I have collected lots of abalone shells. What is the best way to drill holes in the shells, shine, polish, etc., to make jewelry?
A rotary tool is a motorized piece of equipment which carves, polishes and drills holes in beads, shells and wood, with speed. A bead reamer will also work well for hand drilling a hole in a thin soft surface such as a shell. Whichever method you choose, please wear a dust mask and use water to flush the area where you are making the hole. Water will keep the dust to a minimum and reduce the heat from the friction of the drill. It will also clean out the hole, allowing the bit to work faster and keep the drill bit cool when using a motorized rotary tool.
The rotary tool can also be used to polish--the muslin or buffing points work well for this task. Abalone is a thin shell--don't polish too much or you will lose the beautiful patterning and color, or could even wear a hole through the shell.
- Maura Buckner, Jewelry-Making Expert