Tools to make holes in wood

12 Best Tools to Make Holes in Wood With Ease [Pro Advice]

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Looking for a tool to make a flat bottom hole in wood? Or maybe a large 4″ hole in wood? Whatever your need, in this article we’ll show you all the tools to make holes in wood – and one that will fit your budget.

I’ve drilled, cut and sawn thousands of holes in my woodworking career and there’s always a tool to do the job. Or sometimes two. Or three.

To help you find the right tool at the right price we’ll review all the tools made for cutting holes in wood so you can get back to your project. And while there’s 12 tools listed here the top 3 should cover most of your hole making needs.

Best For Large Round Holes: Hole Saw Kit
Best Irregular Holes: Jigsaw
Best At Small Round Holes: Spade Bits

Tools to Make Holes in Wood

Based on my decades of woodworking experience, here’s my list of tools to make holes in wood:

1. Jig Saw

Best Tool for Irregular Holes in Wood

jig saw tool for holes in wood

Types of Holes:

  • Irregular holes in hardwood, flooring, cabinets, decks
  • Square holes in cabinet backs

What to Look For:

  • A cordless jig saw is a great addition as it removes the cord that will constantly get tangled in your work
  • Look for a saw with an adjustable “bite” that will allow fast work in softwoods. And controlled cuts in harder woods.
  • Don’t skimp on the blades – but a high quality set!

2. Hole Saw For Large HOles

Best Tool for Large Round Holes

hole saws for making large holes in wood

Types of Holes:

  • Large holes in any wood, plywood or laminates
  • Perfect round holes up to 6″ in diameter

3. Cordless Drill - For Using Small to Large Drill Bits

cordless drill tools to make holes in wood

With a cordless drill* you can power both small and large drill bits. And with a heavy duty drill use large bits like a hole saw.

While most everyone has a cordless drill, if you are planning to drill large holes over 2″ you’ll want to consider a more powerful unit. 

Why won’t smaller, $40 cordless drills work? The simple answer is torque as the force of a 4″ hole saw is quite powerful when it grabs into wood.  

4. Drill Press - #1 Tool for Making Round Holes in Wood

Drill press for perfect holes in wood

With an economical WEN drill press* you can use a variety of drill bits to make perfectly round holes at a controlled depth.

Sure you can use a cordless drill for some holes, but a drill press for accuracy can’t be beat.

Key features:

    • Depth adjustment stops
    • Work pieces can be clamped
    • Adjustable speed
    • Fits large drill bits up to 1/2″ (most cordless drills stop at 3/8″)

5. Circular Saw for Square Holes in Wood

circular saw for square holes in DEWALT-DC390B-18-Volt-Cordless-Circular

If your goals isn’t round, then circular saw like this Dewalt Circular Saw* will make quick work of square or rectangular holes in wood.

Different from the reciprocating and jigsaw, the circular saw can “dive” into wood without a pre-drilled hole and start going.

Key features:

    • Fast cutting for large holes
    • Cordless versions available for portability

And if you buy into the Dewalt 20V lineup there are over 100 tools you can add later.

6. Reciprocating Saw - A Tool for Cutting Rough Holes in Wood

reciprocating saw for rough holes in wood

With a reciprocating saw* you can make fast cuts and holes in just about any wood.

There is nothing pretty about a hole the reciprocating saw makes. But it will get the job done quickly and with minimal effort.

Key features:

    • Aggressive blades with course teeth for fast cuts
    • Designed for speed
    • Cordless and corded for remote sites

7. Twist Drill Bits to Make Small Holes in Wood

twist bits for small holes in thehomewoodwo-20

The twist drill bits* are likely already in your toolbox and do fine making holes up to about 1/2″.

While the twist drill bit looks the same as the pilot point drill bit you’ll see one important feature missing. And that is the pilot point for the larger bits. However, if you use a punch to make an indent for these bits they work fine for sizes over 3/16.  But over that size and these bits can “wander” in the wood grain.
A twist drill bit works in any type of wood but is limited maximum hole size and is less accurate for larger sizes due to lack of a pilot point.

8. Forstner Bit: The Only Tool to Make Flat Bottom Holes in Wood

forstner bits for flat bottom holes in wood
A forstner bit* will make ultra smooth, pinpoint accuracy holes in wood. This bit is typically used for 1/2″ to 2″ holes.
I’ve drilled thousands of hinges with a Forstner bit and it’s one of my go-to bits for my drill press. Because this bit excels in precision drilling it can accurately drill large holes without wobble. Due to it’s precision design it cuts anything from hardwood and softwood to most types of plywood.

9. Spade Drill Bits (aka Paddle Flat Bits) For Fast Drilling

paddle bits for making fast holes in wood

A spade bit* is the standard issue drill bit for putting holes in wood of all shapes and sizes. Due to it’s inexpensive design it’s a great tool for an occasional DIY’er.

I have a few sets of spade bits in my toolbox at all times. Because they are versatile, cheap, and have a unique long pilot tip they are perfect for drilling holes in any type of wood.

And the best part? They are the best drill bit to avoid ripping out the side of the wood opposite the drill. Because they have a long pilot tip you can see the bit come through and then simply start drilling from the opposite side of the wood.

But the only thing this bit can’t do is drill a flat bottom hole – you’ll need to go back to the forstner bit for that.

10. Router Bit for Precise Holes and Grooves

router bit for holes in wood

A router bit* installed in a plunge router with either a pattern guide or freehand will make just about any pattern of hole in wood.

While not the first thought for many, router bits have been used to make holes for quite some time. Used in combination with a plunge router and an infinite set of guides a spiral bit can cut in all kinds of wood.

The only con? A router bit has a limited maximum hole size and creates a lot of dust.

11. Auger Drill Bits for Rough Drilling of Holes

auger bits for construction holes in studs

The auger drill* is a fast cutting bit for soft woods like wall studs. Due to it’s speed it is commonly used by electricians for holes 3/8-1″.

While the first bits on this list can be used with “finesse”, the auger bit is anything but. Because of it’s aggressive screw tip it requires a high powered cordless or corded drill and the right speed. And once it starts it is hard to stop.
Expect it to rip right through a 2×4 stud and tear a rough hole in the other side. After all, it’s what you want for fast drilling in soft woods.

12. CNC Milling Machine

cnc milling machine for precise holes in wood

So a CNC milling machine* may not be what you expected to find, it’s a master at cutting intricate holes in wood.

I told you this one would be cool.

And no these aren’t so expensive only a professional woodworking shop can own them. Because technology and time produce cheaper tools you can have a home-based CNC mill for $200-300.

By using a backing block you can cut holes in thin pieces of wood with precision using this machine.

Frequently Asked Questions for Tools to Make Holes in Wood

What tool makes holes in wood?

For round holes a drill press or cordless drill is the best tool. But for irregular holes in wood a reciprocating saw is my preference.

How do you drill a large hole in wood?

A large hole over 2″ is best drilled with a hole saw. These types of bits have an edge like a saw and attach to a cordless drill.

How do you cut a hole in wood by hand?

The best way to cut a hole in wood by hand is with a paddle bit or auger drill using a crank driver. But honestly, this is an antiquated approach and a cheap cordless drill is a preferred tool.

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