How to Drill into Wood?

If you have taken up a woodworking project, you will need to drill into wood. And if you have previously drilled into harder materials like masonry or metals, you might assume it will be very easy and straightforward.

While most woods are a relatively soft material, drilling into wood is definitely not a piece of cake. Without proper knowledge of the tools and techniques needed for drilling into wood, you can easily end up damaging your wood.

I have compiled all the knowledge I have gained throughout my DIY journey to provide you this comprehensive guide on drilling into wood.

How to Drill into Wood? For drilling a pilot hole in wood use a brad point bit at a low speed. For large and accurate holes use an auger drill bit. For holes with a larger diameter, you can use spade drill bits and hole-saw bits. Use your drill at a slow speed and use a guide board to get a straight hole. To avoid a tear out use a sacrificial board with your work board.

When I first started woodworking projects, I ended up wasting a lot of time and money when I tried to drill into wood without doing any research.

To save you from the trouble, in this article I will give you a step-by-step guide on drilling into wood. In addition, I will guide you about the potential problems that can arise when drilling into wood and how you can avoid them.

Steps to Drill into Wood:

Regardless of the type of woodworking project you are working on, at one point you will need to drill into wood. So I consider drilling into wood one of the basic skills you must learn as a DIYer who wants to work on wood.

In addition to your own DIY projects, this skill can also greatly help you in fixing and repairing around the house.

The tools and techniques you will need for drilling into wood will vary based on the diameter, depth, and finish of the hole you need to drill.

So you will start off by selecting the right tools best suited for your job.

Tool Selection:

Drill Bits:

Selecting the best-suited drill bit is the first and most important step for drilling into wood. I have listed down the best drill bits to drill into wood and their uses:

drill into wood
1. Brad-point Drill Bits:

Brad-point drill bits are used to drill small diameter holes in wood. The brad point lets you locate the hole very precisely and prevents the bit from wandering. Brad-point drill bits provide a clean hole and reduce splintering on both the entry and exit sides. They are best suited for drilling pilot holes in wood. Their size ranges from 1/8″ to 5/8″.

2. Auger Drill Bits:

Auger drill bits are great for drilling deep holes in wood. Sharp edges of auger bits ensure a smooth finish throughout the hole. With the guide screw, auger bits need very little pressure for drilling and efficiently evacuate the waste material while drilling.

Drill into Wood
3. Spade Drill Bits:

Spade drill bits provide much wider holes but the finish is not very smooth. Spade bits can actually cause bad splintering if used without reverse scribing. And while you might wonder why to use them, spade drill bits actually offer an edge in terms of speed. So when you want to quickly drill holes and a smooth finish is not your concern, spade drill bits will be the best choice. They range in size from 1/4″ to 11/2″.

4. Forstner Drill Bits:

Forstner drill bits are best suited for drilling clean flat-bottomed holes in large diameters. The center point allows you to easily locate the hole’s center and the lipped edges provide a cleanly defined hole edge. Forstner bits are best used in a drill press or brace due to the amount of force required. Their size ranges from 5/16″ to 2″.

5. Hole-Saw Drill Bits:

Hole-saw drill bits are used for drilling larger holes e.g. for plumbing pipes etc. For drilling holes that are shallow and large in diameter, hole-saw drill bits are the best choice. They range in size from 3/4″ to 9/4″.

Drill:

There is a huge variety of drills available these days which you can use to drill into wood. These drills can be broadly classified into two classes:

Manual Drills:
drill into wood

Unlike hard materials like concrete and metals, you can drill into wood using manual powered drills. These drills do not require electricity and can easily be operated by hand.

“Brace and bit” drill and hand-operated drill are the options available in manual drills. If you have a small budget and the number of holes you need to drill is small you can use these manual options for drilling.

Manual drills are not suited for projects where you need to drill a large number of holes as you have to use a lot of your energy.

Power Drills:
drill into wood

Power drills are more commonly used these days for woodworking. Although they are much more expensive than manual drills, they are worth every penny you spend.

With power drills you can easily drill into wood without spending a lot of time and energy.

For any DIY project, a battery-powered cordless drill is always the best option as it offers a lot of flexibility and space without overly burdening your pocket. If you are looking for a budget drill, you can take a look at this list of cordless drills for under $50 that I have compiled.

A drill press can also be used to drill into wood, but it is mores suited for professionals as it is expensive and can be a bit difficult to use for beginners.

Safety Precuations:

Before you drill into wood you need to take the necessary safety precautions for drilling.

  • Avoid baggy clothing as it can get stuck in the drill.
  • If you are drilling free form objects secure them before drilling.
  • Wear safety glasses and fitted gloves.
  • Use a brush for removing shavings.
  • If using a drill for the first time, take time to familiarize yourself with its performance before drilling on the required surface.

How to Drill into Wood:

drill into wood

Now that you have selected the right tools and taken the necessary safety precautions, you can follow the steps given below to drill into wood:

  • Mark the position of your hole with a pen/pencil.
  • Mark the required depth of the hole by using tape over your drill bit.
  • Use a nail to create an indent over the mark for your hole. This indent will help guide the drill.
  • Hold your drill perpendicular to the work surface and start drilling at a slow speed.
  • If you find drilling straight into wood difficult use a store-bought or DIY drill guide.
  • Work up your speed ad much as you can easily in your wood. Softer wood allows you to reach high speed as compared to hard wood.
  • Move the drill back and forth to remove the waste from drilling.
  • Drill until you reach your depth mark.

There are some additional tips for drilling with different drill bits.

