If you ever visit the beach you will be amazed at the number of pebbles that you come across that have beautiful patterns and colours. If you make handmade jewellery it’s a great inexpensive way to come up with new materials for your designs.
To use a stone for jewellery making it will either need to be top drilled to create a pendant or a hole needs to be drilled through the centre for stringing the stone. To achieve this you will need some equipment: a small electric drill, 3 diamond drill bits, one the desired hole size, one slightly larger and the other slightly smaller. You will also need a container, some water, a cutting board, some silly putty, 2 small elastic bands, a pencil and goggles for safety. If you require a 1mm hole through the stone you can use a .75mm bit, a 1mm bit and a 1.25mm drill bit (You can use a diamond ball burr instead of the larger drill bit).
Place the first elastic band over the pebble so that it runs vertically through the centre of the pebble and the second so that it runs again vertically but from the opposite side of the pebble to form a cross. The purpose of using the elastics is to work out the centre points for both the top and bottom of the stone. Mark the centre of the cross with the pen on both ends of the pebble, which will give you your positions for drilling.
Add a mound of putty to the centre of the cutting board and press the stone into the putty so that it’s held securely. Into the container you will need to place the cutting board and then add the water so that it covers the stone, which is there to reduce the heat friction build up from drilling and prevent the stone from cracking. If you are fortunate enough to have a vice you can use this instead of the putty and just make sure that you have a jet of water running over the stone throughout the drilling process. Also if it’s a clamp with metal jaws place a thin piece of wood or corrugated cardboard between the jaws and the stone to prevent the surface from being damaged.
Put on your protective goggles and insert the larger bit (or diamond ball burr) into the drill to create a small indent at both marked ends of the bead. The reason for using a larger drill bit to create a small hole is to provide a guide for the smaller drill bit that prevents it from slipping when we start to drill. Using the smaller drill bit set at a medium speed slowly start to drill through the stone about 3mm at a time and then withdrawing the drill from the stone to allow the water to flow into the hole and remove any debris and drill dust and cools the stone. Depending on the size of the stone in comparison to the drill bit, you may need to turn over the stone once you reach the half way point and drill from the opposite side. Once the stone has been drilled through completely start the process again with the middle sized drill bit to give the bead a nice clean hole.
When you buy pendants or gemstones from a bead or gemstone suppliers they will likely have been polished to give them that smooth desirable surface. This is something that can also be done to your beach pebbles and is relatively inexpensive. To give a polished smooth surface to your new pendant/bead you can use a piece of equipment called a tumble-polisher. These polishing machines can cost as little as £60 for a small tumbling machine that can hold up to 1.5kg of pebbles. They work by a motor continuously turning two small rods that are attached to two rubber barrels that continuously turn. Into the machine the pebbles, water and a coarse grinding grit is added, the machine then continuously tumbles the pebbles for about a week over which time their surface becomes polished to produce beautiful semi precious beads or pendants.
Author: Crystal and Glass Beads