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Hole in a china plate

FastEddie1's picture

Yes, it's a little off the norm, but knowing the wide range of talents and experiences here...

My daughter wants me to make a wind chime like she saw somewhere.  It's a china dinner plate with 4-6 pieces of flatware hanging from fishing line.  Drilling the flatware won't be hard, but how do I drill small (1/16") holes in the plate?  I have drilled holes in ceramic wall tile for shower door this the same process?  She found a plate at a flea market for $4 so there is little risk involved, except that she likes the plate.

I'm sorry, I thought you wanted it done the right way.

(post #53596, reply #1 of 17)

Find another plate of similar contruction/consistency/clay/bisc/glaze and try out your theory.    I think you are on the right track, but save that special plate till experiments prove your method.

.............................................Iron Helix

.......Iron Helix

(post #53596, reply #4 of 17)

There are four approaches I can think of.

1) A old time method that is fairly safe but slower: Mount a hardwood dowel in a the chuck of a drill press. Arrange for the "bit " to hit the surface square. Form a dike around the place you want the hole. Use a slurry of grinding compound and water and a pattern of cycling the dowel up and down to imbed the grit . Apply light pressure and add water to keep everything cool. Once going well I hung a weight to the quill handle and allowed the process to proceed automatically.

It might be hard to get hole as small as 1/16" but I have drilled 3/16" ones this way. Replace or shorten the dowel to keep the holes from getting bigger.

2) There are solid carbide spear pointed drill bits made for drilling glass that work well. They are fairly cheap and quick. With the right touch and a bit of luck you can get good results. The critical point is breaking through where these bits can grab and crack the glass. Problem is that if you made 5 good holes and cracked out the last one you will have wasted considerable efforts. A drill press will give you greater control.

3) Some products are "drilled" by using a rubber shield and sandblasting with a kind of miniature sandblasting rig. I have seen this done in a factory. I have been told that gravestone carvers may be a good source of information on a related technique.

A friend had the holes in a glass sheet cut this way for a fancy wine rack and glass holder. It looked nice when finished but I don't know about the details of how this worked.

4) There is a gentleman who posts here that has a sig that speaks of etching glass. Etching may be a method. I don't know. Just an idea. 

(post #53596, reply #6 of 17)

Like 4LORN1 said, the spear point works reasonably well, watch it when you break through, use water (build a clay dam or keep it submerged). There is another type of bit you could use, albeit about $15-$20, that I've used a lot. Has a mushroom shaped head with bonded diamond grit. Stained glass supplier would have a line on this one. Unfortunately you will probably not find a bit any smaller than 1/8".

Ken Hill

(post #53596, reply #2 of 17)

Try a dremel type tool with a diamond or carbide burr.

(post #53596, reply #7 of 17)

Excellent solution for small holes. If your dentist is a friend, ask him/her for a used bit, if not, a small HSS bit from kit will do. NB, some folks prefer the abrasive bits, but you have to lubricate/cool to use those. Tape front and back to stop cracking and drill very gently, a piece of styrofoam will offer good support


Phill Giles

The Unionville Woodwright

Unionville, Ontario

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Phill Giles

The Unionville Woodwright

(post #53596, reply #3 of 17)

What about someone who does fine art restoration.  They might be able to do the holes, and then she could complete it  (of course, might cost more than $4 to get it done)

(post #53596, reply #5 of 17)

My goodness! That's some complicated advice! I've seen it done on craft shows, so it can't be hard. They might have used a masonry bit or bit for tile or it could have been just a plain drill bit. I remember it was one of those things where they start and then skip to one that was already done. They just said to go really slow and don't press down. They said it would take ten minutes or so! They were making a big hole in the middle so they could make a clock out of it.

Looky here! I found the instructions online. Give credit where credit is due, it was Decorating with Style on HGTV.,1158,DEID_project_5824,00.html

Huh, regular drill bit. it says to make a circle of hot glue and then put some lubricating oil in there and just drill away!

(post #53596, reply #8 of 17)

A dremel diamond burr is the easy way. Fairly slow,

but much less chance of cracking. China plates are

not quite like glass. Sometimes softer, sometimes

much harder. You don't need a dremel tool - you can chuck

it in a regular drill if you don't have one. Lubricate

with water. Put a piece of masking tape on front and

back where the hole is going. MAkes it easier to start

and reduces chances of cracking. The carbide spade bits

for glass/ceramic are fairly large. Don't know if you

can get them under 3/16 and they have a tendency to catch

when breaking through. A Dremel burr is $2 or $3.

Practice on a 10-cent plate from the Salvation Army.

(post #53596, reply #9 of 17)

I'm the guy that etches glass.  All the methods mentioned will work.  But - it is extremely difficult to get a small hole.  Like 1/16 inch.  There are small diamond bits we use for our work.  An outfit called "Amazing Glazing" sold them, but was bought out by someone I cannot remember.  It may be C. R. Lawrence.  A lapidary shop may help - lapidairists always want to hang stones from chains, etc.

By the very nature of brittle materials, the back will usually spall when the bit breaks through.  Glass is impossible to drill through w/o a spall.  So, you bore from both sides and meet in the middle.  Can't do that w/ opaque materials because it is neigh onto impossible to accurately position yourself on the second side to meet the hole started from the first side.  Being a china plate, and made up of granules, it will act a bit different from glass, probably not spall as badly.  you really want to lighten up the pressure when you get close to the back side w/ a drill.

You don't even want to consider using a blaster method if you want a small diameter hole - Just won't work.  The air & grit need the ability to enter the hole and escape.  small diameter won't allow it.  i drilled several hundred holes about 1/8 inch in diameter using blast methods.  Truly ####!


The GlassMasterworks - If it scratches, I etch it!
The GlassMasterworks - If it scratches, I etch it!

(post #53596, reply #10 of 17)

I've seen those bits, I think they're called "wire drills". Although they're only about $2.00/each, you usually have to buy a 10 or 12 pack and you'll need a pin drill/chuck/vise to hold it. Last ones I saw came from Lasco (somewhere in the US).


Phill Giles

The Unionville Woodwright

Unionville, Ontario

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Phill Giles

The Unionville Woodwright

(post #53596, reply #11 of 17)

On a china plate, you ought to be able to hold it up to a light and see the hole from the back side when you get part way through.

(post #53596, reply #12 of 17)

How about a rotozip ???

Those guys on the infomercials claim the rotozip can do anything...........(-:

If a candle factory burns down, do they try to put out the fire? Or simply stand around singing happy birthday?

(post #53596, reply #13 of 17)

Visit the physics department of your local university.  I'll bet if you buy lunch they will let you

borrow their laser.  Shouldn't  take too long.


(post #53596, reply #14 of 17)

Why not bond a curved piece of wood to the back of the plate and hand the flatware from it?

(post #53596, reply #15 of 17)

Better yet, get a plate that has holes in the design. They're all the rage now. Martha Stewart and Williams Sonoma probably sells 'em. They're like an eyelet pattern or something. You're meant to run pretty ribbons through 'em and hang 'em on the wall or something. It's just lovely.


(post #53596, reply #16 of 17)

Given a choice, I would have bought a metal colander (spaghetti strainer) and used one of the existing 1,000 holes.  But it wasn't my choice, and she's my little girl (22 yrs old now) so...

I'm sorry, I thought you wanted it done the right way.

(post #53596, reply #17 of 17)

use a small green stone bit on a Dremel, you wouldn't go wrong. You would not chip the glaze on entry and if you are careful it wouldn't spall on exit. Or you can always drill from both sides as a few of you have already suggested.