Drilling Holes in Polymer Clay Beads for Your Jewelry Projects

Polymer Clay Bead Holes

“People laugh at me when I tell them one of my favorite tools is the drill press.” ~Arlene-H

There are so many ways to put a hole in your polymer clay beads. And the nice thing is, they’re all easy to do!

You can pierce your beads with a pin while the clay is still raw, such as the one in the photo above. Or you can drill through them after they are baked, using a dremel tool or a drill bit. Polymer clay is such a soft material to work with, that you won’t have any difficulty making holes in your beads.

Several articles have already been written on how to drill holes in your polymer clay beads with tips and tricks for making it easy. The following is a list of those bead drilling articles for you to read and learn from:

So which method do you prefer when making holes in your polymer clay beads? Do you usually pierce them while the clay is still raw? Or do you drill after they have been baked? Comment or ask your questions below.

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor

  1. Elizabeth, 03 September, 2009


    Thanks for the good review. For me, it is often the most basic step, which if done incorrectly, can ruin an otherwise successful project.

    As always thank you for the wonderful teaching. I fired up the Gerbera Flower Cane video yesterday and actually made one as I watched, stopping and rewinding as I needed to until I finished all the steps. It felt like you were right here–it was very cool (and my cane is, too).

    Glad you had a restful and renewing vacation!

  2. Freda, 03 September, 2009

    Mostly I pierce the clay after making the bead, but some I want to drill after. I have become good at using my hubby’s drill press, but sometimes I have to get him down there to show me something I haven’t done before.

  3. Ken H., 03 September, 2009

    It depends on the size of the bead, I had to put holes last night in 6mm beads, the last batch I ruined because the beads are so small the drill bit went crooked through the bead, so this time I stuck the beads in the freezer for about 5 mins and then using the pin path provided in the bead roller I used, dipped the pin in corn starch and put the holes in before hand, but I usually drill after they’re baked

  4. Arlene Harrison, 03 September, 2009

    First I would like to say thank you for the hint/discussion about how to hand roll round beads. For a long time I relied on my bead rollers which do a great job – however when you are working with millefiori, it tends to distort your canes. So, I tried rolling by hand and amazingly enough it worked!!! So – thank you. Now on to the question at hand…

    After I roll my beads by hand, I let them sit for a while to firm up. I then use my smallest knitting needle – which is actually only a tiny bit bigger around than the piercing pins that come with the bead rollers. I visually center the knitting needle on the top of the bead and press through — making sure to go all the way to through. I do this on each one. I then thread the beads on the knitting needle, except I go to the “bottom” of the hole and come back through. This keeps me from having little eruptions on one side of my bead (the voice of experience!!!). I line the beads up to make sure they are all centered well. If they are not, I re-roll and re-pierce. I’ve gotten pretty good at centering (grin)! Then I bake them on the knitting needle.

    Bead Hole Drill Bits by Arlene Harrison

    If I’m stringing or wiring the beads, this size hole is generally large enough. However if I want to go larger, I have a set of four drill bits in increasingly larger sizes that I use to enlarge the hole. The largest hole I generally have need of is large enough to run two 2mm cords through. It is important that you move up incrementally with the drill bits. If you try to go from a small hole to a large one in one step, you may get chip-out around the hole which is NOT pretty!

    I’ve found this method works well with all the beads that I work with, regardless of size or shape.

  5. Arlene Harrison, 03 September, 2009

    We had a discussion about bead piercing on another group that I participate in, the Polymer Clay Artists Guild of Etsy, so that’s why I have this laid out the way it is. We were discussing how to get the holes bigger without destroying the bead.

  6. Carrie, 03 September, 2009

    I do about half and half of piercing raw and using my Dremel to drill after. Sometimes when I know I’ll need a larger hole, I pierce it raw with a pin and then use that hole as a guide for using a larger drill bit. It makes it harder to ruin the bead if you follow that hole!

  7. aims, 03 September, 2009

    Well I’ve got a question to add to Cindy’s. If you are using an electric tool to pierce them after they are baked – how do you hold them? In your hand? Or do you have a little setup designed to keep them from getting away. Does anyone struggle with weak hands from carpal tunnel and worry about hurting themselves holding the bead while drilling?

