How to Cut a Hole in Wood With a Drill

May 15, 2021

Method to use hole saw to drill a hole in wood.

If you are here, then it is safe to say you’ve reached a point in your woodwork journey where you need to drill a hole in wood. Not to worry, we’ll walk you through the process with our tips on how to cut a hole in a wood piece with a drill.

You see, it may be impossible to eliminate the need for drilling holes while working in the wood workshop. Therefore, learning how to drill a hole through the wood is an essential part of woodwork you cannot afford to skip. Thankfully, you have found this article.

You’ll agree that the key to any project’s success is knowing the proper steps to achieve the desired goals. Of course, you’d also have to possess the necessary skillset and the tools to increase your chances of success. On this note, we have compiled everything you need to know about cutting holes in wood with a drill.

So, keep reading!

Required Tools for This Project

Having the right tools is critical to the success of every project. So, before you attempt drilling a hole, we recommend assembling the following tools and placing them within grasp:

  • Clamps
  • Corded drill
  • Drill bit set
  • Hammer
  • Hearing protection
  • Hole saw kit
  • Safety glasses
  • Tape measure
  • Wood chisel

Drilling a hole in Wood: A step-by-step Guide

Now that you know the tools you need to drill an accurate hole in wood, let us jump right into the steps on how to achieve this hole. Here we go:

Step 1: Drill a Pilot Hole

To increase the accuracy and ease of drilling operations (especially with denser hardwood), it is best to drill a pilot hole. In case you are wondering, a pilot hole is simply a hole you make with a drill bit that is smaller than the hole size you want. The smaller hole will then act as a guide for the larger bit when you drill the hole’s final diameter.

Drilling pilot holes not only help you achieve higher precision but also help you notice minor errors in your work before committing to make the larger hole.

Step 2: Choose a Hole Saw

If you want to drill a hole with a relatively large diameter, hole saws will typically work better. These saws come in various sizes, increasing in ⅛ or ¼ diameter increments, and can cater to unusual hole sizes. 

Step 3: Install the Hole Saw on the Drill

The installation of your hole saw on the drill you intend to use is absolutely critical. Without a proper saw setup, it may difficult to achieve an accurate hole. First off, you need to mount the appropriate hole saw size in your drill’s arbor.

If the center bit of your hole saw is adjustable, ensure that it extends about ⅜ inch beyond the saw’s toothed edge. On the other hand, if the shank of your center bit features a flat spot, make sure this aligns with the setscrew. After this, you can then secure the bit by tightening the setscrew. Then, ensure the hole saw is tight in the drill’s chuck. 

Step 4: Back Up Your Workpiece

No, we’re not saying having an extra workpiece. Instead, backing up your workpiece means placing a sacrificial plank of wood under the piece you’re drilling. This prevents your workpiece from splintering when the drill bit exits under it and ensures your result is as neat as possible. Moreover, a backer board can also keep you from damaging your drill press table (if you use that). 

Step 5: Start Cutting The Hole

Next comes the actual drilling process. Start the drill and bring it up to the appropriate speed (note that your drill should not be too fast). Then, slowly lower the hole saw until it just touches the wood surface. Then, allow it to start cutting. If you lower the saw too quickly, it may bite the wood too hard, which may cause it to bind up.

Once the hole saw begins to drill into the wood, keep the pressure on it without pushing too hard. Then, as soon as it breaks out on the wood’s exit side, turn off the drill driver. Wait for the bit to slow down and stop, then remove it from the hole.

Here’s a step-by-step guide that gives you the highlights of the above:

  1. Set up your worktable by placing all your tools within reach to ensure swift operations and maximum concentration.
  2. Place your wood workpiece on the table and measure the width to determine the drill bit length you need.
  3. Choose the drill bit size appropriate to the wood’s width and hardness.
  4. Fit the drill bit or a drill driver in the hole, ensuring the bit is secure in the center punch.
  5. Then, back up your workpiece.
  6. Turn on the drill and hold it at the angle you want to drill. Then, slowly lower it onto the workpiece.
  7. Start drilling at a low speed before increasing the speed. Remember, only moderate pressure is necessary to get the bit through the material. Excessive force will not result in faster or more accurate drilling.
  8. If you’re making a deeper hole, you may have to remove your drill every few seconds to lubricate it. This is especially true if you’re drilling through hardwood. You may dip the drill in cold water before continuing to drill.
  9. Additionally, when you remove your drilling for lubrication, you can also clear the chips from your drill site.
  10. Finally, keep drilling until you achieve your desired hole depth.

Pro Tips to Help You Use the Drill Safely

  • Ensure proper knowledge of your drilling equipment before you start the project. Otherwise, there may be errors, or even worse, accidents.
  • Wear safety glasses, a nose mask, covered shoes, and ear protection to help keep you safe while working.
  • Wear protective clothing. If not available, then avoid wearing loose cloth.
  • Keep unneeded tools and materials placed away from the work area.
  • Keep drill bits sharp at all times.
  • While drilling a deep hole, you should remove the bit at intervals to clear dust and lubricate it.
  • Never touch the drill bit with your bare hands after drilling, as the tool generates a substantial amount of heat and may burn you.
  • While there is no right or wrong drilling speed, drilling at excessive speeds can result in accidents. So, as a rule of the thumb, the harder the wood you’re working on, the slower you should drill. Likewise, if you’re cutting a hole with a larger diameter, you should also go slowly.
  • Hole saws can be surprisingly dangerous. So, to keep as safe as possible, do not tilt the hole saw while drilling. Again, do not hit a nail with your hole saw while it is in operation. Otherwise, the saw may bind and twist rather violently. The resulting torque may sprain your wrist, or worse, throw the drill against your face. 
  • While drilling, the best practice is to ensure that you have a firm grip (with both hands, if possible) on your drill. You may also brace the machine against your hip to be as safe as possible.


Cutting a hole in a piece of wood with a drill is not a complicated process at all. Agreed, it does not take some skill and technical know-how to achieve top-notch results. Thankfully, you now know how to go about drilling into a wood piece the right way. Remember, take all necessary precautions and ensure safe practice every time you use a drill.

Let us know how your wood drilling sessions go. Good luck!

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