How to Put Holes in Seashells

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Make your hole in an area of the shell with the least amount of curve.
Make your hole in an area of the shell with the least amount of curve. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Making holes in seashells prepares them for stringing as beads or attaching them for other craft projects. You can use one of a variety of power tools to make holes in your seashells, but low-tech, everyday sharp objects can make holes in most shells and are safest for beginners. Always wear eye protection when making holes; even tiny seashell chips are sharp and can cause eye injuries.

Things You'll Need

  • Foam, such as a block from packaging, or a thick towel
  • Safety goggles
  • Respirator
  • Work gloves, leather or reinforced
  • Stable work surface, such as a workbench, counter or heavy table
  • Jeweler's vise, ordinary vise or clamp
  • Heavy-duty, sharp needle, such as an embroidery needle
  • Sharp object, such as an awl or a chipboard screw
  • Rotary tool or drill and small bits, depending on the desired hole size

Holes Without a Drill

Put on a respirator. Inhaling dust and particles from seashells can cause respiratory problems, and, in some cases, result in fever and infections.

Mark the place on the shell with a pen where you want to make the hole. Check the position before you drill. For example, if you're going to put a jump ring in the hole for an earring, slide the ring into position on the shell to ensure the hole is in the right place.

Put on work gloves to reduce the risk of poking yourself. Set the shell with its flattest side down on foam or a folded towel.

Position a needle on the mark and work it with a twisting motion to start the hole. Exert gentle, even, pressure. On thin or relatively soft shells the needle may go all the way through.

Set the tip of an awl or chipboard screw in the started hole, if needed. Keep twisting gently until the shell gives and allows the point through.

Rotary Tool or Drill

Mark the hole position on the shell with a pen. Leave at least 1/8 inch of shell between the edge of the shell and the hole, if possible. A hole too close to the edge is likely to cause the edge to break.

Secure the shell in a jeweler's vise, a vise clamp or an adjustable clamp so that the shell will remain stationary during drilling. Use extreme care when tightening the vise or clamp so as not to break or crack the delicate shell.

Put on safety goggles and a respirator.

Position the smallest drill bit above the mark. Turn on the tool and gently apply it to the mark. Don't press; let the tool make the hole. Exerting pressure can break the shell.

Enlarge the hole for a thicker stringing material or jewelry use, if needed, by drilling the hole with the next largest drill bit. Repeat until the hole is the size you need.

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