No, I don't have too many pearls.  I can ALWAYS use more!
No, I don’t have too many pearls. I can ALWAYS use more!

I love using freshwater pearls in my jewelry. In fact, sometimes I think I make jewelry just so I have an excuse to buy pearls.

Today I got a newsletter from Beading Daily, an Interweave Press blog, about working with pearls. They suggested buying large-holed pearls for easier stringing on thicker cords, or using a hand bead reamer to enlarge smaller holes.

These are both great ideas, but there are even better ways to use your current pearl stash with leather cord designs.

I added this tip to their comment box, and thought I’d share it with you, too.

I love freshwater pearls strung on leather cord, too, but there are easier ways to enlarge the holes to accommodate.

Rings ‘n’ Things has a nifty battery-operated bead reamer (Item # 69-058 for $16) that speeds up the process considerably.

My first electric bead reamer.  I actually used it so much, I fried it.
My first electric bead reamer. I actually used it so much, I fried it.

It’s very safe to use–you won’t lose fingers!–and works quickly to enlarge pearl holes. I work with a small cup of water, submerging the bead and the drill tip, and use a ream/release/ream/release technique.

Once you are drilling so much, you can’t keep up with the fresh batteries, try a mini-rotary tool kit.

An awesomely amazing versatile tool!  And yes, the over-exuberance is warranted.
An awesomely, amazingly versatile tool! And yes, the over-exuberance is warranted.

Dremel is the most well-known brand, but you can buy nice lesser-known brands for $15-$25. They’ll come with a case and dozens of drill bits. They’re the same size as the bead reamer, with an electric cord instead of batteries. You can drill til the cows come home. (Sorry. I’m from the Midwest.)

BUT….the kits don’t have the wonderful bead reamer tip! Go back to Rings ‘n’ Things and buy these replacement bead reamer tips (item #69-058-A). Strip off the plastic tube casing that allows them to fit the battery tool, and they’ll fit your mini rotary tool.

And the amazingly awesome yet hard-to-find bead reamer tips.
And the amazingly awesome yet hard-to-find bead reamer tips.

You can actually use this tool to drill bigger holes in glass beads. Stone beads, too, but they take a little longer.

At one point, I was boring out so many pearls, I burned out my battery-powered bead reamer! Hence the switch to the small mini-rotary tool.

I’m betting once you try this amazing little tool, you’re going to find dozens of other uses for it.

P.S. For some reason, these don’t show up in catalogs or search engines under any variation of “drill”. Look for “mini rotary tool kit” and you’ll find ’em.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.


  1. Good to know! I have a Dremel and so far I have only used it to etch the back of pendants to personalize them. I will have to do this for pearls as they are my very favorite stones to buy! Enjoy the day! Erin


  2. Luann, sometimes the things we do that we kind of take for granted are really valuable to others – we just don’t see it until someone brings it up. LOL Glad you did!
    I’ve been doing the same thing as you for years now. LOL I burnt out the motor in my first little Harbor Freight rotary tool after a while – I think it cost me $10 – and it was put to hard use in the same way you describe!!

    The cool thing is that even though the motor doesn’t work in mine, it still rotates freely – and still has the ability to secure whatever you put in it – so I use it for twisting wire with a drill that works on the other end! Faster than a pin vise!!!
    Also, If you stick a pipe cleaner in one that works, you can easily clean the release from the HUGE holes of those deliciously riotously colored Balinese beads in a nice safe way.
    BTW – you rock!


  3. I skipped the battery-powered version and went straight to the corded dremel years ago. Mine has the motor on the end of a flex shaft so no electricity anywhere near the water. I’ve used mine to clean the holes in lampwork beads. The trouble is in finding the bits that are quality enough to last for more than a few weeks. Thanks for that tip about Rings n Things!


  4. Oh, and grease the head on the dremel with vaseline once in a while. It will prevent rust from seizing up the works.


  5. Loved your reamer article – such a great help! But can you tell me: is a mini rotary kit, that says in its description it’s only for etching, be used for enlarging bead holes?


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