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Quartz crystal has a distinctive sparkle that makes it popular for use in everything from pendant necklaces to kitchen countertops- This article has all the information you need to safely and accurately drill holes in quartz crystal.
How to Drill Holes in Quartz Crystal
Whether you’re crafting a DIY jewelry project or assembling a kitchen countertop, here is the process for drilling into quartz:
- Select a compatible rotating power tool. A handheld electric or battery-powered drill has sufficient power and speed for drilling quartz, and can be used for drilling holes in countertops or quartz slabs. If you want to drill a hole in quartz crystal for jewelry, we recommend using a rotary tool instead. The best known rotary tool maker is Dremel, and rotary tools are sometimes referred to by this brand name. You can also use a drill press if the workpiece is mobile and a perfectly centered and straight hole is important.
- Choose a bit made from something harder than quartz. The Mohs scale ranks the hardness of materials, defined as their resistance to scratching, on a scale from one to ten. Harder materials have higher scores, and softer materials have lower scores. The hardest material is diamond, which is assigned a rating of ten. Quartz is not quite as hard as diamond, rating a seven on the Mohs scale. A diamond tipped bit will therefore be able to cut through quartz. Tungsten carbide rates a nine on the scale, so this is also an option for drilling into quartz.
- Decide on the size of the hole and choose your bits accordingly. Generally speaking, you will need three or four bits. The largest bit should be the size of your intended hole. The smallest should be three to four times thinner than the largest bit; you will use it to drill a pilot hole. The remaining bits will be used to enlarge the pilot hole to your desired size. The more gradually you enlarge the hole, the less likely you are to chip or crack the quartz. To drill holes larger than ¾ of an inch in diameter, choose a hole saw bit. You do not need a pilot hole in this scenario.
- Make sure your drill chuck can accept your bits. The chuck is the part of the drill that connects the bit to the mandrel. They generally have two or three ‘jaws’ that can be opened to insert the bit and then tightened to hold it firmly. The chuck is attached to the mandrel. When the drill is turned on, the motor turns the mandrel, and the attached chuck and bit rotate at the same speed. To drill small holes, you need small bits. Not all chucks can accept all bit sizes, so you may need to purchase and install a specialty or universal chuck.
- Decide on a lubrication solution. Excess heat generated by the friction of the drill bit spinning against the quartz crystal can cause the material to crack or shatter. Keeping the quartz crystal and the drill bit cool is essential for successful drilling. Water is one popular and easy cooling method. For drilling with water, it’s best to use a battery operated drill. Using water near an electric drill carries the risk of electrocution. Jeweler’s lubricant, also called ‘cutting oil’ or ‘lubricant oil’ is also a great solution.
- Put on personal protective equipment. There are two main hazards to be concerned about while drilling into quartz crystal. The first is projectile hazards – quartz has a tendency to shatter when overheated, or when you encounter irregularities or other cracks in the material. Shards of crystal flying through the air at high speeds can cause damage to the skin, face, and eyes. Safety glasses or goggles are essential; a full-face shield is even better. Wear long sleeves to protect your torso and arms. The second hazard is respirable silica dust. When drilling quartz crystal, the silica contained in the material becomes airborne and can be inhaled. These tiny particles are sharp enough to scar lung tissue, leading to respiratory issues such as COPD, silicosis, and even lung cancer. A respirator-style mask seals around your nose and mouth, preventing airborne particles from entering your respiratory system.
- Prepare for drilling. Mark the quartz crystal with a permanent marker. Attach the first bit securely to the chuck of the drill, making sure you’re using a sharpened drill bit. Adjust the settings of your drill. Make sure it is in forward rotation mode. A medium to high speed is generally best for drilling with diamond bits, but quartz crystal is easier to drill with a slow or moderate speed. Lubricate the drill site and the bit.
- Begin carefully and slowly drilling into the quartz crystal. Patience is key. If using a handheld tool, try not to apply any additional pressure to the drill. If using a drill press, drill in very small increments, only a few seconds at a time. Do not try to speed up the process by pressing or pushing the drill through the material, as this significantly increases the chance that the quartz crystal will shatter.
- Take frequent breaks for cooling and lubrication. Drip cutting oil into the hole and on the tip of the bit. If you’re using water, soak a rag in water. You can have a helper or assistant squeeze the rag over the drilling site as you work, or stop drilling and perform this action yourself. If you’re working with a small piece of quartz crystal, you can place it in a plastic tray or dish and add water until it just covers the drill site. If you’re drilling all the way through the quartz crystal, make sure there is nothing underneath it that will be damaged by contact with the drill.
A drill press, rotary tool or handheld drill can be used to make a hole in quartz crystal. For large holes, use a diamond-tipped hole saw bit. For small holes, you may need to change the chuck on the drill to one that will accept tiny bits.
Never drill quartz crystal without adequate lubrication. Use a respirator to protect yourself from silica dust and goggles or glasses to shield your eyes from projectiles.