If you need to cut a square hole into a piece of wood, such as a flat piece of plywood, you might be wondering how to get the job done. In fact, there are actually a few different methods that you can use to complete this task, or a few different tools to be precise. Let’s take a look at the many ways to cut a square hole into wood.
How to Cut a Square Hole in Wood with a Jigsaw
One of the best tools that you could use to cut a square hole into a piece of wood is a jigsaw. A jigsaw is of course a lightweight and handheld power saw, one that features a fairly thin reciprocating blade that moves up and down at very high speeds. Jigsaws are perfect for this purpose, and for many similar tasks as well. Let’s go through a step by step tutorial on how to cut a square hole in wood with a jigsaw.
Step 1: Measure
The first step is of course, to get the piece of wood you are cutting the square into and make the appropriate measurements. In order to make a perfect square, you will want to use a combination of a ruler or a measuring tape and a T-square. The T-square will allow you to make a perfect square with the proper 90 degree angles in each corner. Use a pencil or chalk to mark the outline of the square on the wood.
Step 2: Secure the Wood
The next step here is to secure the wood to a surface (on each end). Here, you can use two sawhorses, as this will work best. Remember, you are cutting a square out of the wood, so you need to leave the main cutting area under that square free. You can use vises or clamps to secure both ends of the workpiece to your sawhorses (or to two separate tables).
Step 3: Drill the Starter Holes
Next, seeing as a jigsaw won’t be able to make the initial cut, you will need to drill some starter holes into the wood. A jigsaw works fine for sawing into wood from the sides, but it cannot penetrate wood from above, so for interior cuts like this, you first need to use a drill to make holes in the wood, which is where you will then insert the jigsaw blade to begin sawing.
Here, you want to use a drill bit large enough to make a hole that will allow the jigsaw blade to fit. Moreover, you want to make one of these holes in all four corners of the square. This is because you will need to turn the jigsaw at a 90 degree angle to make the corners, which you will not be able to do without those starter holes.
Step 4: Make the Cut
Now, all that is left for you to do is to insert the jigsaw blade, turn it on, and make the cut. Simply follow the lines you drew in the first step until the square has been cut out of the wood.
Step 5: Sand it Down
If necessary, you can now use some sandpaper or a power sander to sand off any burrs that may be left behind from the jigsaw.
How to Cut a Square Hole in Wood Without a Jigsaw
Ok, so the jigsaw is the best tool to use to cut a square into a piece of wood, but it is not the only tool. Let’s take a look at some of the other tools that you can use for this job.
Using a Hand Saw
If you don’t have a jigsaw, or any power saws for that matter, another way to cut a square into wood is by using a hand saw. Of course, this is a bit more difficult, but with some practice, it is doable. The main trick to remember here is that you need to use a hand saw that has a thin blade. Something like a foxtail saw is going to be way too broad or wide for this purpose.
Other than that, the process is going to be more or less identical to using a jigsaw. First you have to make your measurements, and then secure the wood to a surface.
Next, you will need to drill those starter holes in the corners, making sure that they are large enough to fit the whole blade of your hand saw. Keep in mind that for a hand saw, your starter holes will need to be significantly larger than when using a jigsaw. You will need room to move the saw up and down, and you need to be able to start in each corner.
Using a Chisel
The next method for cutting a perfect square out of a piece of wood is by using a hammer or sledgehammer and a chisel. Now, beware that this is by far the most labor intensive way to go about this, and it is going to require a good deal of both accuracy and raw muscle power.
The good thing about this method is that you don’t need any electricity or power tools. Sure, you might need a Red Bull to fuel your muscles for the task at hand, but that’s about it.
Here, after you make your measurements, you will want to secure the wood to a worktable. You will need to have something pushing against the wood from the bottom, as you will be hitting it from the top, so the wood does need to be supported by an underlying surface, or else it might crack or split in ways that you don’t want.
With that done, all you have to do is to line up the chisel with the line on the wood that you drew in the first step, and then get to striking it. You can use a hammer for this, although a sledgehammer will probably be easier thanks to its weight.
You need to strike that chisel hard enough to get it all the way through the wood, and you need to continue doing so until you have chiselled out all four lines, or in other words, until you have made the square.
Using a Dremel or Handheld Router
Dremels and handheld routers are very similar tools, so we will group them into the same category here. The point here is that both Dremels and routers are small rotary tools that can handle various bits in the front.
Of course, the router bit is the most common bit used with a handheld router, and you have your special Dremel bits too. However, the cool part about both of these rotary tools is that you can insert small circular blades into the chuck, thus effectively turning both of these tools into very small and easy to maneuver handheld circular saws.
Using a Dremel or handheld router with a small circular blade is actually one of the easiest ways to go about this task, after a jigsaw anyway.
All you need to do here is to make your measurements and then secure the wood to some sawhorses, just like you would when using a hand saw or jigsaw. Then, hold your Dremel or handheld router securely in hand, turn it on, get it up to full speed, and slowly saw along the lines you drew in the beginning.
Using an Angle Grinder
The other method for cutting a square hole in a piece of wood, albeit a bit unorthodox, is by using an angle grinder. Of course, you will need to take the grinder disc off of it and replace it with a sawing disc, one designed for use with wood, one with lots of small and fine teeth.
Measure out and mark the square just like you would for any of the other tools, then secure the wood to two sawhorses, turn the angle grinder on, and slowly move the sawing disc through the lines that you have drawn. You may need to do some sanding afterwards to get rid of any roughness.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Before we call it a day, let’s go over some important tips for you to follow, tips that will both keep you safe and produce the best end result:
- When using power tools, especially saws, never wear loose-fitting clothing, particularly not loose gloves or loose sleeved shirts. Moreover, if you have long hair, tie it back.
- Always get whatever blade you are using up to full speed before you touch the wood. Don’t touch the blade to the wood and then turn it on. This is very dangerous.
- When working with power tools, and even when using something like a chisel, wearing adequate eye protection is always a must.
- Whatever tool you are using, always make sure that you are using the right kind of blade for the job. Using the right blade is half the battle.
- When marking on wood, it’s a good idea to use a pencil or chalk, something that you can erase in case you make a mistake. Never use a pen or marker for this.
- Make sure to use all of the appropriate measuring tools when making your square. There is nothing worse than finishing the cut only to realize that you have a lopsided square.
As you can see, there are many different tools that you can use for this job, and we haven’t even listed all of them. Circular saws and router tables are just two of the other tools you can use for this task. However, the most important part is measuring. Like they say, always measure twice and cut once!
Lastly, while not recommended, you can also accomplish this task with a drill. To learn how to cut wood with a drill, read this article.