How to Drill Holes in Wood

Drilling holes in wood is not difficult if you use the right tools and proper technique. Some common mistakes are to use bits for drilling metal, and drilling at high speeds with too much pressure. Here are a few pointers that will have you drilling like an expert carpenter.

Dilling Wood Effectively
Dilling Wood Effectively (David A. Claerr)

Things You'll Need

  • Electric Drill
  • Wood Drilling Bits
  • Wood
Step 1:

Purchase a set of bits in sizes that you think you'll need from a well-stocked home improvement outlet or hardware store. For holes up to 5/16 inches, look for Brad Point Bits as pictured here. Note the small leading point at the tip, which is different than a standard metal drill, which has a blunt point.

Brad Point Bits
Step 2:

Purchase Flat Bit drills, as pictured here, for holes from 5/16 inches up to about 1.5 inches. They are efficient and relatively inexpensive. They can also be resharpened using a metal file.

Flat Bit Drills
Step 3:

Measure and mark your hole locations carefully. Measure the thickness of the wood you will be drilling. By marking the shank of the bit at the same length as the wood's thickness, you can determine when you are getting close drilling through to the other side. Mark the bit with a piece of black electrical tape.

Marking Wood and Bit
Step 4:

Before starting the drill, press the sharp tip into the wood at the precise center of your mark and twist slightly to embed the tip and set up the alignment of the bit.

Setting Drill Tip
Step 5:

Start the drill and use a slower speed and moderate pressure. A steady and patient approach works best with wood, to avoid slipping, splintering and mis-aligned holes. If you spin the drill too fast, the drill bit will overheat, soften and become dull. It can also char the wood. Relieve the pressure on the drill by backing off slightly from time to time. This will allow the sawdust and woodchips to exit out the along the shank of the bit. Continuous pressure will cause the sawdust and woodchips to compact, making the bit stick or lock up.

Drill at Slower Speed
Step 6:

Slow your drilling speed and pressure as you near completion of the hole through the wood. Keep an eye on your marking tape. Stop when the tip emerges from the other side. This step and the next will prevent a chunk or splinter of wood from breaking out from the back side of the wood around the drill hole.

Tip emerging from backside of wood
Step 7:

Reverse the piece of wood and place the drill tip carefully in the small hole on the back side. Slowly and gradually drill through the remaining thickness of wood. You now have a straight, smooth hole drilled through the wood.

Finishing from backside of wood
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Tips & Warnings

  • Wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes. Make sure the wood is stable and clamped or anchored securely.

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