Drilling Holes In Your Polymer Clay Beads

Drilling Polymer Clay BeadsVideo #386: Making straight clean bead holes using a hand held metal twist drill bit.

Topics Covered In This Video:

  • In a previous video I showed you how to put Holes in Polymer Clay Beads.
  • In this video I will show you how to make the holes bigger in your baked polymer clay beads, should you need them to be larger.
  • Wait until you need to use your beads before drilling the holes larger.
  • You can always make the holes bigger but it is difficult to make them smaller.
  • I prefer to drill my beads by hand. It is safer than a power drill or Dremel, and it is easier to make a nice clean hole in your bead… especially with round beads.
  • I use a double ended Pin Vice with a small drill bit (about the size of a 20g wire) on one end, and a larger bit (about 12g) on the other. I also have a tapered burr bit (from my Dremel set), that I have put into an old Exacto Blade holder.
  • Start by enlarging the holes slightly with the tapered bit, just enough that your drill bit will enter the pilot hole cleanly.
  • Drill beads by hand, going halfway from one end, then turning the bead around and going through from the other end. This makes for a nice clean hole from both sides.
  • If you don’t have a tapered burr bit, you need to start with the smallest bit you have and go through each size up until you get to the sized hole that you need. Don’t try to go straight to a larger bit, or you will risk chipping the edges of the hole.
  • Follow these tips and you will have professional looking holes in your beads, at whatever size you need.


Question of the Day:

Do you have any tips for enlarging holes in your polymer clay beads, that you’d like to share with us?

I look forward to hearing from you.

By the way, if you have a polymer clay question or challenge you’d like me to address in an upcoming video vlog, do post it in the comments below. I’d love to help you find quicker and easier ways to bring up the professionalism in your polymer clay art.

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Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cindy Lietz SignaturePolymer Clay Tutor
  1. Jocelyn C, 30 May, 2013

    Cindy, thanks for another great how to. The holes I made while the bead was unbaked never seemed to work out right. Think I am one of those that needs to wait until the bead is baked to make the hole.

    Keeping a bead in my hand while hand drilling it is a recipe for disaster, but, if we use a trick similar to the soft clay cradle you introduced to slice round canes, I think I can make it work. Just need a inch large ball of unbaked clay to stabilize the bead, then, stand, so that when you use the hand held drill pin vise, the bit finds and stays true throughout the bead.

    Sure like the idea of making the first entry with a slighly tapered drill bit to help keep the smaller bit from skipping around.

    Qu’est-ce que c’est? The “fire petal bead?” Hope that’s coming up on the tute list, they sure look pretty.

  2. Cindy Lietz, 30 May, 2013

    Thanks Jocelyn for the tip! That would work well for those with mobility issues who have difficulties holding beads in your hand. Having the clay there to support you would be very helpful! Though it would be good to have a pilot hole in your beads that was put in when it was raw though, or it still could be difficult to drill the hole straight.

    Your question about the fire petal bead had me confused, so I watched the video again. I actually said FLOWER petal beads not FIRE petal beads. And I did a tutorial on that already which you know. So, sadly I don’t have a new fire petal tutorial for you anytime soon, though that does sound like an intriguing concept!

    Those beads were actually made from the rose petals when Doug’s Dad passed away, so those particular beads are extra special. They are pretty aren’t they?

  3. Jocelyn C, 30 May, 2013

    OK, then that’s a future tute, right? ROFL! Actually, like the idea of seeing how you might try to replicate a fire bead, where it looks like an actually campfire flame. Might get a chance to fool with the Meyers Import Glass Glitter or Shards on that one.

    The raw clay would be enough to hold the bead while drilled, but, maybe I should go check out some vicing. Things just skitter out of my hands, and I only good thing I can say about that is that it gives you exercise, lol.

  4. Peggy Barnes, 30 May, 2013

    I have always started with the smaller bit and worked my way up so I need to ask hubby if he has a tapered bit I can have or send him out to get me one. You are looking out for us trying to make things as simple and successful as possible. Thank you for another great tip.

