Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Discussion Forum

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Other Topics
 Off-Topic (Not Banjo Related)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Drilling Through Seashells

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

panthersquall - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:13:45

Christmas is coming and I want to make some tree ornaments using seashells. The shells are very small, less than an inch in length, they look like skinny, elongated miniature conch shells. I want to be able to drill a hole at the bottom of them. A very small hole! I tried using a regular drill bit, but it took forever and the drill bit was pretty bad off afterwards. Does anybody know if there's a special drill bit I could use, that's good for drilling through shell?

"F# is the new G."

backtothefuture - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:15:38

Try a diamond bit.

Check here for more info:



fisher - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:19:38

we used to only collect the shells with holes,already in them

pickNgrin - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:20:20

Either a carbide or a diamond drill bit ought to work.


KE - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:24:29

Try and do it wet to avoid the dust. The dust has some toxicity and health problems associated with it.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:24:40

BEWARE the dust if you drill shells. It's likely quite toxic. Wear a respirator and gloves. A mere dustmask is not enough.


Sultans of Claw - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:27:51

Originally posted by KE

Try and do it wet to avoid the dust. The dust has some toxicity and health problems associated with it.

Wet and with a bit designed for glass.

Lee Callicutt

I''ve got a drum in my thumb.

Helix - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:31:09

A little spray bottle from the drug store.

The "fines" are smaller than 5 microns, they land on your eyelashes. Breathing the dust only once is enough to permanently damage your lungs. Smells terrible , too. That's why the diamond bits, because you are cutting through stone.


pstroud1 - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:37:45

I would think a carbide drill on a high speed Dremel drill should do the job.
Wet with virgin olive oil while drilling.

Works great on your teeth.


Edited by - pstroud1 on 08/27/2009 19:39:34

hevyD - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:38:15

Try a masonry bit. A lot cheaper than diamond.

Hold on, my fingers stuttered!

panthersquall - Posted - 08/27/2009:  19:57:33

Yikes! I had no idea the dust would be dangerous. Never even thought of that. Maybe I'll come up with a Plan B instead...
Thanks everybody for your advice!

"F# is the new G."

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 08/28/2009:  00:17:04

You could experiment with glue. I think one of the Cyanoacrylics would be strong enough. Use a good guage of button thread and try to get a fair length of thread glued to the inside of the shell. Another possibility would be a bit of hard drying modeling clay. I know almost nothing about the stuff, but any hobby shop should be a source of information - perhaps even better ways of attaching string to shells.

Please add your comments to "Lock Users not Threads" in the "Improvements and Suggestions forum.
RIP Senator Edward Kennedy

If you are interested in what I say on the hangout you should download a free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players. Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer Tunes" at:

To print the tabs separately from the book you need TEFView a free download from:

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
A site chock full of interesting banjo material

Frank Ford - Posted - 08/28/2009:  07:49:57

Chuck Erikson, widely known as the Duke of Pearl, has ground as much shell as anybody. When I met him in Van Nuys in October 1968, he was grinding shell industrially and the dust hung in the air like the smoke in a card room. He was dumping a wastebasket full of the dust into the dumpster as I walked up.

Well, Chuck is a geezer like me now, too, and still has no ill effects from the dust. He told me he'd tried to chase the stories of shell dust hazard only to find no hard evidence that the dust is any more dangerous than other fine particulates. Now, of course we don't really want to breath dust, so it's a a good thing to avoid.

For drilling tiny holes in shell, I'd simply take the project outdoors. Inlay artists often work in front of a shop vac hose to suck the dust away from themselves,

Shell is abrasive as all get-out, but chip clearance is a good thing, so I think I'd try solid carbide twist drills, which are prescribed for drilling those terribly abrasive printed circuit boards.

A Dremel tool should provide all the speed one could want. Since carbide retains its hardness at elevated temperatures, cooling with water should be unnecessary.


Frank Ford

Edited by - Frank Ford on 08/28/2009 15:34:57

pick1936 - Posted - 08/28/2009:  10:05:06

The late Mr. Gallager, who built the nice Gallager Guitras, ended up with many small Cancers on His face, from the fine dust of cutting MOP, and Abalone..

Nechville. In Higginsville.

Lee Kelso

Edited by - pick1936 on 08/28/2009 17:43:07

Frank Ford - Posted - 08/28/2009:  12:20:24

I'd be interested to see some hard evidence on that one. UV-caused skin cancers are so common, and I've never heard of cancer arising from pearl dust exposure.


Frank Ford

KE - Posted - 08/28/2009:  12:42:11

Originally posted by KE

Try and do it wet to avoid the dust. The dust has some toxicity and health problems associated with it.

I'm going to withdraw this earlier statement of mine after searching for citations. I found numerous repeats of second-hand statements, but no primary evidence that shell dust is toxic. It looks like one of those things that gets repeated so many times it is believed without question -- in short, an internet 'urban legend.' And, I'd always yield to the opinion of Mr. Frank Ford.

pick1936 - Posted - 08/28/2009:  17:37:46

hey Frank, Mr. Gallager, Cut much pearl, and Ablone, with No protection, The dust settled on His sweaty face, he worked like that for years, Then developed Many skin Cancers, I saw His picture in an old Pickin Mag. His face looked BAD, The story was told By Chet Atkins, when He went to pick up His Gallager guitar..

Nechville. In Higginsville.

Lee Kelso

Edited by - pick1936 on 08/28/2009 17:42:19

Moxley - Posted - 08/28/2009:  17:40:14

I agree with infamous rapper HevyD, a masonry bit will go through shells just fine.


panthersquall - Posted - 08/28/2009:  17:52:28

I was using glue and thread but wasn't happy with the end results.

I wish there was a shop of some kind where I could take the shells to be drilled, drop them off and pick them up when they're done.

"F# is the new G."

Michael Coleman - Posted - 08/28/2009:  20:11:40

Dear Panthersquall,

I know a guy......


minstrelmike - Posted - 08/29/2009:  10:45:28

I wouldn't worry about the dust. The holes are tiny. Drill outdoors.

OTOH, the dust itself _is_ hazardous. Look for luthier warnings about mother of pearl.
I googled "mother of pearl health hazard" and found the book Health Hazards Manual for Artists. Pretty much any constant exposure to small dust particles is bad for the lungs. But drilling outdoors for hobbyist amounts of hours are probably safe.

When I got some ox bones from, I believe the instructions said to avoid breathing the bone dust because of health reasons. Seems to me bone and shell are pretty much identical, biochemically speaking

Mike Moxcey Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories