How to Use a Hole Saw Without Pilot Bit

August 25, 2021

Hole saw drilling without pilot bit.

You may use a spade bit when drilling holes in your materials. But the problem with the spade bit is that you will not get a clean and neat hole using it. Hence, if you want to cut precise large holes in your materials, it will be best to use a hole saw. With the hole saw, you can cut large and smooth holes with ease on any material. Besides, you will find that most hole saws are arbored hole saws that feature a pilot bit in their centers. The pilot bit helps in breaking a thin material quickly. 

Yet, a pilot bit can also sometimes split or crack the surface of the material. Thus, it sometimes becomes imperative to drill a huge hole without a pilot bit. However, you might find it hard to drill freehand using a hole saw without the pilot bit. As such, you would need a guide plate—a sleeve wherein you can fit the hole saw to stabilize it.

Is It Possible to Use the Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit?

Regarding the question of whether you can utilize a hole saw without a pilot bit, well, my answer is “Yes!” You can cut without a pilot bit for two reasons: 

  • first, you can do it to enlarge a hole; 
  • second, if you want to create holes in your project sans a drill bityou can cut without a pilot bit. Nevertheless, it will be best to use a guiding plate or a drill press when cutting holes without a pilot bit.

Methods of Drilling Holes Using Hole Saw without a Pilot Bit

When using a hole saw without a pilot bit, you can drill freehand using a drill press. You can also use a guide plate or drill press. Below is a short description of each of these methods:

1) Drilling with Hole Saw (Freehand) using a Power Drill

If the hole saw doesn’t have a pilot bit when cutting a hole, it will likely wander around, especially at the onset of a cut. Set the hole saw in the drill chuck. Then, position the workpiece on your table. 

Afterward, you can bring the device close to the workpiece so that you can work on the workpiece. Before drilling, you need to secure the workpiece using clamps to prevent the workpiece from moving. Afterward, you can switch on the machine. 

Then, position the tool over the cut line and start cutting. You should ensure enough clearance underneath to allow the hole cutter to exit at the bottom end. In this way, you will not damage your drill press table. You can use parallel blocks or spacers to do this. You can also position scrap wood underneath.

However, this freehand technique only applicable for the hole saw size not more than 2″ width. I would suggest you to use guide plate or drill press if you want to drill hole with more than 2″ width.

2) Drilling with Hole Saw Using Guide Plate

Another method is by using a guide plate. You should use a guide plate if you are using a handheld drilling machine with a hole saw. You usually position the guide place on top of your material. It should be firmly positioned. This plate can keep your hole saw from drifting away from the marked lines. Without such a guide plate, you will find it hard to make a perfect hole in your material. Here is a rundown of the simple steps to follow using a guide plate:

  1. To use the guide plate, you can start with unscrewing the collet of the hole saw. Afterward, you can remove the bit. You can remove the drill bit using a 1/16″ hex-head wrench. Then, screw back the collet onto your hole saw. 
  2. Once your hole saw is all set, you affix the guide plate on your material using clamps. If the material doesn’t allow for clamping, you can hold the workpiece with your hand.
  3. Afterward, you can insert the hole saw into the drill.
  4. Then, insert your hole saw onto your guide plate and switch it on and start drilling slow. Let the teeth form the hole. Then drill up to 1/2″ deep. 
  5. Check your vertical alignment while you move back a bit. Adjust your alignment if needed. Then, go on drilling again. 
  6. If the saw starts binding, take out the hole saw out. Clear the dust out of the drilled hole. Then, continue with your drilling. Let the hole sole penetrate beyond the backside of the workpiece. Let the scrap piece stop your hole saw.

3) Using a Drill Press

You can drill a hole on your material with a hole saw using your drill press. If you have a drill press and don’t want to use any guide plate, you can use this drill press to make holes in your materials. 

With the drill press, your drill bit will be appropriately guided by the drill press. Hence, you won’t need a guide plate. When cutting holes using the drill press, you only need to remove the pilot bit from your hole saw. Then, set the saw bit onto your drill press. 

And make sure, you clamp and secure the wood board firmly before pressing the drill press into the wood. 

Additional Technical Tips When Using a Hole Saw

Aside from knowing the three different methods of using the hole saw without a pilot bit, it will also help if you learn the tips on using the hole saw without a pilot bit:

Lubricating the Hole Saw Oil

It will be best to use a lubricating oil when using a hole saw on metallic materials. The lubricating oil will facilitate the drilling process through metal. Moreover, it will help remove from the kerf the unnecessary shards.

Use the Side Handle for Better Grip

When cutting holes using the hole saw, it will be best to use the side handle. In doing so, you will have enough leverage and stability when cutting. Moreover, using the side handle will allow you to provide extra downward pressure to the drill, especially when cutting harder materials.

Keep the Drill Straight When Cutting

When cutting using a hole saw, you should maintain the drill straight while you cut a hole. In this way, you can cut neatly and cleanly. Moreover, the accuracy of your cut becomes higher.

When Should You Use a Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit?

There are instances when you need to cut a hole using your hole saw without a pilot bit. If you are a beginner woodworker, it will be best to know these instances. You would primarily use a hole saw without a pilot bit, for example, when you lost your pilot bit or don’t have one. If you already have an existing hole and want to enlarge it, you can also use a hole saw without a pilot bit. 

With an existing hole already cut out, you won’t be needing a pilot bit. You don’t need to do away with the pilot bit if there is already an existing hole that you would like to enlarge. 

Moreover, if you are drilling into a fragile and thin material, you may not need a pilot hole. The reason is that the pilot bit may crack or split the material you are drilling into. You can avoid this scenario by removing the pilot bit.


The hole saw usually has a pilot drill bit at its center to keep the saw’s teeth from veering off the cut line. Since it cuts a hole without cutting the core up, the hole saw becomes an ideal tool for cutting large holes. Moreover, it is preferred over spade drills and twists drills because of its ability to cut large holes. Besides, you will need less power to cut large holes using the hole saw. The cut depth of the hole saw, however, is limited by the cup-like shape’s depth. The aspect ratio, moreover, between the depth to diameter is short. 

Of course, the hole saw is handy, and as mentioned above, you can use it even without its pilot bit. But it will indeed be a challenge to cut without the pilot bit. Nevertheless, if you follow the simple steps mentioned above, you can breeze through the cutting process using the hole saw without any problem.

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment