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How to Drill Into Maple Wood?

Maple wood has an aesthetic and unique look due to its shades that vary from light cream to light brown color. While drilling through maple wood, it is important to note down a few drilling techniques.

How to drill into maple wood? To drill hard white maple, use a drill press if your hand drill isn’t working or is burning while drilling. In case of hand drills, sharpen spade bits, toothed Forstner bits, or twist drill bits and use those to drill the maple wood. Red maple is relatively easier to drill using any drill bits due to its relatively softer nature.

An amazing fact is that there are more than 60 species of maple. However, the maple used in lumber is divided into two main categories, i.e., hard and soft maple. Some of the maple woods are hard white, ambrosia, hard country, quilted, and curly maple woods.

Different variants of maple wood are used in manufacturing different products based on the weight and hardness requirement. Following are some of the ways to drill holes through them.

How to drill hard maple wood?

The wood that comes from sugar maple trees is hard maple wood. Hard white maple is the finest and most expensive of all maple wood species but the hardest one to drill.

Things to consider when drilling into maple wood:

  • Sharp Drill Bits: The most important thing is using well-sharp drill bits. Even the hardest drill bits might break if they are not sharp.
  • Drill Bits Type: Spade bits are great to start with. You can use Forstner or other bits at the end to refine the hole. You can also use sharpened twist bits if spade bits are not available. Brad-point bits and toothed Forstner bits also work very well on hard maple if a twist bit is not working out.
  • Size: It is very thing drill bits can easily get stuck, so make sure to use something larger than 1/10-1/8 of an inch. To drill a huge hole, you can start with a smaller size.
  • Drilling Machine: A drill press will be a lot useful for drilling into hard maple wood. But, if you are considering getting a cordless drill due to the project’s nature, make sure to get a high-quality professional-grade drill. Hard maple wood can only be drilled using a drill press or a high-power hand drill. While using a drill press, slow and uniform speed, i.e., around 500 RPM, is enough to do the job.
  • Pressure: Avoid putting too much pressure while working with maple wood to burn out the bit plus wood due to high temperatures.
  • High-Quality Drill Bits: Make sure to buy high-quality drill bits such as bits made with cobalt.
  • Drill Direction: The bits should move in a clockwise direction to ensure smooth drilling. Make sure you frequently move the drill machine backward to remove the wood swarf.

How to drill big holes in maple wood?

For soft maple, it is easy to drill large holes. You can use the Forstner drill bit of the required diameter at high speed for a clean hole.

For hard maple, a drill press at low speed works better for 1 to 6 inches diameter holes. Low speed is important to avoid overheating due to friction. The over-heating might lead to fire hazards.

For larger holes, you will have to use a circular saw. I recommend using saws with smaller teeth but larger in number.

How to drive screws in maple wood?

Due to maple wood’s hard nature, it is always recommended to drill pilot holes before you drive screws in it. Some of the steps to drill maple wood using this procedure are given below:

  • Fix the workpiece to a platform using clamps. This step is important so that the wood does not move from its position while drilling. For larger workpieces, you won’t have to follow this step.
  • Pre-drill the wood using nails or tiny drill bits. Select the drill bit according to the screw size. Please note that too thin drill bits can easily get stuck in maple wood. Make sure not to use nail guns for this purpose as they can damage the wood.
  • Drive screws using a cordless drill in drive mode. You can also use an impact driver for greater efficiency.
  • It is also recommended to lubricate the screws using wax or soap bar and then drive them in.

How to Drill a tap hole in a maple tree to collect maple syrup?

Drilling a tap for maple syrup is a little different than drilling map wood for furniture and stuff.

To drill a hole in a maple tree, follow these guidelines.

  • Select a 5/16″ standard twist drill bit with a mid-range cordless drill.
  • Drill around 2 to 3 inches deep.
  • Drill at an upward angle to make the syrup collection easy.
  • Insert the collection tap.
  • Ensure that all the swarf from drilling comes out for better flow.

Other hardwoods which will need same drilling techniques

There are a lot of other types of woods having the same hardness as hard maple. Therefore, you can use the same techniques for drilling these woods.

A list of woods with hardness from 840 to 870 (Unit: Force-pound) according to the Janka hardness scale is given below:

  • Leopardwood
  • Ash (Black) wood
  • Curly western maple
  • Quilted western maple
  • Southern yellow pine

The following set of hardwoods have a hardness ranging from 940 to 950 and can be drilled using similar techniques.

  • Boire
  • Cherry
  • Cherry burl
  • Curly cherry
  • Curly maple
  • Maple (red leaf)
  • Peruvian walnut

Using wheel cutter for making toy wheels

As an extra, maple wood is also used for making wheels for toys such as wooden cars, carts etc. Wheel cutters are best for drilling through woods to make wheels. Such cutters have a drill bit in the middle and two sharp teeth that rotate around it. The distance of teeth from drill bit decides the diameter of wheel. Here are the steps to make toy wheels using a wheel cutter:

  1. Tape one side of the maple wood strip so that the wood does not tear up while drilling.
  2. Turn the wood strip upside down so that the taped side faces downwards. Mark the point where you have to make the center of the wheel.
  3. Insert a twist bit or multipurpose bit in a drill press. Ensure that this drill bit’s size is either smaller or the same as the wheel cutter drill bit (Link to Amazon). A smaller-sized bit would also work since that would make a pilot hole through the wood strip. A bigger-sized bit would make a bigger hole in the center of the wheel. Thus, during wheel cutter teeth rotation, the smaller-sized wheel cutter bit will move loosely about the hole. This can cause the wood strip to move from its position while drilling.
  4. Remove the tape from the bottom of the wood strip. and
  5. Insert the wheel cutter in a drill press and move it to the marked point.
  6. Drill through half of the wood strip’s thickness, turn it over and repeat the drilling process to make a uniform hole. Operate the drill press at a speed of 500 RPM. The speed should not be too slow because, at the end of the cutting, slow speed might cause a non-uniform wheel.

If the wood is too thick, you can use a Forstner bit to decrease the thickness first and then follow steps 1-6 to make a wheel.

Recommended Tools to drill into maple wood

You will need to get a good quality cordless drill for drilling into maple wood.

I have made a list of different drills, and you can choose one according to your need and budget. You can find professional grade cordless drills in the list.

Also note that, don’t select a budget drill for this task as that will be under power.

1. How can you avoid chipping when drilling maple wood?

To avoid chipping or damage of any sort in maple wood while drilling, you can use blue painter’s tape and mark the hole’s position. Use your hand drill or drill press to drill through the tape and into the wood to avoid chipping.

2. Can we use Forstener bits without teeth for drilling hard maple wood?

Not recommended. Forstner bits without teeth have a greater surface area in direct contact with wood. Therefore, at high speeds while drilling, there is a greater chance of heating due to friction. Therefore, it is better to use Forstner bits with teeth to avoid malfunctioning.

3. What are some of the ways to finish maple wood products?

Use medium to coarse sandpaper for a fine finish on maple wood. Use a wood conditioner and stain the wood for a good finish. The wood can also be dyed using aniline dye.