Making a hole in wood seems easy, but deciding on the right drill bit or saw can be confusing. And while a professional woodworker has all of the right types of drill bits, a DIY project can come to a screeching halt.
Some of the common problems include:
- Making a flat bottom hole in wood that doesn’t come through the other side of the wood.
- Drilling a centered hole for cabinet hinges
- Making large (2-inch, 3-inch or more) holes in wood
- Fast cutting of holes in 2×4’s
In this guide learn what the most common tools for making holes are, and what’s bet for your project.
Best for large holes:
Best for making screw holes:
Budget hole saws:
Best to keep bit centered:
Making holes by hand:
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.Hole Saws Make Large Round Holes in Wood
Available on Amazon: Dewalt Hole Saw Kit
Types of Holes:
- Large holes in any wood, plywood or laminates
- Perfect round holes up to 6″ in diameter
No workshop is complete without at least one set of hole saw kits.
And, here’s why:
- Hole saws can cut holes in wood from 1″ up to 6″
- In fact, one of the best tools for making the popular corn-hole board holes is, you guessed it, a 6″ hole saw.
- Looking to cut a hole in a thick piece of wood? Use a hole saw with a deep “throat” that will go through deep material
- Lastly, to avoid chipping the bottom of the wood surface, once the pilot bit is through the wood just reverse the bit. This has the added bonus of not jamming the wood deep in the hole saw.
2.Pilot Bits For Drilling Screw Holes
Available on Amazon: FTG Pilot Bit Set
When it comes to drilling holes for screws, most screws are tapered. And, to properly set the screw you need the diameter of the drill bit to match the shaft of the screw.
The solution? A set of pilot bits that quickly snap into any drill and, of course, a set of these to match your screw sizes.
As a bonus (and not required to use) you can also countersink the heads with most sets.
Lastly, if you need to make holes for screws in multiple pieces of wood you can use a speedy pocket hole jig.
3. Cutting Flat Bottom Holes in Wood With Forstner Bits
Available on Amazon: Porter-Cable Forstner Bit Set
4. Standard Drill Bits for Small Holes
Available on Amazon: Hex Quick Change Drill Bit
The popular twist drill bits are likely already in your toolbox and do fine making holes up to about 1/2″.
5. Making Medium Sized Holes in Wood With Spade Bits
Available on Amazon: Dewalt Spade Bits
A spade bit is the standard issue drill bit for putting holes in wood of all shapes and sizes. And, 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.
6. Fast Drilling For Softwoods: Auger Wood Bits for Running Electrical Lines in Studs
Available on Amazon: IRWIN Auger Bits
The auger drill set 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″.
7. Corn Hole Drill Bit For 6-Inch Holes in Wood
Available on Amazon: 6-Inch Hole Saw
If you’re building your own corn hole boards you’ll face one obstacle: finding a hole saw large enough to drill a 6″ hole.
But, this 6-inch hole saw will cut a smooth hole with precision. And is a MUCH better alternative than using a jigsaw.
Caution: Be sure to have a firm grip on the saw, go slow and hold on when this hole saw hits your corn hole face. For a professional finish, be sure to drill about 75-percent of the way and then reverse the hole saw to avoid splinters.
8. Cutting Irregular Holes in Wood With a Jigsaw
Available on Amazon: Black and Decker Jigsaw
When it comes to putting irregular or square holes in wood a jigsaw is one of the best tools.
However, a jigsaw comes with a few cautions:
- DON’T expect to cut perfectly straight lines
- DO use a 3/8″ drill bit to start a hole (I like to use a hole in each corner if I’m cutting a square or rectangle)
- Be careful to not to cut the power cord when cutting
But, this isn’t a tool you’ll use ALL the time so if you’re not sure go with a well reviewed saw that fits the buying criteria below
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!
9. Cordless Drill to Drive Drill Bits
Available on Amazon: Cordless Drill Driver
For any round holes you’ll need to have a drill to power it. So, while obvious, a good quality drill is invaluable to have.
When looking for a drill be sure to consider:
- Brand name and buying into an ecosystem of tools you can share batteries across
- Amp hours is important to ensure batteries run longer (larger numbers are better)
- Torque for running larger hole saws
10. Controlling Depth and Position of Holes With a Drill Press
Available on Amazon: WEN Drill Press
While you can use a cordless drill for some holes, a drill press for accuracy and repeatable drilling of holes in wood can’t be beat.
- 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″)
While these are available in all sizes, unless you have serious woodworking plans a bench mounted drill press will work for most projects.
11. Cutting Square or Rectangular Holes With a Circular Saw
Available on Amazon: Dewalt Cordless Circular Saw
For a hole cutting job that involves larger square holes you’ll want to take a look at a circular saw.
Different from the reciprocating and jigsaw, the circular saw can “dive” into wood without a pre-drilled hole and start going.
- Fast cutting for large holes
- Cordless versions available for portability
- Able to cut straight lines
- Use a circular saw track guide to cut a straight line
12. Rough Cutting Any Size or Shape With Reciprocating Saws
Available on Amazon: Reciprocating Saw for Rough Cuts
With a reciprocating saw you can make fast cuts and holes in just about any wood.
But there’s a catch: there is nothing pretty about a hole the reciprocating saw makes. However, it will get the job done quickly and with minimal effort.
- Aggressive blades with course teeth for fast cuts
- Designed for speed
- Cordless and corded for remote sites
13. Cutting Straight Grooves in Wood with Fluted Router Bits
Available on Amazon: Whiteside Fluted Router Bit
A fluted router bit installed in a plunge router with either a pattern guide or freehand will make just about any pattern of hole in wood.
The only con? A router bit has a limited maximum hole size and creates a lot of dust.
14. Making Irregular Holes in Wood With a CNC Milling Machine
Available on Amazon: Genmitsu CNC
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
What tool makes round 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.
- About the Author
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Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.