How to Cut a Hole in Wood Without Power Tools? 11 Easy Ways

Last Updated on September, 2022

Have you ever been in a situation when your power tool’s power is gone, and you immediately have to cut some holes? I have been there, waited for hours to get my cordless electric drill charged, and sometimes dropped the project out of anger (I feel guilty now)

But, woodcraft is one of the ancient industries; it was there even before electricity was invented. And, people used to create beautiful woodworks at that time too. 

Nowadays, we don’t see traditional methods as an option. Even many woodcrafters don’t know about these tools and methods in the first place.

But, every woodworker should know about these tools and methods so that they can use them in tough situations. 

In this article, I’ll share how to cut a hole in wood without power tools. I will share some incredible (yet affordable) tools and methods to help you accurately make holes in wood without an electric drill. 

So, let’s get into it. Shall we? 

Why Do You Need to Cut a Hole in Wood? 

Cutting a hole in a wood

You may think, why I am asking this question. Does it even matter? 

Well, yes, it does! The method you will follow entirely depends on the ‘why.’ The purpose will determine what tool you will use. 

For example, if you want to mark a position, you can use a nail and a hammer. Just like this, there are many simple solutions available for you. 

Right below, I have described multiple tools and processes that you can follow to cut a hole in wood. Make sure you go through it. 

How to Cut a Hole in Wood Without a Power Tool? 

You see, the electric drill was first invented in 1889, but woodworking was invented before 720 BC. 

For more than 2740 years, the wood industry has been evolving. People were discovering new methods of making holes in wood. 

In this section, I’ll share some tools and methods which are affordable and easy to carry and execute. So, keep reading!

1. Push Drill

After the evolution of power tools, the push drill kind of faded away. However, many woodcrafter out there still prefer to use push drills. 

A push drill can be great when all your power tools are out of charge or have electricity. This hand tool looks like a pen, but it can help you cut a wood hole. 

A push drill is easy to use. There will be a chuck (an internal screw thread) at the tip of the hand push drill. You must adjust the nail in the chuck and set it in the drill.

After that, you must set it where you want to make a hole. Now, keep pushing it until a perfect hole is created. 

A significant advantage of this tool is that you can use this tool with one hand, and with another hand, you can hold the wood.

2. Traditional Hand Drill 

The traditional hand drill is one of the oldest tools used to create round holes. Many woodworkers use this tool for drilling holes. This tool utilizes mechanical advantage and body strength to drill.

You can find a hand drill for as low as $20. There is a chuck where you have to attach a drill bit. 

Once it’s set, you must set it on the position over the wood. There’ll be a knob you must keep twisting to drill appropriately, just like you do while changing your car tire. 

There is also the same tool available with gear, mainly known as a beating drill (aka an eggbeater drill). It combines a few simple machines that use human power to drill a hole. 

3. Bow Drill 

The bow drill is another popular ancient wood cutting tool. This is also known as the fire drill method. 

Many adventurous travelers still prefer to carry bow drills as the emergency fire starting material. Though it’s not a drill, instead, it punctures holes. The bow drill can puncture holes in woods effortlessly. 

Now, if you have a bow drill set, it’ll be much easier. Otherwise, you have to arrange a bow, a bowstring, drill shaft, and drill. 

You must set the drill on the wood surface with your strong hand and set the bow with the bowstring. On the other hand, you must keep moving the bow until smoke (sometimes fire) appears. 

Unlike other methods, bow drill (aka fire drill) are quite challenging. It requires a lot of energy too. 

4. Palm Drill 

Palm drill, used mainly by children in nature school. Nowadays, the palm drill is mostly used to teach students how to cut wood with a lightweight tool. 

The palm drill mostly looks like a screwdriver with a wooden handle. Various drill bit sizes are available (like 5.0 mm, and 10.0 mm).

Using a palm drill is easy. You have to place it in the position where you want to drill and keep twisting like you do while screwing with a screwdriver. 

5. Burning With Hot Coal

Well, I know, this may sound weird. But burning wood for creating holes is a legit method. 

This method has been known for centuries. There are examples of making holes in wood in many cultures for hundreds of years. 

Earlier, people used the burning method to join wall posts and roofs. There are two well-known methods. Which are- 

Hot Metal Rod

Get a metal rod (straight stick made of metal) and place its tip in the fire until it gets hotter. Once it reaches the highest temperature, pull it off, place it SAFELY on the wooden surface, and wait for a while. 

The only disadvantage of this method, it leaves a burning mark, and you can’t control the fire. However, you can cut off the burned wood. 

