Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How To Make Sea Glass Jewelry

Drilling Sea Glass

So many people ask me how to drill sea glass that I thought I would simplify things and provide the following information. This is not meant to be instructional – this is just how I do it. If you want to pursue drilling sea glass then I advise consulting with a jewelry supply company such as Rio Grande for safety information etc.
When I first moved to Rincon, Puerto Rico in 1987 there were already a few jewelry artist there that had been making sea glass jewelry since the 1960's. However, none of them worked with drilled sea glass. Although they did not make their living from sea glass jewelry and made different types of jewelry I chose to drill in deference to them. This way my sea glass jewelry designs would be totally original.
When drilling sea glass it is important to keep two things in mind – speed and temperature. If the drill speed is too high then the sea glass could heat up and shatter. I keep the glass cool in a cooling bath. I place the sea glass on a piece of a kitchen sponge that is in a shallow plastic ice cream lid with just enough water in it to cover the sea glass. Only the drill bit tip is immersed. I use a flex shaft with diamond coated drill bits.
Once half way through I turn the sea glass over and drill through from the other side to prevent the drill hole from chipping. I am meticulous when it comes to rinsing the sea glass well and frequently wipe down my work area. I always wear safety glasses. Although no dust is generated because the sea glass is drilled under water I still wear a dust mask.
I have never shattered a piece of sea glass but have used poor judgement and drilled too close to the edge. I do not drill sea glass pieces that appear to have come from a car window. These pieces are usually cube shaped. When drilled they split right in half. If they don't at first then they do eventually. It reminds me of an egg hatching.

Drilling Seashells

Occassionaly I use beach found seashells in my jewelry. Beach found means that the seashell was found on the beach abandoned by the animal. I never take live seashells. The dust generated by drilling seashells is very dangerous to inhale. To drill seashells I use a deeper plastic dish and place the drill bit in the drill at the very end of the drill bit so it is long enough for the deeper water. I change the water frequently when I drill seashells. It is a painstaking process but well worth the precautions.