How to drill into glass

June 23, 2014

I’ve always wanted to hang DIY glass lanterns along the trees in our backyard – I’ve seen it done with mason jars and regular jars and I’ve planned to do it for years. But I knew it would mean I’d have to drill a hole in the bottom of the glass to do it.

Otherwise they will fill up with rain water and I’d have to dump them regularly and I know myself and myself would never do that. So they’d become little mosquito breeding grounds and those guys like me enough as it is.

SO. I knew all along I’d need to drill holes in them to avoid mosquito production and my well being. :) I finally bit the bullet and just did it this weekend. My original plan was to use mason jars, but I didn’t want to put a hole in the ones I have because I use them quite a bit during the fall and holidays. So I took a trip to Goodwill, where I’ve gotten EVERY ONE of my mason jars over the years, and they had none. None!! Well, I did find one itty bitty baby one marked at a dollar, which just annoyed me so I put it back.

You know how I feel about Goodwill prices lately. :)

So I was just going to use food jars and wire, but then while shopping the other day I found some super cute mason jar versions for $2.99 each (Kirklands). For that price it was worth it to just get them instead of DIYing – they had cute wire already and everything. They are SO much cuter than a jar too!

Here’s what I ended up needing to drill the holes:

drilling hole into glass

The drill bit gets hot so you need to have water near the spot you’re drilling. You can do that by just pouring it constantly, but you need three hands to do that. (Or you can stop constantly to pour.) I found the easiest way was to fill a bucket just higher than the height of the jar.

I picked up a drill bit just for this, and it was pricey at $18, but I know I’ll use it for other things in the future. There are two types of glass cutting bits:

glass drilling bit glass drilling bits

I used the one on the left. From my understanding you won’t be able to use these on tempered glass, so don’t try it on that. (It just won’t work.)

Getting started was the hardest part. I was seriously wondering if I’d be able to even do this because the bit kept skidding all over the place. You need to start at an angle at first, not flat – so the bit can get a grip on the glass. how to drill a hole in glass

This pic was a little later when I had straightened it out a bit more, but it gives you an idea of how I did it in the bucket.

Once you get that grip it’s easy, but that’s the hard part:

how to put a hole in glass

Those half moon shapes are where I started. Once you get those going you can straighten out the bit and put it straight down:

hole to drill into glass

By the way – use gloves, eye protection and if you are not doing this in a bucket of water, I’d use a mask as well. With the water there was no need for that.

OH, and use a cordless drill. No water and electricity please. :)

When you get the bit going it’s not bad at all – you just have to be patient. You don’t want to push too hard, just let the bit do it’s thing. I’d say each time took about 30-45 seconds of drilling once I got a good grip:

drilling a hole in glass

Here’s what you’re left with:

I got overconfident by my fourth one and pushed too hard:

drilling into glass safety

Nice. I was pushing the drill too hard and it pushed through. So just be patient! Patience is really not my thing.

I seems intimidating but honestly it wasn’t bad at all. Having the glass under water was a huge help because I wasn’t worried about the bit getting hot or glass flying everywhere. Overall it was actually kind of a cool DIY.

I’ve had little indoor/outdoor tea lights from IKEA for a about a year for this project:

mason jar lanterns

By the way, I used the wire from the jar that broke to make another lantern with a jar from the fridge. :)

I hung them from the trees along the back:

mason jar lanterns in trees

And waited for the sun to go down:

DIY mason jar lanterns

I have these tea lights in white and yellow and love the yellow out there – I feel like they look more like fireflies or something. :)

I can’t find the lights online at IKEA though. I hope they still carry them because I want more:

jar lanterns for outside

Now I want to do this along the whole length of the yard – how pretty!:

mason jar lanterns in trees

I want them everywhere. ALL THE JARS.

Of course we have to turn on each light but that’s no biggie –- we won’t use these every night. I’m pretty much in love with them though:

mason jar lights in trees

I’ll be making more but will be raiding the fridge for jars to the do the rest.

I love how they turned out and love that they’ll have very little upkeep – I’ll probably have to clean them every month or so, but they are secure (I made sure not to hang them too close to each other so they won’t bang together during storms) and will drain easily.

