Thursday, March 21, 2013

What's On My Table? The Best Drill Bits Ever!


I won't be the first person to tell you about getting sick after getting done with a big, stressful event. I am now working through something that's a cross between a cold/bronchitis and tubercu-bola. I'm coughing a lot and my tissues show evidence that my insides are liquifying, so I think it's the latter.


The image is linked to the original source of the base image, but it didn't look horrible enough, so I had to edit it.

Pain and suffering are like manna from Heaven for artists, and an artist I am. So, I'm working until I can't find my bench under the mound of used Kleenex. Fortunately the main project on my bench is for the Bead Soup Blog Party, which I don't plan to sell, so I don't have to worry about how much it will cost to disinfect it. Do they sell hand sanitizer by the gallon?

If you recall, Kristin sent me some really beautiful beads, including some amazingly enticing drilled stones. I sketched out my design earlier this month and am now starting to fabricate the components I'll need: sterling silver bezels, bezel-capped rivets, and more drilled stones. One hint I'll offer is that I'm borrowing from some of Michael Boyd's techniques laid out in two articles from the March 2004 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.

New drilled stones for my Bead Soup Blog Party design
The new rocks I drilled. There's something amazing about making permanent changes to a material that might be 5 million years old! It reminds me of my responsibility to be a careful, thoughtful craftswoman.

For those of you who are already drilling stones, or for anyone who is interested in starting, I wanted to tell you how much I love William Beekman's Badger Sintered diamond drill bits. Sintered is the key word here, because it means that diamonds are embedded throughout the drill head, and are not just plated to the surface. Not only have I drilled through all of the rocks in the picture with one drill bit, but twice more that amount of rock.

If you haven't done any drilling yet, let me explain why that's a big deal. The recommended procedure for drilling stones with a diamond drill bit is to submerge the rock in a shallow pan of water using a slow drill speed, light pressure, and using short intervals of drilling and backing out the drill bit to flush the hole. Even with this careful technique, as you drill you wear down the metal on a diamond drill bit. If you're working with a plated drill, as soon as you wear down the plating you also lose all of your diamonds, therefore all your cutting power. With the sintered drill bits, as the metal wears down, new diamonds are revealed and the bit continues to cut.

The least amount of money I've ever paid for a diamond drill bit was probably $2usd for a Chinese-produced 1mm bit that lasted - generously - through 10 rocks. So, $0.20 per rock. Most good quality plated drill bits are in the $6 to $15 range. I've paid that for some drill bits and haven't had them last as long as 10 rocks. So, if I drill three rocks on a $6 drill bit, that's now $2 per rock. I wouldn't claim that's crazy-outrageous, but it's not cost effective, either.

So, how do those compare with the Badger Sintered drill bits? For your first order, Bill gives you two drill bits for the price of one. So, instead of one for $15, you get two. On my first drill bit, which happens to be a 1.75mm bit, I've drilled approximately 30 rocks so far - most of them small, around 5mm in depth; the average size rock I normally drill. I have also drilled a few 10mm rocks and a couple 15mm rocks. So, for my initial $7.50 investment on this drill bit it's cost me $0.25 per rock (about $0.18 per hole) and this bit is far from the end of it's life. Besides that, Bill just provides awesome customer service. In fact, this morning I placed a new order for three more drill bits and, since I only ordered one drill bit the first time, he told me he'd still double this order, and the two orders I've placed with him so far have both shipped the same day. Plus, Bill makes each drill bit by hand "from cutting of the shaft material, to the brazing of the diamonds and the sizing...rather tedious work, but worth it." Bill knows exactly how many diamonds he puts on the cutting tip and says that is why they last. That's the kind of quality and ingenuity that we expect from products made in the USA and Bill delivers!

Rocks I've Drilled
A few more of the rocks I've drilled with my first drill bit from Bill, including the 30mm rock in the middle.

I don't get compensated for promoting these drill bits. I just wanted to share my experience in the spirit of promoting a great product. If word of mouth can help my business, I want to use it to help others, too!

Anyhow ... back to drilling, cutting, soldering, and hammering. I'll try not to get lost in the clutter of my Puffs!

Thanks for reading!
~Julie

1 comment:

  1. Just catching up with you and I saw this on the drill bits. I am just new at drilling stone and was really interested in reading your cost anaylysis on it. Also missed your lampwork class....a dream of mine to learn some day. I just bought a bunch of enameling stuff suppose I should learn that first. Looking forward to saturday... Cant wait to see what you made! Congrats on the challenge you won...that piece was gorgeous!!!!!

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