Drilling Holes

Holes and finish

Before you drill a hole or holes in your dry-clay stage earrings, pendant, or other metal clay creation, you will need to sand and finish the piece.

Below are the steps with text contained in the captions under each photo. I used little charms that were textured on one side and imprinted with an animal track on the other.

A bunch o’ charms with a fine line texture on one side and animal tracks on the other.

There are many sides or surfaces to any dry-clay stage metal clay creation. Top, bottom, edges, beveled edges, hole edges.

I began by using 3M Sanding sponges on the animal-tracks side. See Sanding for info on the sponges.
I press evenly and sand in a circle briefly, then rotate the piece 90 degress and repeat three times,
until I’ve turned the piece all 360 degrees. 
It’s good to check often to be sure your are not sanding away your imprint or desired details.

Look close enough so you can see where it has been smoothed and where the sand paper is not reaching.

I brushed away the filings to see better.

On this charm, I could not reach one spot by the flat method,
so I bent the sanding sponge a little and focused on that particular area.

Now for the edge. You can use sanding sponges or one of my favorite bench tools, a Supernail Deluxe Manicure Machine.
I wear an N95 mask when I use this tool, because it throws fine silver dust into the air.

I always bevel the edges on all my creations.
A bevelled edge refers to an edge of a piece that is not perpendicular to the face of the piece.  
Below is a graphic of a bevelled edge on a piece of wood.

Here are three charms that have been sanded and finished and are ready for holes.

I have marked where I want each hole with a pencil dot.

Drilling holes uses three tools and/or steps.


I always begin my holes with a pilot hole. 
A pilot hole is a small hole drilled before the larger hole is drilled with a hand drill.
Making a pilot hole helps in multiple ways: it is a more precise way to locate the hole, its eases the job of the larger drill, and
ensures that the larger drill will not drift off the mark.

I make the pilot hole with a sharp-point scapel by placing the point on the dot, positioning the scalpel perpendicular to the piece, and turning the scapel round and round. 

My finger is behind the hole’s location, and I apply only enough pressure to hold the clay piece on my finger.

Again, my finger is behind the hole’s location, supporting the clay.
I am applying only enough pressure to hold the clay piece on my finger.

Amazingly enough, you will feel when the tip comes through the clay, and this is when I stop.


Now, I switch to the drill, which is a handheld drill.
Again, my finger is behind the hole’s location. Again, I apply only enough pressure to hold the clay piece on my finger,
which I am illustrating in the photo.
I actually hold the entire piece when I am drilling, as shown below.

If you do not have a handheld drill, you can use just the bit and twirl with your fingers.

It is best to turn the drill lightly, slowly, and evenly. When you feel the drill come through the clay, keep turning!
Keep turning while the bit goes all the way through and back out the front.

If you keep turning while you back the bit out, you are not likely to change the angle of the drill and snap your piece.


This is a burr bit or bur bit.

I take two twists of the bur(r) bit on each side of the hole. This gives the hole a bevelled edge.

Here is the finished charm with the finished hole.

Here are charms in the various stages of sanding and finishing that I’ve discussed above.

On the left, newly dried charms.

In the middle, charms that have had the sides and edges finished.

On the right bottom is a charm with a new hole. And above that is a finished charm with a finished hole.

Close up of hole and a hole with a bevelled edge

Here is a little extra piece on what to do if you have drilled your hole too close to the edge, so that you are worried about the integrity of the hole and its ability to do its job.

Here is a little bird charm, made of recycled clay. I drilled the hole,
but do not like how close it is to the edge or that it is in the frail part of the wing.

After I sanded and finished the hole, I applied a small circle of syringe clay and lots of water.
Then I allowed it to sit a few moments before putting it on the dryer.
See Adhering PMC3 to PMC3.

Another bird charm with hole reinforcement. Personally, when this charm is fired, patinaed, and polished,
the back looks pretty with the squiggle of “wire.”

You could also make an O ring or other decorative element that reinforces the hole.

The finished charm bracelet

Here are those charms incorporated into a charm bracelet. These are the textured sides.

These are the animal tracks sides.

For online courses in metal clay, go to I Love Silver, where you learn how to design and create your own silver creations.

© Kris A Kramer 2019