18, 2013 at 12:17 pm

To Amelia–Use for nice little baby food jars: small parts holder. I use mine in the garage for holding small screws, nails, etc., but could a use in office or kitchen.
Drill holes through jar tops–not the jars. Attach to 1″ x 6″ board appropriately spaced to screw two rows of jars onto. Mount under a shelf. Fill the jars with whatever, and screw onto tops.

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9 twirling betty November 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Oh my gosh – I CAN’T WAIT to see what you’re making. They already sound utterly fabulous and all you’ve got is a jar with a hole in it! Not that I mean to detract, in any way, from your holey bottle! I think you’re very brave and and totally inspiring to have done that. Bring on the gorgeous lit up stuff!

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10 Kristi November 23, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I’ve been holding on to tons of baby food jars waiting for inspiration to strike – consider it struck! Thanks

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11 kalanicut November 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm

I’m feeling incredibly inpatient to see what is to come of this project. Oh, hurry, hurry! ;)

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving with your sweet family! I give thanks for you and all your great inspiration!

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12 Michele Argue October 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Glad to hear you say it was easy. I noticed you did not cool the drill with water. I keep reading that is important to keep it cool. By the way, I LOVE the True Value guys. They are like hanging out with dad. So helpful and willing to listen to my “great ideas”.

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13 B Wyatt November 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

I have drilled through glass. If you put your bottle into a tub of water, or keep a stream of water on the spot that you are drilling, the drill bit will stay cool and not smoke, and will also prevent glass chips from flying around if it should break. I used my drimel, but using a drill sounds easier.

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14 JB April 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Yeah, you want to be careful mixing water with electricity though. You’re better off not using the water unless you want to risk an electric shock.

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15 Edyth McKissick November 14, 2011 at 11:56 am

I have made numerous lamps out of odd shaped wine bottles. I found that if you oil the drill bit (baby oil works), it goes faster and doesn’t get as hot. lots of fun and great results….really pretty gifts too.

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16 Pat Hetzler November 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I have used a ceramic drill bit to drill drainage holes in ceramic dishes and containers so they can be used for plants. The thrift stores usually have cute containers that can be purchased for next to nothing.

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17 4evermom December 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm

This reminds me of a project that was popular quite a few years back. In the jar add dry potpourri. Cover the top with a wrap of tulle. As the lights glow you will get a lovely scent.

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18 Mary July 5, 2012 at 9:32 pm

This is beautiful and smells nice, but it can be a fire hazard. A friend left hers on all night for a night light and it caught her house on fire. The fireman said the oil in the potpourri got too hot and melted the wires of the lights. If you make these, please be very cautious.

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19 Jolene February 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

As a glass artist, I would recommend using water to keep you drill bit cool. Keep a trickle going or immerse in water. Always use a diamond bit meant for glass. Nothing else will work. I use the fastest setting on my Dremel drill. Start at an angle and then straighten up so the drill bit doesn’t slip.

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20 tiff March 1, 2012 at 12:19 pm

i saw a picture of hanging bottles with plants growing out of the bottom and wondered how they cut off the end of the bottles (like wine bottles). it was a stunning patio decoration. any ideas of how to do it? i’ll hunt that picture….

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21 Loretta June 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Tiff – I watched a video on youtube, where the woman demonstrated how she used cotton yarn, soaked in fingernail polish. Do a search for cutting glass and you should find it. – I have not tried it yet.

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22 Teresa January 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Not sure if you’ve tried the yarn and nail polish routine, but I did….numerous attempts that all failed. Hope you have better luck than I did. I’m going to look for a glass cutter and avoid the aggravation. Good luck!

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23 Barb Stokes March 7, 2013 at 10:38 am

Kiddos – please don’t to the fire & yarn thing ! dangerous! I bought from eBay, the Generation Green?? G2 bottle cutter – LOVE it ! nearly flawless, makes great score (round bottles only!) – and with hot & cold water – Poof ! Cost about $25 , made that back on first couple of wind chimes I sold !

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24 Cheryl May 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I use a glass cutter. Look up on amazon bottle glass cutters. Once the glass is etched (it doesn’t really cut the bottle through) you then pour boiling water and then cold water. Takes a while to get the hang of it. Using the yarn/fire is not very safe.

