When it comes to using a drill, making a hole in wood might seem like one of the easiest things to do.
After all, wood is a relatively soft material. You don’t need to worry about it breaking the drill bit or shattering like a piece of glass.
But there’s a right way (or multiple right ways) to drill into wood and a few wrong ways. Here’s everything you need to know to learn how to drill a hole in wood.
Types of Drill Bits to Use When Drilling in a Wood
Using the right tools makes a huge difference when doing any sort of DIY or home-improvement project. That’s the case when you’re learning how to drill a hole in wood.
Here, knowing which drill bit to use can make all the difference when it comes to the finished size and overall quality of the hole you make.
Take a look at a few of the more common types of drill bit and when you might use them to make a hole in wood.
- Twist bit. A twist bit is probably the drill bit you’re most familiar with. It looks like a spiral. Use a twist bit when making pilot holes less than 1/2 inch wide. According to Hunker, you want to use a hardened twist bit for hardwood and any type of twist bit for softwood.
- Brad point. A brad point looks like a twist bit, but with one crucial difference. It has a sharp, pointy bit at the very end of it. The sharp point helps to hold the bit in place while you drill, allowing you to make very clean holes, according to Vermont American.
- Forstner bit. Here’s one thing to know about Forstner bits — they’re among the priciest of drill bits. Here’s another thing to know — they’re designed for making flat, smooth holes that have perfectly flat bottoms.
- Spade bit. According to Popular Woodworking, spade bits are “cheap and awesome.” Although they are usually looked at as the bit to use when you need to make a rough hole or when looks don’t matter, some argue that they are the most flexible drill bit out there, since you can easily file them down to change their shape and size.
- Countersink bit. A countersink drill bit is made for just for drilling holes for screws. The bit has a tapered shape, it starts out narrow then widens at the end so that there is enough space for the head of the screw to lie flat against the surface of the wood.
- Hole saw. Technically, you can argue that a hole saw isn’t a type of a drill bit. But since it does attach to a drill, and you do use it to make a hole in wood, we include it here. A hole saw is a two-piece attachment. The first piece is a drill bit and the second piece is a circle, with sharp teeth, that cuts into the wood. You’ll use one when you need to make a larger hole, such as to thread to a pipe or conduit through.
How to Make a Hole in Wood With a Twist Bit
Let’s say you’re making a piece of furniture or want to join two pieces of wood together for another reason. You have a few options. One is to glue the pieces together. Another is to hammer them together with nails.
A third is to use a screw to attach the pieces. While you can start out trying to screw right through the wood, it’s often easiest to make a pilot hole, then thread the screw through that hole.
A simple way to make a pilot hole is to use a twist bit, the most common type of drill bit. Here’s what you need to do to figure out how to drill a hole in wood with a twist bit.
What you need:
- Twist bit (any size up to 1/2 inch)
- Corded or cordless drill
- Safety glasses
- Piece of wood
What to do:
- Insert the drill bit into the drill.
- Put on your safety glasses. Sawdust and other debris are likely to go flying. You need to protect your eyes.
- Use the pencil to mark the spot on the wood where you’ll make the hole.
- Place the nail over the pencil, then use the hammer to thwack it gently. You’re making a small divot, which will help you position the bit more easily.
- Set the tip of the twist bit into the depression created by the divot.
- Start drilling. Use gentle pressure, hold the drill level (the drill bit should be perpendicular to the hole). Don’t go too fast.
- Stop when you’ve reached your desired depth.
How to Drill a Hole in Wood With a Spade Bit
If you want to make a large hole in wood, one way to do so is to use a spade bit. Here’s what to do.
What you need:
- Hammer and nail
- 1/8-inch twist bit
- Safety glasses
- Spade bit (your choice of size)
What to do:
- Mark where you want the hole to be on the wood with the pencil. Use the hammer and nail to make a small divot over the mark.
- Put on your safety glasses.
- Attach the 1/8-inch twist bit to the drill. You’re going to make a pilot hole first, which will help the spade bit get started.
- Drill a shallow hole into the wood with the twist bit.
- Remove the twist bit from the drill and replace it with the spade bit. Hold the spade bit up to the pilot hole. Keep the drill and bit perpendicular to the hole.
- Start drilling. Use gentle pressure and go slowly.
- Sand the edges of the hole, if you like. Spade bits do make somewhat rough cuts, so you can sand down the edges after drilling to smooth things down.
How to Drill a Large Hole in Wood With a Hole Saw
Another way to drill a large hole in wood is to use a hole saw. According to Family Handyman, a spade bit is good for holes up to 1 1/4 inch.
Any larger and you’re going to need to know how to drill a hole in wood with a hole saw. Here’s what you gotta do.
What you need:
- Safety goggles
- 1/8 inch twist bit
- Hole saw
What to do:
- Use the pencil to mark the spot on the wood where you’ll make the hole. Mark the center of the hole with the pencil.
- Don your safety glasses.
- Place the nail on the pencil mark, then thwack gently with a hammer. Doing so should make a small indentation into the wood.
- Put the 1/8-inch twist bit into your drill. Put the bit perpendicular to the wall, then start drilling a shallow pilot hole.
- Swap out the twist bit for the hole saw. Line up the center of the hole saw (the bit part) with the pilot hole you made.
- Start drilling. Go slowly and use gentle pressure. Keep drilling until the teeth of the circular part of the saw bit have sunk into the wood about 1/8 inch.
- Clean the drill and bit as you go, wiping away sawdust. Drill until you are about halfway through the piece of wood.
- Drill from the opposite side of the wood. For a clean finish, change sides halfway through. Line up the drill and hole saw so that they are even with the hole you began on the other side
- Drill slowly until you’re all the way through the wood.
Tips for Drilling a Hole in Wood
One of the best tips you’ll get when learning how to drill a hole in wood is to take things slowly. You can drill a bit faster through wood than through masonry or metal, but it’s still important not to go too quickly, or else you can end up splintering or cracking the wood.
Another thing to remember is to hold the drill straight. You want to make a straight, even hole through the wood. Keeping the drill and bit positioned at a 90-degree angle will let you do just that.
Final Thoughts on How to Drill a Hole in Wood
Whether you’re trying to make a small hole that’s just the right size for a screw or are knocking a hole in wood for a doorknob or pipe, always use the right tools and equipment.
The entire experience will be a lot more enjoyable if you take the time to invest in the right bits and to follow the procedures we’ve outlined above.
Now that you know how to drill a hole in wood, you can set out to create or finish pretty much any sort of crafty or DIY project you can imagine.