How to Screw Into Wood Without a Drill

How to Screw Into Wood Without a Drill

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Whether you are building a chair, a desk, a new patio, a birdhouse, a shed, or anything in between, one thing that you are usually always going to have to do is to put screws into wood, to fasten various pieces of wood to each other.

Of course, one of the best tools that you can have in your arsenal for this job is the good old power drill. However, you might not always have one on hand, you might not have one at all, or the one you have is just broken. So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation?

While ideally you would go and buy one, there are a few other options too. How to screw into the wood without a drill is exactly what we are going to teach you how to do today.

Do You Need a Drill or an Impact Driver to Screw into Wood?

One question that many people wonder is whether or not you actually need a drill to screw into wood, and moreover, many people also wonder whether or not it is possible to use an impact driver for this job.

First off, let’s take a look at drills and impact drivers to figure out whether or not both can be used for this job, and then let’s talk about some of the other factors that you need to consider here.

Right off the bat, what you will realize is that although a good drill can make life a whole lot easier, it is not 100% necessary to have one. That said, if you’re going to use any kind of manual screwing method, you’re definitely going to need to have some strong arms.


Drills and Impact Drivers

OK, so what you need to be aware of here is that drills are specially designed for this job, for drilling pilot holes, and for inserting screws. Impact drivers on the other hand are like drills on steroids, as they are used for jobs like fastening concrete anchors and for driving huge screws into massive wooden posts.

Moreover, impact drivers are not designed for drilling, or in other words, they should ideally not be used to drill pilot holes or to fasten screws, especially when a bit of precision and delicacy is required. Impact drivers have a whole lot of power, and they don’t have a clutch, which means that it is very easy to overtighten or even snap a screw.

Although it is technically possible to use an impact driver for this task, it really is not recommended, as the drill is the better option. With that being said, if you don’t have a drill, there are other options and factors to consider, so let’s move on.

Hardwood vs. Softwood

One factor that you do need to consider here is what kind of wood you are screwing into. If you are screwing into hardwood, then you are going to have a lot harder time doing so manually. As the name implies, hardwood is of course a lot harder than softwood, and yes, this does translate.

Softwood is of course just a lot softer, and this makes inserting a screw without a drill or without even having a pilot hole much easier than doing so with hardwood. Now, this is not to say that drilling or screwing into softwood is easy, but it is easier than doing so with hardwood.

Screw Type and Size

Generally speaking, the bigger the screw in question, the harder of a time you will have inserting it without a drill. Moreover, it does also depend on the type of screw. For one, the head of the screw makes a difference. The more intricate the head is, or in other words, the more traction your screwdriver can get in the head of the screw, the easier of a time you will have inserting it.

Keep in mind that if you try to screw certain types of screws into wood without using a drill, you may end up stripping the head of the screw due to having to apply a lot of pressure. That said, there are special self-drilling screws out there that don’t really need a pilot hole and also don’t even really need a drill.

Using Handheld Screwdrivers and Other Solutions

The fact of the matter is that while having a drill certainly helps, it is not 100% necessary, especially if you have strong fingers and arms. Yes, you can always just muscle your way through it, and moreover, there are some DIY solutions that we are about to cover.

How to Screw into Wood Without a Drill

Let’s talk about the very best methods of how to screw into wood without a drill. There are a few different options at your disposal here.

1. Handheld Screwdriver

If the job at hand is not too big and you don’t need to insert too many screws, you can always just muscle through it with a handheld screwdriver. No, it’s not going to be easy, especially in the beginning stages (getting the screw to take hold can be hard, but once it does, it gets a bit easier). If you have strong arms, you can always just apply a heck of a lot of pressure and drive the screw into the wood using some good old elbow grease.


2. Hammer and Nails

If you plan on using a manual screwdriver, but you would prefer to drill a pilot hole first just to make things a little bit easier for you, then you can do so using a hammer and a nail. You need to use a nail that is smaller in diameter than the screw you wish to insert.

Just make the proper measurements and pound the nail into the wood using the hammer, making sure that it is straight and in the same position as the screw, and then use the claw on the hammer to remove the nail. This is your pilot hole. You can now use the screwdriver to insert the screw.

3. Self-Drilling Screws

Perhaps the best option to go with here is to just use self-drilling screws. Self-drilling screws, as the name implies, more or less create their own pilot holes and they are designed to make it much easier to insert them without having a power drill.

You can literally insert a self-driving screw without much force needed. Sure, you can muscle through it and use normal screws, but there is really no point when there are self-drilling screws available.

Self-Drilling Screw

4. Make a Bow Drill

To drill a pilot hole, something else you can do is to make your own little bow drill. This is what we like to refer to as the caveman method. Follow up with steps as outlined below to make your own bow drill:

  1. Get two wooden sticks and tie a strong piece of string to both of them (to one end of both sticks).
  2. Make sure to sharpen the stick that you plan on using to drill the pilot hole.
  3. Wrap the string around the stick that you are going to use to drill the pilot hole as many times as you can.
  4. Scrape a little hole onto the wood where you plan on making the pilot hole.
  5. Insert the point of the sharp stick into that hole.
  6. Hold the top of that sharp stick with your left hand and then with your right hand, pull very quickly on the other stick (wear gloves or else you will shred your hands!). As you pull on that string very quickly, it will cause the sharp stick to spin, thus drilling a small hole into the wood.
  7. You can now use a screwdriver to insert the screw.

5. Brace Bit

If you happen to have something called a brace, you can just use a brace bit to drill a large pilot hole by applying pressure to the top of it and rotating that. However, this really only works if you need to drill large holes, as brace bits tend to be big.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Finally, here are a few tips to make the process smoother:

  • Your best bet here is to just invest a minimal amount of money into a basic drill or impact driver.
  • If you have to insert a lot of screws, it’s really not worth it to muscle through every single screw when you could be using a drill.
  • If you really don’t want to spend money on a drill, your next best bet is to use those self-drilling screws.
  • Keep in mind that although you can muscle through it without even doing so much as drilling a pilot hole, making a pilot hole using one of the above methods will make life a whole lot easier.


There you go, everything you need to know about how to insert a screw without a power drill. As you can see, there are actually many good options at your disposal.