If you’re a professional contractor, then there’s a good chance that you’ve seen a hole saw in action on a job site before. However, many DIYers aren’t familiar with this unique and innovative method of cutting clean holes out of all kinds of surfaces.
Herein, you’ll learn everything you need to know about these tools, including how they work and how you can use one to cut a hole in a door or other surface.
I’ve also included a few tips and tricks so that experienced hole saw users can take their use of this important tool to the next level.
What Is a Hole Saw and Why Use It?
To start with, a hole saw (sometimes known as a “hole cutter”) is a type of ring-shaped saw blade that can be mounted on various types of drills.
In this capacity, a hole saw is able to cut a sizable hole out of a workpiece without needing to cut up the core material.
Generally speaking, this capacity to make holes without requiring the destruction of the core material allows hole saws to operate much faster and much more efficiently than standard drill bits.
Linguistically, a “hole saw” can refer to any drill that is equipped with a hole saw bit. However, a “hole saw” technically refers to only the ring-shaped bit, regardless of where it is being used.
These bits differ noticeably from spade bits and Forstner bits as well, not least because those bits must destroy a work piece’s core material to create a successful bore.
Both DIYers and professionals alike also use this tool to cut openings for new cables and wiring within a home or office.
If you don’t have a set yet, check this list of my favorite hole saw kits.
How to Use a Hole Saw
Now that you know what a hole saw is at its core, let’s take a look at how to use it properly.
Step 1: Mark and Bore a Pilot Hole
To start, you’ll want to gather up all the necessary materials.
These include a hole saw bit, a standard wood drill bit, a pencil, a compatible drill (portable or stationary), and eye protection.
With these in hand, you should start by making a mark at the center of your intended hole. To do this, you may need to take several measurements to ensure proper spacing from the work piece’s edges ( especially if you are boring a hole in a door).
If your hole saw is not equipped with a center drill bit, equip your standard drill bit to your drill. Using this bit, drill a pilot hole all the way through your workpiece at the point you just marked. This will make it easier for you to remove the resulting wood plug after you finish working with the hole saw bit.
Step 2: Attach Your Bit and Align for Full Contact
Next, you can remove the standard drill bit and attach your hole saw bit.
Once that is done, you should align your hole saw bit such that its center is precisely over your pilot hole. Most hole saw bits even include a center bit or rod that makes this alignment easier.
With the alignment done, lower the rest of the hole saw bit’s ring so that it makes full contact with the work piece’s surface.
Step 3: Grasp Firmly and Begin Drilling Halfway
After full contact between the hole saw and the work piece’s surface has been achieved, you can begin to engage your drill. Do so slowly at first while applying moderate pressure. This may require you to firmly grasp your drill to prevent the work piece’s resistance from shaking the bit out of its aligned orientation.
Once you’ve effectively started your hole, continue to raise the speed until you are efficiently cutting into your work piece’s surface.
Every so often, you should stop, back out the bit, and clean out any debris that may be clogging up the boring area. Continue this process until you are approximately halfway through the width of your workpiece.
Step 4: Finish the Hole from the Other Side
After reaching the halfway point on your cut, back out your hole saw bit and switch to the other side of your work piece. There, you can align your hole saw bit with your existing hole and continue the hole cutting process.
If you properly aligned your sides, you should soon cut all the way through, leaving behind a wood plug.
To remove this plug, simply push it through to the other side using a screwdriver. If it becomes wedged inside the hole, you may need to apply some force to free it.
Using Hole Saws Like a Pro: Tips & Tricks
If you’ve used a hole saw before, then you know that they can require a bit of practice to fully master. To get you to that level of mastery, consider utilizing the following tips when you next pick up and use a hole saw:
- Keep your hole saws clean: When a hole saw is used to cut studs in certain types of wood, they can accumulate resin. This resin can create friction, which in turn decreases the efficiency of a cut and can cause the bit itself to wear down quicker. Metal construction bit cleaners, which can be picked up at a hardware store, often do the job well on this front.
- Back up your workpiece: Blowouts are all too common when working with a hole saw. To prevent this from happening, consider mounting a sacrificial piece of material flush with the other side of your hole. That way, when your hole saw pops out the other side, it does not tear up the exit hole.
- Use an auxiliary handle: Stabilizing a hole saw can be challenging when you are working with a portable drill. To prevent your hole from becoming misaligned, try attaching an auxiliary handle to your drill’s front end. This will allow you to better stabilize and control the unit as it bores deep into your workpiece.
To be honest, a hole saw may look a bit intimidating on the outside due to its sheer size compared to other boring drill bits. But in truth, you simply need to learn the ropes of these bits before you can use them to create efficient, clean holes in wood, plastic, and more.
Be sure to keep the steps and tips outlined above in mind next time your construction or DIY project requires you to bore out a large hole.