TOOLS Homemade Jig for Drilling Lentil Beads

Since the swirly lentil thing hit me very hard, I made hundreds of lentil beads. Trick is... they aren't too easy to make a hole from edge to edge.

Even if you ream the hole into the polymer clay bead prior to baking, sometimes the exit hole just ain't quite where you wanted it to be. :)

For various reasons, I decided to do something I normally don't do with my beads; to make the holes after baking. But I knew I was going to need something that would allow me to drill very efficiently and accurately over and over again.

Where's that Dremel? :D

Step one: I got a Dremel drill press, figuring it would be a lot easier if that wildly spinning drill bit were held stable.

Now I needed a way to hold the weird lentil shape bead steady and in pefect alignment to the drill bit. Kathi really helped by giving me the idea about the need for a trough to help hold the bead upright.

What has worked the best so far was I took a scrap piece of wood, drill a tiny hole then jammed a thick needle straight down into the wood. The needle's diameter should be slightly smaller than the drill bit.

Next, I got about a 4" length segment of 1/4 round trim (it actually comes in plastic!); cut it in half, and glued both halves to the wood as shown in the photos.

The trick is to position the jig so when the drill is lowered, the drill bit stops directly above but doesn't touch the needle in the jig. Then I notched the bead edges with a blade to mark where I want the hole to be. If you carefully make pilot holes in the bead prior to baking, that should work even better.

I like to drill in from both sides, so I rest one notch/pilot hole on the jig needle, hold the bead so the drill bit will touch right on the bead's other notch/hole - then lower the drill. Then I raise the drill, flip the bead over and place it back in its cradle and drill. If there's still a tiny length that hasn't been drilled, I'll usually finish with my pin vise.

When the jig needle is perfectly aligned with the drill bit, drilling a lentil - it's a sweet thing! ;-)

Since then, I've noticed this method works on just about any shaped bead, as long as you can rest bead on the jig needle and hold the bead steady.

Keep in mind that tiny drill bits are only so long, so if you've chosen to drill your beads, make sure that where you chose to drill, the drill bit will be able to span at least half the distance.

There's nothing better than having a great tool when you need it.


Last update to this page: 28 Mar 04. Send comments, questions or suggestions to Desiree McCrorey.