If you are building your own glass table, making shelves out of glass, building a picture frame, or you want to attach something to any glass surface in general, you will need to drill holes in the glass. That said
While there is certainly some risk involved in drilling glass – it’s a fragile material after all – with the right tools and process, it is a perfectly possible task to accomplish. This article will detail how.
Can You Drill a Hole in Glass Without Breaking It?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to drill a hole in glass without breaking it. People all over the world make all sorts of creations out of glass and other materials, both for functional and artistic purposes. If you have a glass table or glass shelving of any sort, well, the glass has obviously been drilled through in order to be attached to the rest of the structure.
The trick here is to use the right drill bit, the right drilling speed, and the proper drilling process. First and foremost, you need to ensure that you have a carbide-tipped drill bit, one designed specifically for glass and tile, as this is really the only type of bit that is suitable for this job. A diamond-tipped drill bit will probably work as well, although most people would qualify this as overkill.
The other thing that you will need is a decent drill, one that allows you to control the speed with accuracy and precision. To drill a hole in glass, you will need to move slow and steady, and this means being able to precisely control the speed of your drill.
On a very important side note here, you cannot drill into tempered glass. Tempered glass is treated with thermal or chemical reactions to make it stronger than normal glass. Although tempered glass won’t break as easily as normal glass upon impacts, it will shatter completely into hundreds of pieces if you attempt to drill into it. As such, do not attempt this, even with the best of drill bits, because it simply will not work.
How to Drill a Hole in Glass
Now that you know that it is possible to drill a hole into non-tempered glass, let’s go through a detailed step-by-step process.
Step 1: Choose the Right Tools
As mentioned above, you will want a drill that has an adjustable speed feature. You will also need a good carbide-tipped drill bit, or you may also use a more expensive diamond-tipped drill bit. Insert your bit of choice into the drill as described here.
A word of advice: Start out with a small bit, 1/8-inch perhaps, and then, if need be, once the hole is made, use a large drill bit to widen it. If you start out with a bit that is too large, it can end up causing problems, such as your hole ending up too big, for one, or the glass breaking.
Step 2: Dawn Your Protective Gear
Before you get started, it is a good idea to ensure that you are wearing proper safety goggles as well as gloves for this job.
This way, in case the glass does happen to shatter, you won’t get any glass in your eyes or cuts on your hands.
Step 3: Prepare the Workpiece
The next step in the process of drilling a hole into glass is to prepare the workpiece.
If you are drilling into a flat piece of glass, you need to make sure that it is resting on a solid surface. Unlike drilling wood, you want the entirety of the glass supported from underneath. If the glass is not fully supported from the bottom up, if you apply too much pressure by mistake, you could snap the glass in half.
A good idea is to get a piece of cardboard, put it on a table, and then put the glass on the cardboard. This will provide you with soft backing for when the drill bit pushes through the glass, while also offering good support. Another good idea is to tape down the edges of the glass with some tape to ensure that it does not move while you are drilling the hole.
Step 4: Tape the Glass
Next, in order to achieve the best results, you will want to put a piece of painter’s tape (or take a small piece of cardboard) to the location where you plan on drilling the hole.
Getting a drill bit to take hold on glass is hard, but if you put some tape or cardboard above where you are drilling the hole, it will prevent lateral movement of the drill bit, it will help provide for more traction and stability, and it will make it much easier to get the drill bit to penetrate to the top layer of the glass.
Step 5: Start Drilling
Now comes the tricky part. Get your drill and turn it on. You need to move slowly here, so have your drill set to no more than 400 rotations per minute.
Once the drill has penetrated the top layer of the cardboard, as well as the surface of the glass, you can remove the top layer of cardboard to make it easier to see what you are doing.
If need be, add some oil or lubricant to the mix to make sure that the glass does not overheat or burn. Keep drilling slowly, and even slow the drill down to 300 or 350 RPM once the initial hole has been made. Generally speaking, the slower the better.
Now, do not keep drilling until the drill bit penetrates through to the other side of the glass. Stop drilling before the bit comes out the bottom because if it does, you risk shattering the glass.
Step 6: Flip the Workpiece and Finish the Hole
Seeing as you did not penetrate all the way through from one side, you now need to flip the glass over to its other side.
Follow all of the same steps as listed above to complete drilling the hole from the other side. Ideally, you want the drill holes to meet in the middle from both sides. Now you should have a clean and even hole.
Safety Tips to Keep in Mind When Drilling Glass
Although drilling glass is all that dangerous as long as you follow the tips and steps as outlined above, there are certain risks involved. Follow the below safety tips for the best results, especially to keep yourself from suffering from any injuries:
- Always have the glass fully supported. You cannot put the glass on two sawhorses and leave the middle unsupported. This is a sure-fire way to get the glass to shatter and rain down on your feet.
- In case the glass does shatter, and yes, it happens, make sure to be wearing steel toe boots to prevent large and heavy shards from penetrating into your feet.
- Always wear adequate gloves and goggles to prevent the glass from flying into your eyes and from cutting your hands
- Always tie back loose hair and never wear loose-fitting clothes when doing any project involving any type of power tool.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Let’s finish things off by providing you with some essential tips on how to achieve the best results when drilling a hole into a piece of glass:
- Remember to make sure that your drill never exceeds 400 RPM, as this can cause the glass to crack or shatter.
- Always use a diamond or carbide-tipped drill bit. A normal wood drilling bit will not work for this application.
- Always start out by making a smaller hole and then making it larger if need be. If you make the hole too large to begin with, there is no going back.
- It is best to use glass drilling lubricant to ensure that no overheating takes place, as well as to allow for a smooth drilling process, which should prevent the glass from shattering.
- Glass can become fragile in extremely cold temperatures, so never do this kind of thing in your garage in the middle of the winter. It won’t end well.
As long as you follow all the tips, steps, and safety rules as outlined here today, you should not have any problems drilling into glass.
The most important things to remember here are to take your time, to move slowly, and to use the right kind of drill bit for the task at hand.