  • If using a brad point bit, drill at a medium to high speed.
  • For auger drill bits use a slow speed drilling.
  • For hole-saw bits use a slow gear and speed.
  • For drilling deeper holes than the depth of the hole-saw first go as deep as its depth and remove the waste. Now start drilling again.
  • When drilling wider holes, it is always a good idea to drill a pilot hole first.

Challenges of Drilling into Wood:

There a number of potential issues you can run into when you drill into wood. I have compiled a list of the most common issues you will come across and how you can easily overcome these issues.

Tear Out:

Tear outs are the most common issue one faces when they drill into wood. Tear outs happen as the wood splinters when the drill bit leaves it from the other side.

To avoid getting a tear-out you can use a sacrificial board below your actual wood board and brace the two together. Now when the drill bit exits your board the sacrificial board will provide it support and prevent the tear-out.

If your board will have a concealed side you can use it as the exit side and keep the clean side visible.

If possible you can try drilling from both sides as well to avoid getting a tear-out. It also ensures you get a more straight hole.

Splits and cracks:

You can get splits and cracks when you drill into wood with a screw or even when you drill with a wide drill bit.

When you drill into wood always try to use pilot holes to make sure there are no splits and cracks.

Pilot holes are slightly smaller then the required diameter of the hole. They are particularly useful for use in denser hardwoods.

Related Questions:

How to drill into acacia wood?

 Use a regular twist or brad point drill bit with a powerful cordless drill. Don’t apply pressure and keep the drill fast. For medium size holes, use Forstner bits and for larger holes, use a circular saw. Use a pocket hole jig for angled holes. To make a square or rectangular hole, Mark the shape on the wood and make a hole at one corner of the square. Then use a saw to cut the square. You can also use a wood chisel. If you need a detailed step-by-step read this article.

How to drill into balsa wood?

Use a well sharpen brass tube fitted in a drill bit and apply the right amount of pressure to avoid tear-out in the wood. You can also use a sharp spur drill bit at high speeds to avoid splintering. Using some glue with paper can also help in making clean holes. I have written a detailed article on this topic.

How to drill into cedar wood?

You have to select an appropriate drill bit based on the finesse required. Drill with high RPM, refrain from excessive pressure, and apply a soap layer to the bits. Pre-drilling the countersink slots with an appropriate countersink drill bit will help. If these measures fail to prevent splitting, use wood clamps along with glue. For more details on this topic read here.

How to drill through wood glue?

Use a screw slightly larger in size than the hole. Another way is to use a mixture of wood glue and some pieces of toothpicks or matchsticks with their heads cut off to fill the hole. Epoxy is also a great option to fill the hole and hold the screw in its position. Once the wood glue or epoxy is dry, you can redrill it to screw again. For details click here.

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. For more details click here.

How to drill wood at an angle?

When drilling at an angle, either create your own wooden jig or use a simple angled guide wood, a pocket hole, or a drill guide jig for the job. Square speed can also be used for informal work to guide your drill bit at an angle. Creating your own angled pocket holes can make the job pretty easy. You can read about this in detail here.

How to drill out wood plugs?

To drill out wood plugs requires you to select and adjust an appropriate countersink, mount it to a wired or cordless drill, and then drill a pilot hole. Once you are done with a pilot hole, make a simple jig with cardboard. Now Place the jig on the top of the wood and drill out a plug using a drill-mounted plug cutter. Remove the plugs with a screwdriver or chisel. I have written a detailed article on this topic which you can read here.

How to drill oak wood?

For drilling oak wood at high speed, use a spade drill bit. To drill deep holes in thicker pieces of oak, use an auger drill bit. Similarly, if you need to drill with higher precision and speed, then take a brad point drill bit. A circular hole saw is used to make large holes in oak wood. You can read about it in detail here.

How to drill veener wood?

Drilling veneer wood is a challenge in itself. It can crack, chip, or tear quite easily, but we can still prevent it by avoiding the traditional twist drill bits. Use Forstner bit, brad point drill bit, or German colt drill. Place a piece of MDF over the surface for support, clamp the wood, or use blue painter’s tape to keep the wood threads in place. Sharp drill bits have less tendency to split the wood. In addition to this, a low feed rate with high speed is also very effective. I have written a detailed article on this topic here.

How to drill into wet wood?

Building with wet wood is not recommended as wood shrinks once it dries, which can lead to warping, cracking, and in some cases rotting. Splitting wet wood is often preferred by many professionals depending on the type of wood. It is much easier to carve wet wood, and it is frequently used in carving projects. You can find more details on this topic here.

How to drill long straight holes in wood?

Use a drill press to make straight holes in wood. If you do not have a drill press, then drill a hole through the center of an old CD. Another way is to use a drill block for making straight holes or use a dowelling jig for this purpose. If you want to drill without any of these tools then use an L-shaped wood chunk to support the bit while drilling. This will make a perfect and neat hole in wood. You can find a detailed guide on this topic here.

How to remove a stuck drill bit from wood?

If the drill bit shank is sticking out of the wood, you can easily remove it with basic hand tools like a plier. If the shank is broken inside and can not be accessed, you will need a screw extractor kit. If you have the option to drill from the other side, you can push the stuck drill bit out with a screwdriver after drilling a thin hole. For more details click here.

How to drill a hole in wood without splintering?

Always use sharp and well-maintained drill bits, drill at higher speeds, avoid putting pressure on the drill & let the bit find its way through the wood, use another wooden board at the bottom that you let drill in, and drill from both sides to get a clean finish. You can read detailed instructions here.

How to screw or drill a hole in wood without a drill?

The fastest way is to use Hand Drills like a Bit Brace or Eggbeater drill. These have been used for centuries before we had electric drills. Burning the wood is also a traditional way to make holes in wood. You can also use a hand chisel to make holes in wood. I have written a detailed guide for this topic here.