I learned how to make my own hole saws before cheap diamond hole saws were available. I still think this is a great way to drill holes, if you only have make a few or drill non-standard sizes. You could also drill very large holes that might not be available.
The key to drilling holes with copper is that the copper is soft and the grinding compound embeds itself into the copper and grinds its way through the glass. It will take a little longer than a diamond drill but not that long. The glass I cut through was 3/16" thick and it took about 7 minutes for each hole. The size of the hole really doesn't change the time it takes.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
This is a list of the basic tools and materials to drill glass
- Drill press
- Copper sheet
- Hose clamps
- Aluminum oxide blasting media
- Valve grinding compound
- Modeling clay
Step 2: Make Your Drill
There are many ways to create a tool to drill through glass. I am going to show you two. The basic idea is to create a cylinder of copper that you can mount into a drill press. Some other ideas that would work are to use a drum sander mandrel or ;you could put a bolt through a piece of wood and then turn it round on the lathe.
In the first pictures, I wrap a piece of 2" x 12" x 0.005" copper sheet around a 1 3/4" hole saw. Then secure it with a hose clamp. Be sure to move it down, after you wrap it, so that the teeth of the hole saw won't hit the glass. My original hole saw drill I made with an old hole saw that I ground the teeth off of and wrapped it with a single layer of 0.040" copper sheet. That worked really well and you can see a picture of it on the previous slide.
The next hole saw is made using a 3/4" copper cap. I drilled the center hole with a lathe but if you are careful you should be able to do it with just a drill press. I made the shaft with a 1/4" bolt, nut and washer. If I did it again I would have used a lock washer and a nylon lock nut because the bolt came loose a couple of times when I was drilling.
Step 3: Drilling the Holes
To drill the holes you will need to make a dam of modeling clay to hold the grinding compound and water around the drill. This cools the glass and drill; and provides the particles that do the grinding. I use aluminum oxide sandblasting media and water because it is cheap and I have a sandblaster. Valve grinding compound works a lot better and faster if you are in a hurry.
These videos play back at 16x
Step 4: Conclusion
All and all, it worked really well. I wasn't sure if the thin copper sheet was going to work but it did. If you look at the picture you can see that the copper was wrinkled and uneven but it still worked. I see a lot of Instructables on drilling through bottles. I haven't tried to do that but I think you could as long as you found a way to keep the grinding compound on the copper. I think if you used the valve grinding compound it would work because the particles are suspended in thick oil rather than water.