How to Drill a Hole in Wood

Drilling a hole in wood is pretty straightforward, however, achieving a smooth finish is what many people struggle with. Anytime that you use a hand drill to drill a fine hole in wood, chances of ending up with a ragged exit hole are extremely high and will likely fail to achieve the finish that you were looking for. The article below will, therefore, detail the step-by-step process of drilling into wood and what you can do, to achieve a smooth exit hole.

Secure your space

When working on any project in the workshop the first thing that you want to do is ensure that your work area is clear of miscellaneous tools and equipments. A clear working space prevents unwanted accidents and sees to a smooth workflow process. Individuals who are not involved in the project should not be close to the work area as they may cause distractions that might lead to accidents.

Use protective gear

Workshop protective wear should be worn when carrying out different projects no matter how simple or small. So, for this project, you can put on your overall, goggles for your eyes, and ear protection for the sharp sound that is normally produced when drilling. Fitting gloves should also be worn to protect your fingers and to enable you to comfortably handle the drilling tools and the material being drilled.

Prepare your drill and drill bit

High-speed drilling bits are the most commonly used bits to drill a hole in wood, as they retail at a cheap price. However, if you want a durable drill bit, then the black oxide-coated drill bit would be the best, as the coating helps it to resist rust. They are also the best drill bits to use when dealing with both softwood and hardwood.

A perfect hole in wood equals a drill bit that will produce the desired results, for example, if you want to drill a large diameter hole, you could use the spade drill or the hole saw. Other occasions require that you use a countersink drill so that the screws head doesn’t sit out but stays flush with the surface. In essence, is that there are different types of drill bits for different projects and investing in the right one is the only way to see your project to completion.

Once you have your drill bit and drill in hand, ensure that the drill works perfectly, the speeds are adjustable, and the forward and reverse buttons work perfectly. If you are using a power drill ensure that it is connected to a corresponding receptacle that can efficiently provide the drill with the power that it needs to run.

Insert the drill bit into your drill, press the forward button to release the jaws in the chuck and install the relevant drill bit then press reverse to fasten it. Some drills might require you to again turn the clutch to fasten the drill bit.

Manage drill depth

Sometimes you might want to drill holes that don’t necessarily exit to the other side of the wood, which means that you have to improvise. If you have masking tape, you can use it as a drill guide, just measure the length that you wish to achieve on your drill and then mark the length with a small piece of tape. Drill into the wood and when you reach the desired depth as indicated by the tape that you had installed you can stop.

Drill depth management is only done when the operator wants to drill partial holes, if you will be drilling through the wood, then you will not need to use the masking tape.

Drill the hole

To work on your piece of wood, you will need another heavier piece of wood, to act as a base and which will help ensure that you get a smooth finish. The heavier piece of wood will be placed at the side of your exit hole so that it can support the fibers as you drill close to the exit thus prevent a tear-out. Remember that with the supportive wood underneath your woodwork, you still have to clamp them together for stability when drilling.

Drill the pilot hole, this is usually smaller than the final hole, meaning that you will have to use a smaller drill bit, and then use this first hole as a guide to achieving the perfect final hole but now with a larger drill bit. Pilot holes are normally used because they enable preciseness when drilling more especially if you are working with the dense type of woods.

Additionally, as you drill ensure to hold the drill perpendicular to your material so that you don’t end up with extra-large holes that will compromise the integrity of the anchors.

How to use hole saws to drill a hole in wood

Hole saws are usually used to drill out large holes on wood and are usually available in different sizes. And just like using the other types of drill bits, hole saws can also tear out your wood on the exit hole.

  1. One thing that you must realize when using hole saws to drill a hole in wood is that they are designed to cover large surface areas and as such, you cannot force it to sink. You will have to go slow or push it gently and steadily as the hole saw does it work.
  2. Place a dense wood under the wood that you want to drill a hole through, this is used to ensure that you end up with a clean exit hole.
  3. Once you are done drilling, you will notice a plug inside your hole saw, to get it out, just insert a screwdriver in one of the openings on the side of the hole saw and then slowly work it out.


Drilling into wood can take many forms, you could either use the hole saw or the drill bits with regard to the hole size that you wish to achieve. Also, you could successfully make partial holes but be sure to use a masking tape to mark the depth that you wish to achieve. And for the perfect holes made in wood, use a sacrificial wood underneath that wood that you are working with, as it will prevent the ugly tear out mostly seen on the exit hole.

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Arthur Allen has been using all sorts of power tools for the last 27 years, gaining a lot of experience on how they work, how to determine what makes a power good, and becoming an expert on the subject through many years of real world trial and error. Not only is Arthur and expert in tools, but various building jobs as well.