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Tools To Make Holes In Wood Of All Shapes and Sizes

Updated: July 9, 2023
Making holes in wood is usually as simple as deciding which type of drill bit is best for the job. In this guide learn how to quickly cut holes and avoid damage.
Tools to make holes in wood
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Tools To Make Holes In Wood Of All Shapes and Sizes

Most Versatile

19-Piece Hole Saw Drill Set








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 suitable 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 the most common tools for making holes and what’s best for your project.

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

Hole saw kit for making 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

Every workshop is complete with 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 famous 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, reverse the bit once the pilot bit is through the wood. This has the bonus of not jamming the wood deep in the hole saw.

2.Pilot Bits For Drilling Screw Holes

Pilot bits for making screw holes in wood

Available on Amazon: FTG Pilot Bit Set 

When it comes to drilling holes for screws, most screws are tapered. And, to correctly 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.

You can also countersink the heads with most sets as a bonus (and not required to use).

Lastly, you can use a speedy pocket hole jig if you need to make holes for screws in multiple pieces of wood.

3. Cutting Flat Bottom Holes in Wood With Forstner Bits

forstner drill bits for flat bottom holes in wood

Available on Amazon: Porter-Cable Forstner Bit Set 

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 its precision design, it cuts anything from hardwood and softwood to most types of plywood.

4. Standard Drill Bits for Small Holes

hex shank drill bits

Available on Amazon: Hex Quick Change Drill Bit 

The famous 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, one crucial feature is missing: the pilot point for the more significant bits.
However, if you use a punch to make an indent for these bits, they work fine for sizes over 3/16.  But these bits can “wander” in the wood grain over that size.
A twist drill bit works in any wood but is limited to maximum hole size and is less accurate for larger sizes due to the lack of a pilot point.

5. Making Medium Sized Holes in Wood With Spade Bits

Spade or paddle bits

Available on Amazon: Dewalt Spade Bits 

A spade bit is the standard issue drill bit for putting holes in all shapes and sizes of wood. And, due to its inexpensive design, it’s an excellent tool for an occasional DIY’er.

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

Irwin auger drill bits

Available on Amazon: IRWIN Auger Bits 

The auger drill set is a fast-cutting bit for softwoods like wall studs. Due to its 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. Its aggressive screw tip 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 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 softwoods.

7. Corn Hole Drill Bit For 6-Inch Holes in Wood

Corn hole drill bit

Available on Amazon: 6-Inch Hole Saw 

If you’re building your 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 it is a MUCH better alternative than using a jigsaw.

Please be aware: 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, drill about 75 percent of the way and reverse the gap saw to avoid splinters.

8. Cutting Irregular Holes in Wood With a Jigsaw

Black and Decker Jig Saw for Cutting Holes in Wood

Available on Amazon: Black and Decker Jigsaw 

A jigsaw is one of the best tools when putting irregular or square holes in wood.

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 not to cut the power cord when cutting 

But this isn’t a tool you’ll use ALL the time, so if you’re unsure, 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 an excellent 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 – buy a high-quality set!

9. Cordless Drill to Drive Drill Bits

Dewalt cordless drill for driving drill bits in wood

Available on Amazon: Cordless Drill Driver 

For any round holes, you’ll need to have a drill to power it. So, while noticeable, a good quality drill is invaluable to have. 

When looking for a drill, be sure to consider the following:

  • Brand name and buying into an ecosystem of tools you can share batteries across
  • Amp hours are essential to ensure batteries run longer
  • Torque for running larger hole saws

10. Controlling Depth and Position of Holes With a Drill Press

Drill press for making accurate holes in wood

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 beaten.

Key features:

  • Depth adjustment stops
  • Workpieces 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, a bench-mounted drill press will only work for some projects if you have serious woodworking plans.

11. Cutting Square or Rectangular Holes With a Circular Saw

Dewalt cordless skilsaw

Available on Amazon: Dewalt Cordless Circular Saw 

You’ll want to look at a circular saw for a hole-cutting job involving larger square holes.

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

Key features:

    • 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

Dewalt recriprocating saw

Available on Amazon: Reciprocating Saw for Rough Cuts 

You can make fast cuts and holes in just about any wood with a reciprocating saw.

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.

Key features:

  • 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

Router bit - fluted for routing holes in wood

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 a hole in wood.

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

CNC milling machine for precise holes in wood

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What tool makes round holes in wood?

A drill press or cordless drill is the best tool for round holes. 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 bits have an edge like a saw and attach to a cordless drill.

How do you cut a hole in wood by hand?

Using a crank driver, the best way to cut a hole in wood by hand is with a paddle bit or auger drill. But honestly, this is an old-fashioned approach, and a cheap cordless drill is a preferred tool.


Surprised at how many tools to make holes in the wood there are?

Well, with the variations in wood and style of the hole, there are a lot of choices. 


  • About the Author
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Eric Trion
( Woodworker )

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.

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