How to Use a Hole Saw (Step-by-Step Guide)

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There are many ways of drilling holes into wood pieces, and one of the easiest methods is using hole saws. But no matter how handy they are, utilizing them isn’t as easy as you’d think. 

To save you from all the guesswork, allow our woodworkers to guide you on how to use a hole saw and give some tips to maximize its usage.

Basics of Using a Hole Saw

Unlike regular drill bits exclusively for wood, hole saws can be used in different hard materials like metal and concrete. Depending on the available tool at your disposal, you can attach this component to a cordless drill or drill press. 

If you own a hole saw set with different pieces, ensure that the one you’ll be using matches the hole sizes you want to drill into the material. And if you’re using detachable arbors, you must choose the correct gazebo size that matches the hole saw you’re using. 

Most hole saws are used in drilling large-diameter holes, so it’s only natural that it requires some getting used to. Here are a few reminders and tools you need to note during the process to ease your drilling experience. 

hole saw

Time Required: At least 15 minutes.

Level of Difficulty: Average. It requires practice, but it’s simple to use.

Cost: None (if you have all the materials below)

Required Tools and Materials

Step #1: Bore the Pilot Hole

Before you start drilling, we suggest putting a pilot hole mark into your material. Although hole saws operate with less power, you should know that this tool still has a high tendency to wobble and get inaccurate cuts. 

marking wood before drilling pilot hole

On top of that, you’ll need to use an existing hole to serve as an anchor if you’re dealing with a free-standing material to stop hole saws from spinning. 

So if you don’t want the drill bit to wander about, create a placement or smaller hole just enough until the drill bit nips into the wood. 

You can use a brad point drill bit if you want better precision in making the pilot hole. It’s a great pilot bit to consider because it’s designed with a sharp point.

Step #2: Adjust the Bit for Proper Alignment

Once the pilot hole is drilled, you can use it as a guide to align the drill bit. This existing hole will make your hole saw drill bit stable and prevent it from wobbling, which could result in inaccurate cuts. 

adjusting drill

The hole saw’s pilot bit allows the saw blade to have a firm grip on the workpiece evenly. 

Step #3: Slowly Drill First Then Build Up Your Pace

Enlarging existing holes shouldn’t be done at a high-speed setting. It would be best to start slow when you use a hole saw to maintain momentum and cut quality. 

You can apply moderate pressure to make the drill motor operate faster, but ensure that the drill bit is already ⅛-inch deep. Remember that if you don’t start slowly, the hole saw will bite hard and start binding. 

The drill speed should also be slowed as you do this process to clear out sawdust in the groove. By doing this, you can keep the blade cool and smooth. After the new hole makes it halfway to the opposite side, you can stop the hole saw from turning and begin on the other side.

When you start drilling on the other side, you can put the handle against your hip as you hold it for even contact and better control of the hole saw’s blade. Once that’s done, you’ll see the wood plug stick out of the drill and protrude on the other side of the material.

drilling with hole saw

Applying a few drops of cutting oil on the tool is also advisable if drilling a metal piece or any hard object. Through this, the hole saw teeth can have enough lubrication[1] and produce a clean hole. 

Step #4: Clamp a Scrap Wood to Enlarge the Hole

Hole saws can also be used for enlarging holes that you have already drilled in the material. However, you must ensure that the drill with the attachment is engaged with the wood to prevent its teeth from gnawing and spinning uncontrollably. 

To do this, we suggest clamping a ¼-inch scrap piece of plywood. 

Step #5: Mark the Scrap Wood

You can place it over the existing hole for proper alignment and mark its center for a new pilot hole. 

After that, cut the disc off the extra wood using a hole saw with the same diameter and continue boring the hole. 

Step #6:Use a Chisel to Bore Deeper Holes

At this point, the hole saw will do its job if you drill the holes into their full depth. While doing that, don’t forget to withdraw the drill occasionally to free the hole saw from sawdust buildup. 


Using a hole saw drill with a side handle is also better because this design will allow users to hold the tool firmer. As you bore the hole deeper, you’ll also need to chisel out wooden plugs to achieve a clean output. If you don’t have a chisel, you can opt for a slotted screwdriver. 

Hole Saw Parts and Functions

If you inspect them closely, you’ll notice that hole saws are composed of several parts. On top of all, it is the arbor shaft you’ll need to attach to the drill’s chuck. The arbor’s thread should fit the drill, or that would mean that the two are not compatible. 

And then, there’s also the collar screw that keeps the hole saw and the bit together. You can adjust it to determine how shallow or deep the drill bit can go. Following that are drive pins that ensure the hole saw can keep up with the drill speed. 

Next, you’ll see the round saw with sharp teeth that do all the cutting. The drill bit should protrude past the saw’s teeth to guide the tool. 

Antrader BZ052215 Heavy-Duty Bi-Metal Hole Saw with Arbor

Besides arts and crafts, you can use a hole saw for typical projects like drilling a placement for door knobs or light fixtures. It could also give you a correct size hole for plumbing and installing ductwork. 

Assembling the Hole Saw

Part of learning how to use a hole saw is knowing how to assemble it. When you pick up the hole saw, you’ll see two holes on both sides of the center arbor hole. That’s where the two pins on the drive plate will be going. However, you’ll only have to do this step if the blade is large. 

After that, insert the arbor shaft and drill bit into the hole saw collar. You can keep turning the drill bit to adjust the depth to ensure it protrudes past the blade’s teeth. Lastly, use a wrench to tighten the set screw on the collar. 

Hole Saw vs. Spade Bit vs. Forstner Bit

You can opt for spade bits if you don’t mind getting rough edges. Unlike carbon steel hole saws that are best for soft materials, this option can cause tear-out. Because of this, we only suggest using this on rough construction works. 

operating a hole saw

Although a Forstner bit creates a cleaner hole than a hole saw, this tool is sold at a higher price range. On top of that, this option isn’t widely available. Upon our search, its variations are only sold up to 3 inches in diameter. 


How can I remove the wood from my hole saw?

You can use a screwdriver to remove the wood residues from your hole saw. The tool should have vents on the sides, where sawdust can escape during the drilling operations. You can also drive wooden plugs away by inserting long screws.  

How can I prevent tear-out?

It would help if you used a sharp saw to avoid tear-out. You may not know, but dull blades can cause tearing on the material. 

Other than that, avoid putting excessive pressure when using a hole saw and ensure that there’s a wood piece underneath the tool for cutting consistency. 

What are the hazards of using a hole saw?

These tools carry high torque settings, so it’s only natural that they can be harder to handle. 

Because of that, hole saws may start binding and lead to injuring the operator’s arm. On top of that, it produces high heat, so you shouldn’t disassemble the blade until it cools down. 


As long as you’re well-versed in the parts and techniques of using a hole saw, we don’t doubt you’ll be able to utilize it to its maximum efficiency. 

On top of that, you should ensure that the drill you’re using is compatible with the saw. Beginners may find it overwhelming initially, but we hope this guide eased your experience. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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