I knocked two things off my list – a project I’ve been wanting to do forever and a DIY that I’ve always been too intimidated to attempt. :) Here me roar.

The possibilities are endless now that I know how to drill through glass. Have you ever tried it? I’ve seen tutorials on cutting wine bottles and that looks interesting as well.

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  1. They are adorable. I think you are very brave to drill through thick glass. Eeek.
    Lovely lanterns, though -- worth the work!

  2. Very cute, Sarah! I need to do this project -- we only have one outdoor light for my home's patio -- it doesn't light up much of the patio, though, because the light gets blocked by my home's chimney, which is right next to the light! Bad planning by the builder!

  3. These are adorable!! Super brave of you to cut the glass, but you did a great job! Now it's time to throw a party back there!!!!

  4. You do realize that there are no mason jars at Goodwill because of Pinterest and blogs like yours. :)
    I mean that in the nicest way.

  5. Oh and will you come to my house and make these?
    Because glass cutting and me = trip to ER.

  6. Sooooo cute!!! You may already know this, but if not..... onlineyou can order tealights with a timer in them. They are on for like 5 hours and then off until the same time the next night, etc.

  7. Those are really cute! But I really love the squirrel swing in the tree! :-)

  8. Love this! We just started a home renovation and have a backyard full of trees. Once we finish the inside, this is a must! ~Kerry @ back to our roots

  9. Those are so fun, I probably have 75 mason jars and a slew of the little battery lights, but I'm way to chicken to drill glass!!! :(

  10. Just an idea-since you're using tealights that are battery powered, couldn't you keep the lid for the jar on to keep rain, dirt, etc. out of the jars? Maybe paint the lid a pretty color?

  11. That's a great idea with the lids. Mason jars are just so 'in' at the moment, even cafes are serving drinks in them!

  12. So pretty! You are really inspiring me! I'm gonna have to start crafting if you keep up with all the fantastic ideas.

  13. Was wondering if you could use miracle whip's plastic jars? The other thought was could you hang the jars upside down and sring clear Christmas lites thru a hole in the bottom (which becomes the top when hung). Not much of a DIYer but love the idea.

  14. Oh I just read the other comments! Tea lites with timers and lids on the jars! Isn't it great how together we solve problems...let women rule the world!

  15. You can also take the top off of those little solar garden lights that come on stakes and glue them to the top of the mason jars. The ones with the silver tops look very similar to the older antique mason jar lids, and then they are solar powered and you don't have to worry about batteries or turning them on and off.

  16. That's really fun! I've always been afraid of drilling glass too. I'll have to try the bucket thing. If you want mason jars, you can pick up a dozen at the grocery store or big box store for $12. If you go to Walmart and buy their Mainstays brand it would be even cheaper.

  17. This is great! It looks so festive! You probably already know this, but brand new Mason jars are very cheap. You can get them new for roughly a dollar a piece, sometimes cheaper. I've seen them at my grocery and places like Ace hardware. Anyway, just wanted to let you know in case you need more :)

  18. Oh, I love this idea! How fun for a summer cookout. I've never drilled through glass, so I would be a little intimidated too. Thanks for the great inspiration!

  19. I would get a large piece for above my stairs. Been looking for something but they're so expensive!

  20. Wish we had trees In back yard closer to house, this would be so cute and so festive. After reading all the comments you got on this project it was pretty darned informative and full of ideas in addition to your post. That's why I read comments, many times they solve problems, clear up confusion, suggest other ways to do things. Takes a while when there are several comments but many times worth reading.
    I love that you are honest about what you'll do with the lights and won't do to keep them emptied out. I mean you do have a life and few other things to think about besides firefly lights. I loved the idea of putting lids on lights, they you don't have to drill holes in bottom of jars cause I know I couldn't do that, couldn't hold onto the drill that long. And I'd have a very controlling husband out there telling me what to do, right or not, lol. Only he knows how to do anything. Sorry other husbands but some are that way. Very glad you shared that project cause you sure got lots of reactions to it.


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