  5. Dixie Ann, 30 May, 2013

    You would think a hardware store of all places would have a pin vise.
    Alas, even Lowe’s carry one. I have a beautiful set of drill bits that are perfect for drilling PC beads but they are very old and there is no way you can use them in a pin vise. My fingers get so sore twisting these since all I have to hold on to is the little attached hex nut which is actually soldered onto the end of the bit. I always make a preliminary hole in my unbaked round beads and then use two other size bits to finish the hole after they are baked. They always look nice doing it that way. I prefer to drill holes on flat and odd shaped pieces after I have baked them. Since PC is so soft, it is easy to push the point of a bead reamer anywhere on the piece to make a starter hole and from there drill out a hole again using my smallest bit and working up to the size hole I need. I have a question for Cindy though. If I wasn’t paying attention and accidentally put my bead hole in the wrong place, what would my options be to close and repair that hole without starting all over? Has anyone ever done that?

  6. DawnB, 31 May, 2013

    Hi Dixie Ann, isn’t it funny it’s hard to find a pin vise? My dad probably had 10 of them back in the day. I finally found one at a local HobbyTown brick and mortar. Not great quality, but works!

  7. Dixie Ann, 31 May, 2013

    Hi Dawn, I finally found one at BoxCar Hobbies here in my home town. I went to Ace hardware and the guy had no idea what I was talking about. Who knew!

  8. BinkyM, 31 May, 2013

    Dixie Ann:

    Whenever you need ANYTHING, search for it on Amazon. That’s where I got both my pin vises. They have all manner of pin vises (cheap!), so you’ll find ones you love there. (You can find ANYTHING there. No poo!)

    As far as putting holes in the wrong place … been there, done that. Worse, I’ve made holes too close to an edge and cracked a pendant. How to fix it: make yourself some spackle-like gloop by mixing some clay with some Kato Poly Paste. (I’ve also mixed clay with Kato Liquid Polyclay when I’ve needed it to be runnier because I wanted to get it into a smaller space.)

    Work your gloop into the booboo (these are technical terms we clay pros use) and top it off so that the patched area is overfilled a little bit so you can sand it down after curing. (Better to overfill and sand than to hafta refill and re-cure, which is boring.) Cure for thirty minutes and sand and buff and then put your hole where you *mean* for it to go this time.

    Good luck!

    Binky

  9. Dixie Ann, 31 May, 2013

    Thanks Binky for the advice on repairing my “boo-boo” I do search a lot on Amazon and found several that were very nice. Problem is you pay more for freight than the actual item costs and a lot of them are overpriced simply because they are an online store. Not gonna happen. I try to buy local when I can. I realize some things I have to order online and try to do so through Amazon but always get free shipping on $25.00 or more. Now……back to my boo-boo’s. :)

  10. Cindy Lietz, 31 May, 2013

    Hi Dixie Anne, looks like the others came to your rescue before I did. As far as where I got my pin vise, I can’t quite remember. I think I probably bought it at either Otto Frei, Fire Mountain Gems, or possibly even Rings and Things, since those are the main places I buy tools and those types of supplies.

    And Binky answered your question about the misplaced hole perfectly! Just make a paste with some clay and a little TLS and shove it into the hole. Sand back to the surface after baking and try drilling your hole again.

    There is a little tool for drilling holes in pearls that would be ideal for us polymer clay bead makers. Need to buy one and see if it works like I think it will. Then everyone could easily drill straight holes in even the tiniest of round beads after they were baked.

    Hope that helps!

  11. Dixie Ann, 31 May, 2013

    Cindy, please let us know about the pearl tool after you try it out.

  12. Tantesherry, 01 June, 2013

    Hi Dixie Ann
    have you tried embedding your drill bit into a polymer clay handle?
    I covered some scrap clay with some pretty left over bits centered the bit and… ta da;)
    mine do not have a little hex nut so after curing I pull the bit out and use super glue

  13. Dixie Ann, 01 June, 2013

    Well Sherry that’s a darn right good idea! I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. My brain is so all over the place anymore thinking up new things to do (as if I didn’t have enough). I could make a little grip handle for each one of these Finger Drills and it sure would help on the fingertips. They originally were used to clean out welding heads so I’m told. Would super glue hold the hex nut in place ya think? I couldn’t sink it past the top of the nut so just wondering how it would hold up when I start twisting the handle?