    So many questions – so little time to make beads and pierce them!

  8. Ken H., 03 September, 2009

    I use my fingers. I don’t know how many times I’ve ended up with a tiny drill bit in my fingertip, but alas we all have to suffer for our art. :oP

  9. Ritzs, 03 September, 2009

    Hi aims I to have very bad hands but if i need to use the drill i have a very larg pair of tweezers that i put a piece of plastic tube on each side so i dont damage the bead and then hold the bead with them it works good i have also seen plastic tweezers but cant remember were

  10. Freda, 03 September, 2009

    I have two blocks of steel that I can set the bead in and a lever that pushes them together and another that then tightens it up. It stays steady while I drill. Can you tell that my husband is a tool and die maker?

  11. Catalina, 03 September, 2009

    I’m not allowed to play with “real” tools, I’ve been known to almost slice off two fingers with an exacto knife! (Yes, an old graphic arts injury – my first job, too!) Haven’t tried to drill holes, but I do ok with making them on raw clay. Sometimes I prefer the irregular look when you pierce raw clay.

    Freda, you got it good with your own Tool and Die Maker! Drilling without hand holding sounds good to me.

    I almost bought a rock driller. But, I wasn’t sure where I would put another tool. And, yes, I get a little lazy if I have to get up and get something not within my reach. :) (My dog doesn’t fetch either!)

  12. Laurel, 04 September, 2009

    @Cat: How funny. My husband also will only let me work with the most benign power tools. I always cut, stab, crush myself. He won’t even let me paint a wall in the house anymore because I am soooo sloppy with the paint. I am glad to know I am not the only one who has “power” issues. LOL

    @Ritzs: What a great idea for holding the beads. I would drill right through my hand if I tried it the way Ken does. He is obviously way more coordinated than I am. But I am going to try your idea Ritzs. Thanks for the tip.

  13. Ken H., 04 September, 2009

    @ Laurel

    I have put the bit into my finger a few times, it’s just that it doesn’t stop me (either stubborn, stupid or both). I’m going to try using the rubber fingertips from someplace like OfficeMax or the likes and see if that give me a better grip or just hinders my dexterity.

  14. Cindy Lietz, 04 September, 2009

    @Elizabeth: Thank you so much for your comment. That means a lot to me! Glad to hear your Gerbera flower cane turned out so cool! That is awesome!

    @Freda, Ken and Ritzs: Cool tips!

    @Arlene: Wow!! Thanks for the photo and tips! I am sure everyone here loved seeing them!

    @aims: I wouldn’t drill your beads with a power drill unless you have something to hold it with. Unlike Ken I mind a LOT if I drill into my fingers! If you put pilot holes in your beads with a bead wire, it is easy to drill them bigger by hand with a drill bit in a polymer clay handle.

    @Catalina and Laurel: It is not really necessary to drill your beads with power anyway, so there’s no need to worry your husbands by trying! lol (Don’t get intimidated by tools though. Sometimes they can make your life a lot easier!) :-)

  15. Bonnie B, 06 September, 2009

    Someone mentioned a rock drill and it jarred my memory! My husband picked me up one at Michael’s a few months back. It’s advertised as a child’s hobby tool, but I was disappointed that it didn’t drill through any rocks I had here. Now I’m wondering if it would work for my beads! I’ll experiment and get back to you.

    I love this place–always something new to learn. Thanks, Cindy!

  16. Anna Sabina, 08 September, 2009

    I have a suggestion to hold the bead while drilling…Blue Tack. I pierce my beads before baking and use this as a guide when needing to make the whole bigger
    Put a glob of blue tack on the end by your hand and drill half way, switch to the other side or you could put a big glob on you work surface. I have also enlarged the holes by hand running a bit through the pilot hole.

    My husband also had an anxiety attack about the electric Dremel tool and acted like I was running a chain saw. Good thing he never saw me run my high powered sewing machine on high, it shakes the room !! So he bought “me” (wink wink) a small bench grinder with an extension line for drill bits. In his mind he bought it for me but he uses it more than I do.

    I have never had problems with Carpal Tunnel and sand my beads in the vibrating rock tumble. But, do notice using an electric buffing wheel with a bunch of beads really bothers my hand and makes them feel tingly for a few hours. Guess buffing them in smaller batches would be a good option but I am usually so excited about how they are turning out I just keep going.

