Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bathroom fixtures...

Bathroom fixtures...  Most of this past week I've been working on installing various fixtures in our new bathroom – things like towel rods, shelves, soap dishes, etc.  The bathroom is completely tiled, so this means drilling holes in the tiles for the mounting screws.  Lots of holes.

I've drilled holes in tiles before, using special carbide drill bits.  I bought some of those bits for this job – they worked before, so why wouldn't they work now?  But they didn't.  In fact, they were a rather complete failure.  Fifteen minutes of attempting got me a just barely noticeable nick on one tile.  This led to some research on the web, a phone call to the guy who did the tile work, a bit of education, and finally to a solution.

It turns out that the tile Debbie picked was a particularly high quality Italian-made porcelain tile.  The tile guy told me that these tiles are fired for so long, at such a high temperature, that they're fused nearly all the way through.  He wore out several saw blades doing our bathroom!  Ceramic tiles that we've had in our past bathrooms have only a thin layer of fused material, and even that layer wasn't as hard was these porcelain tiles.  Bottom line: our tiles are too hard for a carbide bit to work.  To drill a hole in these tiles, you have to use a freaking diamond drill bit.

For the most part, I'm drilling 1/4" holes, with a few 5/16" holes as well.  The diamond drill bits, even at such small diameters, are actually tiny little hole saws.  When you look at the working end of the bit, you see a circle with a hole in the middle, just like you would on a larger hole saw.  The diamond chips are embedded in that circle.  Getting that bit started on a new hole is tricky, but not bad once you get the hang of it.  The essential “trick” is to start the hole by holding the drill at 45° to the surface, making a little nick where one edge of the hole should be.  Once you get that little nick, then you (slowly!) rotate the drill until it's perpendicular to the surface.  After about five or six holes, that part started to get easy.

But this is not like drilling a hole in wood, or even metal.  Each of these holes is taking me from 10 to 15 minutes of drilling, with steady hard pressure on the drill with one hand, while I squirt cooling and lubricating water onto the bit with the other hand, often while in an awkward stance.  This is darned hard work compared with any other drilling I've ever done!

Most of our bathroom fixtures are in now.  I've drilled 38 holes at this point, and I have just 24 to go.  I will be one very happy camper when that last hole is done :)

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