  14. Tantesherry, 02 June, 2013

    hey Dixie Ann
    I was picturing your drill bit as having the hex nut at the opposite end of the business end — is that right?
    then take a sheet of clay and put the unimportant part on the bottom edge of the clay and roll it up – with the drill part exposed and the hex nut and shaft covered
    make it small/big enough to be comfortable in your hand
    — the nut should hold the bit in place and you wouldn’t need the glue
    Or am I totally on the wrong page?LOL-let me know:)

  15. Dixie Ann, 02 June, 2013

    Sherry, your close. The drill bit shaft itself is soldered into the hex nut. It’s called a finger drill. If I wrap clay around the hex nut and up and over it to the shaft I’m thinking it should hold. I guess the only way to find out is to just do it and see. Right now I am in the middle of making some gorgeous alcohol inks with sharpies. The colors are amazing and I am going to try the 4 new neon colors next. Thanks for the tip. :)

  16. Marky G, 31 May, 2013

    I have some different size double pointed knitting needles I use for making holes in beads. I check what size cord I’ll be using and then the same size needle. I put all the beads on it or several needles if I have a lot. I use the bead rack to hold them. When they come out of the oven….I’m ready to go.

  17. Barbara Ruggeberg, 31 May, 2013

    Lee Valley sells a nice little pin vice. Holds the drill bits in the handle. nice and smooth in your hand and easy to hold. Regarding vices…I have many…kidding. I have the Walnut Hollow one that is designed to hold your extruder. It can be adjusted to be at almost any angle and it has nice padded grips. It was $40 at Michaels. $27 with the coupon. The day I bought mine, I happen to have a little polymer clay egg with a kaleidescope cane on it in my pocket. I took it out and looked at it and a man bought it from me fro $20! It wasn’t even finished yet, So I figure my vice only cost $7.

    Thanks for all your hard work Cindy. I’m just a guest at this site. I just dabble. Really a stay at home Mom and Face Painter in case anyone in Toronto needs one.

  18. Monique U., 31 May, 2013

    I’m glad you mentioned the Lee Valley pin vise, Barbara. I purchased that one specifically for use with PC, it is very comfortable to use and the bits very durable (I once used it to ream out a glass pearl).

    Checked your face-painting galleries… you have awesome skills!

  19. Barbara Ruggeberg, 01 June, 2013

    Thanks. My poor husband aka practice head. My girls are 5 and 8. They are so done with it. I have to pay them now to model for my portfolio!

  20. Miriam A., 31 May, 2013

    Hi Cindy
    I would like to ask for your advice. When using an extruder I have problems controling the color of the “sausages”.
    I want the colors I chooe to blend and result in a gradual effect.

    Thank you and keep well/
    Miriam

  21. Jocelyn C, 31 May, 2013

    Hi Miriam! That extruder can be a tricky devil, since the way it moves the clay causes a “sheeting action” where the colors before wrap themselves around the new colors. You can go to the search box and type in “extruders” and get tons of videos, blogs, and commentary on how to use them.

    You might be asking a color-based question, not a process, so the “coloration” issue I am going to leave to the experts here, and we have many.

  22. Maria, 31 May, 2013

    One really frustrating thing for me as a left-handed person is that my pin vise seems to unravel on me and the drill bit always slides out after a short times of use … I have another one in which I jammed a larger diameter drill bit, and I can’t interchange the bits in this one as that one bit is pretty well stuck in there.
    I’m wondering if anyone else has had this problem?

  23. JoAnne N, 01 June, 2013

    Great to learn the tip about starting with the tapered bit as I have chipped the ends of several beads,
    Thanks Cindy!

  24. Natalie Herbin, 15 April, 2015

    Hi Cindy
    I went to my first works shop this week with guest instructor Lisa Pavellka. After the class I bought s spring drill by the cmpany called little-windows.com . It has drill bits size 1mm-1.2mmand1.5 mm… Are these the correct size for enlarging holes in pc beads. Person in the store said yes but I th no I made the wrong decisions in purchased it . What’s your opinions on this
    NAtalie

  25. Dixie Ann, 15 April, 2015

    Natalie, lucky you, I had a hard time finding those sizes and ended up getting them from a Hobby shop. You were lucky enough to find them right at the source. These small drill bits are just perfect for drilling holes in beads. They make nice holes especially if you want the holes just a tad larger or smaller for 20 gauge wire. Granted you paid more than I did but at least you didn’t have to go looking for them. I keep one in my little hand held drill all of the time. I still use a bead pin before baking and because I do, the drill lines up perfect with the pin hole and drilling the hole is so easy. Good luck to you, I think you made a smart purchase.

