How to Make a Hole in Wood Without a Drill

How to Make a Hole in Wood Without a Drill

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If you need to drill a hole into wood, the first option that you are definitely going to go with is a power drill as it is designed for this exact purpose. However, with that being said, sometimes your drill might be broken or you might not have one on hand. There may also be times when it is better to not use a drill to make a hole in a piece of wood.

What we’re here to do today is to talk about how to make a hole in wood without a drill, and yes, there are quite a few ways to do so.

When Should You Consider Not Using a Drill to Make a Hole in Wood?

There are some cases when you might want to consider not using a drill to make a hole in wood, and this is the case even if you do happen to have a drill on hand.

For instance, if the hole that you need to make in a piece of wood is smaller than the smallest drill bit you have, then of course you are going to need to find a different solution. Moreover, there are some types of wood, particularly engineered wood, that don’t handle being drilled into all that well. Some types of engineered wood may splinter and split when you drill into them.

On that same note, even solid lumber, if it is old and very dry, might crack when you drill into it too vigorously. With that being said, a power drill should be able to make a hole in most types of wood just fine, which is why today’s article is focusing on people who have lost or broken their power drill.

7 Best Ways to Make a Hole in Wood Without a Drill

Now that we know that it is indeed possible to make a hole in wood without using a power drill, let’s talk about all of the different ways to do so.

1. Using a Bow Drill

If you don’t have a power drill, something that you can try doing is making your own bow drill. Now, this is an extremely slow and labor-intensive method, but with that being said you should be able to make a bow drill out of the material that you have laying around in your own home.

What is actually interesting to note is that learning how to drill a hole in wood with a bow drill is actually very useful because it also teaches you how to make a fire at the same time. This bow drill is what you would use to make a fire if you have nothing to light your kindling with.

Follow with steps as outlined below in order to make and use a bow drill.

  1. Get a cord or shoelace and tie it onto the end of a flexible branch that forms a C shape.
  2. Bend the branch so that it is taught and then tie the other end to the shoelace or cord.
  3. Get a straight stick and then wrap the cord around it so the cord makes a revolution around the stick.
  4. All you have to do now is to make a notch in the wood that you want to drill a hole into, stick one end of the stick into that hole, and then use the bow mechanism that you created in the first few steps to make the stick pushing into the wood turn back and forth extremely quickly. You have just effectively created a manual drill.

2. Using a Hammer and Nail

Claw Hammer If you just need to make a very small hole into a piece of wood and you need it to be quite precise, then something that you can try doing is using a nail and hammer. Of course, how effective this method is will depend on how large your hole needs to be compared to how large the nails are that you have.

Generally speaking, all you really need to do for this method is to find exactly where you want to make a hole and then pound the nail into the wood. You can then remove the nail using the back end of your claw hammer, and there you have it, a small hole in your wood.

3. Using a Hammer and Chisel

Wood Chisel If you need to create a hole in wood larger than a small nail can achieve, then something that you might want to try doing is using a chisel instead of a nail. Chisels are of course designed for this purpose, for chiseling away at wood and other such materials. Technically speaking, this isn’t all that hard to do, but you do need to have the right skill. What you also need to realize is that while you can make a hole in wood with a chisel, it’s not going to be a perfectly round or great-looking hole.

In order to make a hole in wood using a chisel, all you want to do is to place your chisel perpendicular to the wood and then start hitting it with a hammer. Make the outline of the circle with the chisel and once the outline has been made, use the chisel and a hammer to pound away the inside of the hole. You may need to work the chisel around the circumference of the hole a few times until you have achieved the proper size and depth.

4. Burning a Hole with a Small Fire

Using a small fire to burn a large hole in wood is a very old school method, but just because it’s old, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work well. If you need to hollow out a fairly large piece of wood, or even something like a canoe, then this is a method of choice. But with that being said, it is of course not very precise and not designed to make small holes.

This method doesn’t require all that much effort or physical strength, but it does require a bit of skill as well as time.

All you are really doing here is starting a small fire on the surface where the hole is to be. You want to make sure that the fire is contained and very small. Use your breath or some kind of tool to keep blowing air into the fire so that the flames burn directly downwards into the wood.

As the flames burn down into the wood, you can use a chisel or some other kind of tool to keep removing the burnt word. Keep stoking the fire, blowing on it, and removing burnt wood until you have achieved the size and depth that you need.

5. Burning a Hole with a Glowing Rod

OK, so burning a hole into wood using a small fire, while it is definitely a possibility, it’s not overly easy, especially when it comes to controlling the size of the fire. Moreover, you also really can’t control exactly how large that hole in the wood is going to be when using that method.

If you want to burn a hole in wood, which is of course a possibility, but you need the hole to be fairly precise, then you should try using a metal rod. What you want to do here is to make a small fire that is extremely hot and has glowing coals in the bottom. You then want to stick your metal rod into that fire and into the coals until it is glowing red hot. Once the rod is glowing hot, you then want to place it onto the wood where you are making the hole.

Use a hammer or any other such tool to pound on the back of the rod to force the glowing hot tip through the wood. You may even need to heat up the metal rod a few times depending on how thick the one is. The metal rod will cool down to the point where it will no longer be effective, and at this point, you will need to reheat it in order to continue with this process.

6. Using a Hand Drill

Manual Hand Drill If you happen to be very old school or have just been in the business for a very long time, then chances are that you might actually have a hand drill laying around, which yes, is the predecessor of the power drill.

Of course, this method is going to require a lot of physical effort, but with that being said, it does allow you to make very precise holes, especially because you can often change the size of the drill bit.

All you have to do for this method is to hold the drill in your hands. Place the tip where you want to make your hole and then start rotating the drill using both handles. It could take a while, but it will definitely work.

7. Using an Awl

Awl For those of you who don’t know, an awl is a tool used to poke holes and to enlarge holes in very tough materials such as leather. A good awl should be strong enough to make a hole in wood.

Now, this method is going to take a lot of muscle, because technically speaking, awls really are not designed for this task. You’re just going to have to twist and push with all of your might until the hole has been made.


As you can see, while a power drill is still the number one best option for making holes in wood, the simple reality is that there are actually many ways to make holes in wood, even if you don’t have a power drill on hand. Between the various methods that we have discussed above, you should be able to find at least one that works perfectly for your circumstances.