Here’s a step-by-step guide to drilling through vintage china & ceramic. It’s a good method to use when making cake-stands out of pretty, china plates or something more avant garde using every-single-bit-of-crockery-available! We’ve developed this technique to make simple candle holders from upcycled saucers, using our own candlecup design, and can’t remember the last time we smashed a piece. So, here’s how to do it…
1) Do your drilling on a stable, non-slip surface that you don’t mind damaging. Maybe put an old piece of wood down for protection. Use safety glasses and get a friend to help.
2) You’ll need a 6mm diamond-tipped drill bit for glass or ceramic. They’re sometimes sold as ‘bathroom tile drill bits’. There’s plenty for sale at a reasonable price online. The picture above shows a core drill bit, which is a little tube and also a drill bit that looks like a tiny arrow. Both shapes are good.
3) Use either a bench pillar drill, (as seen in this other article) or a hand drill that can go at a variable speed.
4) Put some masking tape on the back of the crockery to encourage a clean exit hole. Put more masking tape on the front.
5) Measure the centre point and mark a dot with permanent pen, then extend this to a highly visible cross.
6) Get some thin cork or rubbery material, about 5mm thick and cut out a circle that will fit within the raised foot on the back of the ceramic piece. This will support it under pressure. Plates may not have such obvious ‘feet’ underneath, but a piece of supportive, slightly squashy material will help anyway.
7) This is the point where you’ll need someone to hold the crockery firmly. This leaves you free to hold the drill with both hands. Start very slowly, and if you’re using a tube-shaped ‘core drill bit’ with a hand drill, have the drill at an angle to get a grip on the surface. As soon as you break through the glaze, you can straighten up.
8) Add a little puddle of water to keep the drill bit and ceramic surface cool. Try and go quite slowly, with moderate pressure. This may take a few minutes. If you’re drilling a super-precious piece, stop every so often and check if the drill bit is getting hot (don’t burn yourself!) If it is, stop for a short while until things cool down, add more cool water and don’t press as hard. Bone china will take longer as it’s stronger than regular ceramic. Be patient.
9) Lighten-up on the downwards pressure as you start to break-through. When you reach the other side it should be obvious. Stop the pressure quickly, to save your work surface and cork circles.
10) Empty the (now murky) water out and peel off the masking tape, taking care with the sharp ceramic shards that have formed underneath.
11) Give it a clean, but don’t leave it to soak (especially if earthenware) as water may get into the body of the ceramic piece and may cause crazing to the glaze. Leave to dry.
12) Fit any fixings. If making a cake stand, the best metal components have bolts on the base which have a very slim, flat head. These keep the stand sturdy, and minimise any rocking around.
Upcycled saucer-candlesticks are available at www.Loglike.co.uk
And also at our shop on Folksy.com
Special thanks to SP for the splendid photographs.