  26. christine hanley, 27 October, 2015

    Hey Dixie Ann,
    How do you make alcohol inks out of Sharpies? I’m curious.

  27. Dixie Ann, 27 October, 2015

    Hi Christine, if you google alcohol inks from sharpies, you will get several links but this one is my favorite. Use the regular point and not the fine points. Just follow her instructions and make your inks. Have fun…..:)

  28. Karen S, 29 October, 2015

    Hi Dixie Ann :)

    How do you put hyperlinks into your messages here?

  29. Doug Lietz, 30 October, 2015

    Hi Karen… it’s actually me that creates those text hyperlinks… after you post your comment.

    FYI: The best practice for adding links into your comments, is for you to leave out the initial http://www … this will allow you your message to post right away, without getting held up in the moderation queue, or worse, sent to the spam folder. I will then create those “friendly” text hyperlinks for you.

  30. Karen S, 30 October, 2015

    Thanks Doug! Have a great weekend :)

  31. Dixie Ann, 30 October, 2015

    Thank you Doug!

  32. Karen S, 02 November, 2015

    Hi again Dixie Ann

    On the subject of making alcohol inks, you mentioned using the regular point instead of the fine point? Why is that important? I’d like to try this and all my local stationary store has in multi-pack markers is the fine point ones. Also, what are the non drip containers called on Ebay. I ask so that I can search them :). Thanks!

  33. Dixie Ann, 02 November, 2015

    karen, it’s simple. Regular point sharpies have more ink. You can find them anywhere, Walmart, grocery stores, pharmacies, office supplies, target etc; On Ebay you are looking for 2 oz. no drip spout plastic bottles. You will get a bottle, the snap in spout and a screw on cap. I bought them in a lot of 50. Hope that helps. :)

  34. Karen S, 03 November, 2015

    I’m sure it will help. Thanks Dixie Ann :)

  35. christine hanley, 28 October, 2015

    Hi Dixie Ann, I saw the video you recommended and it looks like fun. Question though: how do the inks take to the polymer clay–the same as Andirondecks? Do you use the same bottles as hers or something else?
    Thanks for the tip.

  36. Dixie Ann, 28 October, 2015

    Hi Chris, I mixed my inks 1.5 oz. of 91% alcohol to one sharpie to get a more intense color like the adirondack inks. I let them set for 24 hrs before transferring the liquid to the no drip bottles. I purchased the 2 oz. bottles with the no drip spouts on ebay like she did and I also mixed it in baby jars. Be sure you use a fresh jar for each color as the glass tends to absorb some of the color and you could cross contaminate colors. It really is easier than it looks but it is somewhat messy. Just get everything together before you start. When I was finished, I left the sharpie insides in the jar after pouring the liquid into the bottle using a small funnel that you must rinse out after each pour. I bought a clear bag of crystals at Michaels they use in terrariums and colored a small amount of each color. After the crystals absorbed the color, I poured the crystals out on a mat and used a heat gun to dry them. I then stored each color in a small round plastic container with a screw on lid. I now have 36 colors of alcohol inks in bottles and 36 colors of crystals in little containers that I can use for druzies or whatever I want to decorate with. You can check it all out on my Pinterest page. Each container of crystals I used about a heaping teaspoon. It was a full days project but worth all the time and effort and about 1/10th of the cost of adirondack.

  37. Alexa M, 23 August, 2019

    Hi there!!! So happy to have found your YouTube channel, what a gift you are!!!!

    My question is I need to drill holes that the hand drill with vice you showed that I ordered didn’t have a large enough bit for. I’m trying to bead 3-4mm jute through and the largest bit just isn’t big enough. Any ideas??

  38. Cindy Lietz, 26 August, 2019

    Hi Alexa, sounds like you need more drill bits. What I do when I want to enlarge a bead hole, I first use a tapered drill bit (Shaped like a very pointy cone) that will make the opening of the hole larger, without chiping the rim of the hole. Then I use a larger straight drill bit that is slightly larger than the cord I am using. (You can find all kinds of drill bits at building supply stores.) Make sure to drill from one end to about half way and then flip and drill from the other side. Otherwise if you try to go straight through, it will kind of “blow out” the other side and be all rough and jagged. I would suggest practicing on scrap beads until you get the hang of it. But it is easy to do, if you have the right bits. Good luck!

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