What Size of Drill Bit Should I Use For a #10 Screw? (Pilot Hole)

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Every DIY or construction endeavor calls for just the right set of tools. Take drill bits for screws, for instance – they have unique codes that tell you about their specs and the materials they’re best suited for.

So, for those of you wrangling with a #10 screw, I’ve pulled together a guide on the perfect drill bit sizes to use.

What is the Drill Bit Size That Matches a #10 Screw?

For #10 screws, it is best to know the appropriate pilot hole size on the intended wood, whether it is hardwood or softwood. As referenced below, the drill bit size that matches a #10 screw is 7/64 and 1/8 for softwood and hardwood, respectively.  

It’s also important to know that there are AB self-tapping screws, type B self-tapping screws, or Type 25 thread-cutting screws that may differ in sizing requirements for #10 screws.

10 screw

Screw Size

Drill Hole Size for Softwood

Drill Hole Size for Hardwood










Step #1: Choose a Drill Bit

There are several methods to help you choose the appropriate drill bit. 

  1. One way of choosing the appropriate drill bit is by eyeballing it. You can compare and check the drill bit that is the closest size to the screw you will use. Compare these if they have the same width without their threads. You’d want to start with smaller size bits. If it is too tight, it is easier to make it wider with a larger diameter drill bit (as opposed to making the hole too wide).
  2. Check the table above for the right pilot hole size for #10 screws. You might be tempted to use a slightly smaller bit for a snug fit, but when working with wood, I’ve found it’s best to adhere to the recommended sizes.
finding drill bit size

3. Whether you’re eyeballing or sticking to the table, it’s best to start with a smaller bit than what you intend to use, then move to a larger diameter bit. This way, making the hole will be much easier.

4. Check the labels on the packages of the screws and bits. Normally, these packages provide tables that guide screw and drill bit pairings. If you have lost the packaging, you may go and do further research.

Tip: When making pilot holes, you can pre-drill holes using a countersink drill bit, especially when working with hardwood or fine furniture to prevent the wood from splitting. 

Step #2: Place the Bit Unto the Drill

  1. Loosen the jaws of the drill bit slot of your drill. 
place bit on drill

2. Center the shank of the drill bit within the jaws of the bit slot. With the usual three to four jaws, align the drill bit with the tips of all of them for perfect centering.

3. Clamp the bit securely by slowly turning the chuck clockwise while simultaneously checking if the bit is still centered. On older drills, you might need a ‘chuck key’ to turn the chuck. Rotate the chuck counter-clockwise if you need to loosen the bit. 

Want to remove your drill press chuck? Check this guide next!

Step #3: Make the Right Drill Settings

  1. Refer to your drill’s manual for the buttons’ respective functions. This is necessary to make the proper adjustments and proper usage of the drill.
  2. For drilling holes, you will set your drill for high speed and low torque. 
  3. For deeper holes that will require the whole length of your bit, set your drill to low torque. 
  4. Set the direction of the drill rotation properly as well. If the drill bit is facing away from you, a clockwise rotation means you are drilling in, and a counter-clockwise direction for pulling the bit out.
drill setting

Step #4: Prepare the Surface or Material

  1. Clean the intended surface where you will perform the drilling. Make sure to mark specific locations where the drilling will be on the material. 
  2. Secure your workpiece by clamping it in a vice or using adjustable clamps.
  3. If you are drilling through the piece, i.e., the drill bit will come out the other end, prevent splintering on the exit side by drilling your workpiece on a surplus piece of wood. 
  4. Check where the drill bit will exit to prevent unintentionally drilling into your work table and other work materials.

Step #5: Start Drilling the Hole

  1. First, try and practice drilling a hole on a surplus piece of wood similar to your workpiece to get a ‘feel’ of the wood, i.e. what drill speed you can use and the force of the push you’ll need to drive the bit in.
  2. Do not press the trigger yet. Align your drill bit at a proper angle as you lay it on your workpiece.
  3. Start drilling by pulling the trigger lightly and slowly applying pressure to drive the bit in. Be aware of any corrections and adjustments you might need while the spin is still slow.

4. If there are no more adjustments, gradually increase the rotation speed by pulling the trigger all the way in while driving the bit slowly and surely. 

5. Pull the drill bit out by reversing the spin direction (refer to your drill’s manual, this is usually just a button). Clear the hole and its area of sawdust [1].

6. Pass a screw in the hole. A hole of the right size should allow a screw to be driven in with small to medium effort using a regular handheld screwdriver. 

If it feels too easy or I’m straining too much, I usually consider switching to a slightly smaller or larger drill bit, respectively.


What should be the size of the pilot hole?

The pilot hole size will vary depending on the drill bit that will be used and the intended type of material. It is best to consult or refer to a guide for reference. 

Can the drill bit be tinier than the screw?

The drill bit shoe is not tinier than the screw. Rather, it should be almost the same size as the body of the screw without the threads. 


Choosing the correct drill bits for your screws will help your project become a success. It might seem a bit daunting at first, but trust me, a little practice, some intuition, and a bit of research go a long way.

However, do not be intimidated; you can plan ahead before taking on a project that requires these materials. I hope that this article was able to help you select the correct size of drill bit for a #10 screw.

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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