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25 Stephanye March 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

This link is to that picture of the bottles with plants growing out the bottom. I just found it on my FB wall.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/432151_318682981521880_100001405410731_893015_1350129643_n.jpg

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26 Kirsten March 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I have tried one time with broken results. I have a diamond tipped bit for tile and glass (3/8″) and I tried to drill a hole in the bottom of a very large mason jar. The glass is very thick at this point. I used a 1″x1″ stick of wood on the inside for support. Everything went fine for a while, I had a hole that was funnel shaped – smaller on the inside than the outside. As I tried to drill so the hole was cylindar shaped (the glass was thicker then the bit was long?), the jar broke. I have not tried again. Any suggestions?

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27 Robyn April 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm

What about drilling through old China plates? I’ve seen tiered cake plates made from old china and would love to use Granny’s old set but would hate to use the wrong bit and break a treasured plate. Fun stuff!

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28 Genoa October 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Check out some thrift shops and find some China to to practice on. A tiered cake/cupcake display made from Granny’s old china would look GREAT!

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29 Peggy February 5, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Robyn, I have made several tiered plates using adhesive, plates, glass candle sticks. They are lovely. Check out Garden Whimseys by Mary.

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30 Bernadette Penn September 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

Ok, at the risk of sounding dumb, do you pull the string of lights through the hole?

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31 Karen September 11, 2012 at 6:59 pm

If you take window glazing and form it into a little worm and press it lightly into a circle around where you are going to drill, you can add a small amount of water and it will keep the drill bit cool until you get the whole through the glass.

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32 Debbie L. September 28, 2012 at 9:51 am

Awesome information and tips from comments. My sister and I are making planters from old glass light fixtures, but they don’t drain, so we were just looking into how to drill through glass. So glad I found your site!

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33 Rita DeCook November 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

yes, I have been doing it for a few months now. I use a 5/8″ hollow drill bit (one that when it cuts it leaves a plug). Have made several, with some painted using Gallery Glass and some spray painted, then decorated.

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34 Donna H November 14, 2012 at 2:39 pm

For safety sake and to save your drill bit, place a towel in the bottom of your sink, then place your wine bottle in the sink, fill your sink with water just until the bottle is covered. Using a battery operated drill (NOT Electric) and using a carbide glass drill bit, slowly drill your bottle or glass item. I have drilled over 200 wine bottles with this method and only broke a few. I do not use the glass diamond head drill bit as it is more likely to break your bottle because when you drill through the bottle it will hit the other side and because of the point it breaks the bottle. I get my carbide glass drill bits from Harbor Freight on line. Hope this helps and answers some of your questions. Here is the link:
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=32400

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35 R Gillooly December 1, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Seems like some years back they were making vases out of bottles and they sold kits. Does anyone remember that? They cut the bottles with fluoride. I need to make a hole in bottle .. Where can I buy fluoride. Have any of you tried this?? Vivy

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36 soubriquet February 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

I think you’re thinking of hydrofluoric acid. It is very, very nasty stuff, using a drill is much safer.

http://safety.uchicago.edu/pp/labsafety/hydrofluoric_acid.shtml

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37 JAMIE ARNOLD December 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

my question… did anyone mention a mask… from not breathing in glass dust… i am wanting to cut glass…but fear dust in my lungs.. or is this not a concern..?

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38 Nanelle Adams February 1, 2013 at 10:32 am

I remember kits that were sold in craft shops to cut the bottoms off of old wine bottles. I don’t know if they still sell them, but would like to find a source.

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39 Lindsey February 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Fantastic ideas here! I was hoping one of you may help me with mine, I’m working with round bottom lab flasks (boiling flasks) and cant cut them with the string method. I’m really not dying to cut the glass because it’s so pretty, but I hope to make a light fixture, any glass cutting suggestions? I have plenty to play around with.

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40 Elizabeth September 20, 2013 at 11:42 am

Another site suggested putting a piece of duct tape over the site to start. That way the drill bit won’t slip as much, and it cuts down on the dust. Haven’t tried it, but am dying to!

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