  17. Lynn, 17 September, 2009

    For safety sake, I like to hold the baked bead steady with a simple spring loaded clamp. They are available @ HD & Lowes as well as most hardware stores and come in a variety of sizes. They resemble a “pinch type” clothes pin and have a plastic sleeve on each tip to help hold the item secure. I simply place the bead into the spring clamp, steady the bead upon a piece of scrap lumber with my left hand and drill through the bead with my right hand. The clamp allows you to accurately place the hole in the polymer clay bead without getting those fingers too close! Hope I’ve given clear directions.

  18. Cindy Lietz, 18 September, 2009

    @Beadspiration – looking forward to hearing more about how your Michael’s rock drill is working with your polymer clay beads. It’s this type of sharing that makes this blog so wonderful for others to come and learn!

    @Anna – Great stories! I love the the chain saw Dremel analogy. Very funny! What a great way to get your DH to want to spend more money on new tools that you’ll be able to get as much use out of as he does!

    @Lynn – Safety first – absolutely! What a super idea for using the spring loaded clamp to secure your beads for drilling. Anna’s caring husband will especially love that suggestion I’m sure.

  19. Sandy Triplett, 22 July, 2014

    Hi Cindy,
    You often show a tapered drill bit you have. I’ve been looking for one now for a couple years. Can’t find one. If you happen to have a link for where one could be obtained i’d appreciate it. Thanks!

  20. Cindy Lietz, 26 July, 2014

    Hi Sandy Those are called Tapered Cut Burrs. That one was made by Dremel. Here’s the link to Dremel, you’ll have to Google a place to pick one up:

  21. Lolla N, 06 August, 2016

    I know this is an old post and apologies for the long winded reply, but hey – as I am new to creating my own beads etc….As far as tooling goes…

    I purchased a rotary tool on sale (40% off) with Canadian Tire (Mastercraft 1.4A) and a Milescraft 1003 Flex Shaft for Rotary Tools as well as a Dremel 2222 Flex shaft Tool Stand off Amazon ca .

    I don’t know what others use as far as their tools go, but I personally like to compare apples for apples and well the dremel stand, whilst functional (came down to cosmetics and quality of finish for me) was a bit of a let down…I personally like mastercraft! I have 10 of their cabinets too as well as a myriad of other jewelry related tools…great when they are on sale!


    I also bought a Woodstock D3557 Adjustable Clamping Vise (again off Amazon), best thing since sliced bread. I can angle the vice how I need due to the ball at the base which makes it extremely user friendly. Also I can put in about x7 .5mm (PC beads) into the vice and drill holes into them (a pilot hole helps before baking).

    Otherwise… fingers yes – I’ve used them to hold beads between 4mm and 6mm in size. I just finished 500 odd PC beads tonight in those sizes with a combination of holding them as well as in the vice. I find that putting the beads into the vice, I need to devise a tray of some sort to catch them (not a biggie) and compare time expended with doing beads individually one-by-one by holding them in my fingers. Eitherway, it all makes a mess LOL!

    I guess if you are not comfortable with power tools perhaps try a vice option of your choice, or a hand drill option, however… the mastercraft rotary tool I have has a power slide, that is, #1 is lowest and #6 is the highest. For drilling holes into beads holding it between your fingers the #1 – #2 speed setting works good for me, depending upon the thickness of your beads of course.

    The cut burrs are awesome, I love them if you are working on chunkier pieces and want to
    ‘carve’ and work great on timber too…

  22. Cindy Lietz, 09 August, 2016

    Hi Lolla, I just looked at the Woodstock Vise you mentioned and it is pretty much identicle to the Walnut Hollow one I have. (I am guessing there is a manufacturer who makes them and people just have their brand put on it… just like all those low end pasta machines out there. Any way, I have it on my list to demo, and your comment has reminded me to do that. (Plus I have so much going on this week it woud be an easy demo to pull off since I wouldn’t need to make samples! ) I use my vise primarily for holding my extruder or pieces I need to file, but your ideas for holding beads for drill is a great one to add to the list of things it can do. Thanks for sharing!

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