How to Drill a Hole in Wood Without Splintering (For Plywood, Particle Board, and More)

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Drilling is a crucial woodworking technique that proves useful in various projects. However, it requires a high level of accuracy and precision, and even a minor mistake can result in irreparable damage to the wood.

So, in this article, I will guide you on how to drill a hole in wood without splintering and help you finish your project successfully.

Different Ways to Make Holes in Wood Without Splintering

There are several ways to make holes in different types of wood without splintering. You can use different tools and techniques depending on the size of the holes you want to create.

Most woodworkers use drill bits to create small holes like pilot holes. Meanwhile, you can use an auger drill and spade or flat bits to create medium-sized holes. But if you need to drill larger holes, I suggest you use a hole saw set.

Safety Precaution

To avoid drilling through your workspace, it’s important to hang the wood piece you need to drill on the edge, especially if the surface is made of tile, metal, or plastic laminate. Clear your work area and ensure you have enough space to move around.

how to drill a wood

Things You’ll Need

Drilling Small Holes in Wood

Creating small holes through the wood is crucial and more difficult as you have less working area. Your drilling bits must be very sharp to create clean holes in your wood pieces without splintering them. Below are the two popular methods you can use:

Using Point Drill Bits

When it comes to drilling small holes in wood, Point Drill Bits have always been my go-to. These bits are crafted to make precise pilot holes without splitting or cracking the wood, and they come in various sizes—I usually max out at 10 mm.

Their sharp points can help you initiate the cut and hold the bit in place precisely without slipping as you drill the hole. This method only requires minimal force as excess strength can break your wood.

Using Twist Drill Bits

Twist bits are essentially used to create pilot holes easier and cleaner because of their twisted body. Standard twist bits can make smaller holes with a maximum diameter of 1/2-inch, significantly smaller than point bits.

drilling small holes in the wood

You can stretch the size to 3/16-inch, but above this size can already damage the wood. It’s also not ideal for creating angled holes as it tends to turn off course, so you need extra precision when drilling the smaller holes at an angle.

Drilling Medium Holes in Wood

Medium-sized holes range from 10 to 25 mm in diameter and can go as deep as 400 mm. Drilling these sizes of holes requires a slower speed to create clean cuts. Below are the most popular methods for drilling medium-sized holes:

Using Auger Drill Bits

Auger bit is generally used to make straight holes that are not too small but not too big. Due to its medium length, it’s the preferred drilling bit of most woodworkers used in wood morticing.

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It can create more precise holes compared to point or twist bits because it also has a cutting edge, pulling, and guiding thread. It’s easy to use and needs minimal force. But to help you avoid splintering the wood, you must use a clump when drilling on it.

Using Flat/Spade Drill Bits

Flat or spade bit is commonly used by plumbers and electricians in making studs and holes on the walls to run wires and pipes. But it’s also an effective tool to create clean holes in various types of wood without breaking it.

using spade drill

It also has cutting edges and guiding points to help you create clean holes ranging from 10 to 25 mm in diameter and 152 to 400 mm deep. Unlike auger bits, flat or spade bits can drill faster without damaging the wood.

Drilling Large Holes in Wood Using Hole Saws

If you need to create bigger holes ranging from 19 to 57 mm in diameter, you must use a hole saw set where you can choose the appropriate size for your project. Below are the steps for creating bigger holes using hole saws:

  1. Choose a hole saw that is the appropriate size for the hole you want to make. Attach the hole saw securely to the drill.
  2. Mark the center of the hole on the surface where you want to cut. You can use a smaller drill bit to create a pilot hole to guide the hole saw.
  3. Put the center bit of the hole saw into the pilot hole. Slowly and steadily begin drilling, making sure the hole saw stays perpendicular to the surface.
  4. Use only light pressure to maintain the speed and direction of the cut. You must remove the saw periodically to clear away debris from the teeth. Keep drilling until the hole saw goes all the way through the wood, creating clean and precise holes.

How Can You Fix Splintered Wood Holes?

If the wood has splintered, there’s no need to despair, as there is still hope for repair. By delicately removing the damaged fibers surrounding the hole, you can restore the wood to its original state.

In addition, you must apply durable wood glue to help the fiber stabilize. Once the glue has fully set, use a cutter to clean the edge. Lastly, you must apply tough wood putty to cover the broken wood hole.

How Can You Fix Splintered Wood Holes

Drilling Holes in Plywood Without Splintering: How to Do It

Drilling holes in plywood is tricky since it’s not as strong as solid wood. But following the below procedures can help you create holes in plywood without damaging it.

  1. Create a small pilot hole prior to drilling the entire hole to mark its precise position on both sides.
  2. Use the pilot hole as a guide to drill [1] your final hole through the plywood.
  3. Ensure to drill on both sides to create a clean and precise hole.

What’s the Best Drill Bit for Making Clean Holes in Wood?

Creating precise holes depends on the type and size of the drill bits you use. Below are my recommended drill bits you can use in your projects:

Wood Hole Size

Drill Bit Type

Large Hole

Hole saw

Medium-sized Hole

Auger and spade bits

Small Hole

Twist and point bits

Wood Types That are Likely to Splinter

Wood Types That Are Likely To Splinter ​

Some types of wood tend to splinter when you drill holes, so must take extra precautions when working with them. These are:


Drilling is an essential woodworking skill that you need to create holes for various woodwork projects. To achieve accurate drill holes, you must use the right type and size of drill bit.

Additionally, following the right techniques and ways to drill a hole in wood without splintering can help you level up your skills and achieve your desired results.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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