How to Use a Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit

How to Use a Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit

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If you need to drill a perfect hole into wood or any other such material that you may build with, a hole saw is the tool of choice. Of course, a hole saw is not actually a saw per se, more of a saw-like bit that is generally used with a drill (a large and round bit with teeth that spins in a circle to drill holes).

That being said, you would usually always use a hole saw that has a pilot bit, as this will help guide the hole being cut. However, in some cases, you may need to drill a hole without using that pilot bit, or maybe you lost it. Whatever the case, no need to worry as in this article, we’ll teach you how to use a hole saw without a pilot bit.

When Should You Use a Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit?

The first reason why you might use a hole saw without a pilot bit is just if you have lost the pilot bit. If the pilot bit is missing and you still need a hole drilled, then you might just not have any other option but to do so. Losing the pilot bit aside, there are two scenarios that call for using a hole saw without that pilot bit.

First is if you have already made a hole, or there is an existing hole, which needs to be enlarged. If there is already a hole cut out, then the pilot bit is not needed (although there would also be no real reason to remove it).

The second scenario where you may need to drill a hole without the pilot bit is if you are drilling into thin and fragile materials. Hole saws are great for thick and sturdy materials, but if that pilot bit drills into a material that is too thin or brittle, it could crack or outright snap the material being drilled. The only real way to avoid breaking the material is to remove the pilot bit.

So, when you enlarge a hole, you don’t need to remove the pilot bit, but you don’t require it either, but for making a hole in thin and brittle materials, you must remove the pilot bit.

Hole Saw Parts

How to Use a Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit

What you need to be aware of here is that if you don’t have the pilot bit in the hole saw, then you cannot just use the hole saw with your power drill. Trying to use a hole saw without the pilot bit, or in other words free-handing it is not going to go well. That hole saw is going to jump all over the place, make a mess, and definitely won’t make a clean cut.

When using a hole saw with a power drill without the pilot bit, what you need is called a guide plate.

Step 1: Get the Right Guide Plate

The first thing that you need to do is to go buy yourself a guide plate for the hole saw. You need to get either an adjustable guide plate so you can adjust it to the size of the hole saw, or you need to get a guide plate that already matches the size of the hole saw.

Hole Saw Guide Plate

Step 2: Remove the Pilot Bit

Unless you actually lost the pilot bit, you now need to remove it from the hole saw. To remove the pilot bit, you first need to unscrew the collet. With the collet unscrewed, take out the pilot bit. You will most likely need a 1/16-inch hex wrench for this job. Once the pilot bit has been removed, screw the collet back onto the hole saw.

Step 3: Clamp the Guide Plate

The guide plate you got should come with clamps. Use the clamps to secure the guide plate to the material that you are cutting the hole into. If you have a guide plate without clamps or if the material cannot be clamped, you will just have to hold it with your hand.

Step 4: Set Up

With the pilot bit removed from the hole saw, insert the hole saw into your drill and secure it. Make sure that it is sharp, otherwise sharpen it first. With the hole saw securely fit in the drill, you now need to insert the hole saw into the guide plate.

Step 5: Make the Cut

All you have to do now is to make the cut. Very slowly turn the drill on and let the teeth of the hole saw form a perimeter. Put a bit of weight onto it until you are about 1/2-inch deep. Move back from it and take a look and make sure that the vertical alignment is proper. If necessary, adjust the angle and then continue drilling.

If you are drilling a hole all the way through a piece of wood, then you want to hold a piece of scrap wood on the other end of it, so that the scrap wood can stop the hole saw once it comes out of the main piece being drilled.

If You Have a Drill Press…

The other option that you have to go with here instead of using a manual drill, is to use a drill press. The convenient thing about using a drill press is that the drill bit is already guided by the press itself, so you don’t need to deal with any guide plates.

We’re not going to do a step-by-step instructional here, because all you need to do is remove the pilot bit from the hole saw and then fit the hole saw bit into the drill press just like you would with any other drill bit. Now you just need to use the drill press as you normally would. Yes, this option is much easier, but of course, it means that you need to have a drill press handy.


As you can see, there are situations where you may need to use a hole saw without a pilot bit, and if these arise, well, now you know what you need to do!