Hot Coals

Get hot coals and place them where you want to make a hole. Use a fire tong (or something similar to keep the coal in place). However, it’s an uncontrollable method. You cannot control the burning.

This method isn’t recommended unless you don’t have any problem with the size of the hole. 

6. Brace and Bit 

Brace and bit is one of the best hand tools for hand drills. The tool uses the power of spinning rotation magnified by mechanical power. 

This classic hand drill isn’t tough to use and doesn’t require all your hand and forearm strength. 

You must attach your drill bit and set it in the bit part. Now, place it on wood and twist the handle to make a hole. 

It’s a one-time purchase. You can use it after years. If you are using it after a long time, apply some lubricant oil on the sliding surfaces and over the bearing of the brace and bit. 

It’s highly effective and faster than many other tools. Braces and bits come with all the essentials (brace, drill bit, and lubricant). You can even use it for screwing on wood without stains. 

7. Gimlet 

Gimlet is another traditional yet most used hand tool. Gimlet is a versatile tool. You can use it by hand and also with a brace and bit. 

Using this tool is like opening a door with a key. You have to keep twisting it until you have the perfect hole in the piece of wood. 

Gimlets are great small holes (like pilot holes). But, a gimlet isn’t a good option if you want a giant hole. 

8. AWL Tool 

It looks like a screwdriver, but not a screwdriver. It’s a unique and versatile tool. AWL is used for fabric, leather, and wood. 

There is a scratch AWL that is used for wood. It has a pointy nip (screw-like point), perfect for making holes in the wooden surface. But, remember one thing, the AWL tool is excellent for softwoods and soft materials (like leather and fabric). 

This tool is still great for cutting pilot holes. Making round holes with it is easy. You just have to place it on the mark and keep hammering (with a hammer, obviously) on the top of the AWL tool. 

The AWL tool is still a preferred tool for creating marks on wood and drilling later on. 

9. Chisel 

When it comes to cutting square or rectangular holes, the chisel is one of the best hand tools you can use. This hand tool can be used to make a hole bigger. 

Using a chisel requires a little effort and patience to clear the mess inside the hole. Well, yes! Making a circular channel with a chisel makes the wood quite dirty both (inside and around) the wooden hole. 

Here is how you can drill a hole in the wood with a chisel. 

At first, make the same size hole drawing with a pencil. Place the chisel in position and keep hammering over the top of the chisel to make a hole in the wood. Make a dent in the wood and once the chisel is in, make a circle around it. 

Now get the chisel out of it and clean the mess. The thing is, making a hole in the wood with a chisel is messy, but if you want to make larger holes, a chisel can be helpful. 

However, once you master using the chisel correctly, you’ll be able to make holes effortlessly. 

10. Knife 

Whether you have a drop point or a clip point pocket knife, a knife can help you cut a circle. That’s why it’s better if you carry a pocket knife. 

Then again, there are two problems, making a hole with a knife. Which are: 

  • The hole won’t be perfect 
  • It’s time-consuming

But, if you need a small hole (like a pilot hole) that doesn’t have to be perfect then you can use a knife. 

11. Screws 

Screw and a screwdriver can always be used for creating screw holes. However, it’s not always a good option. 

Most of the time, the screw damages the wooden surface, or while twisting, the screw breaks down inside. 

Ideally, you can use wood filler when anything wrong happens, but it won’t have that natural fresh look. 

If you have no tools at all, then you can try this. Otherwise, it’s not RECOMMENDED.

Other Types of Wood Cutting Can You Do Without Power Tools 

Besides cutting a hole in wood, there are many other ways to cut wood that you can do without using any power tools. This will save you plenty of time and money while wood crafting (I promise).

Drill 

Are you drilling without a drill machine? 

IMPOSSIBLE! 

Well, we are so used to drilling with an electric drill machine that we cannot even imagine drilling wood surfaces without it. 

I have seen people running with 50 ft. long corded drills from one place to another or wasting hours waiting to get their cordless drill charged. Or even worse, stop working for that day so that they can rent away a drill machine. 

But, there are ways you can drill in wood without any drill machine. Which are- 

  1. Hammering a nail in the wooden surface (for a smaller hole)
  2. Using a chisel (for giant hole) 
  3. Use a non-electric hand drill (for the most satisfactory result)
  4. Cutting wood with a traditional jigsaw

Screw 

Wood screws can be scary. Because of some silly mistake, we chew off the head and destroy the screw. Sometimes even worse, the screwdriver spills off and destroys the wood surface. 

Then again, if you don’t make a hole before and start screwing, it’ll break the wood (congratulations, your wood project is gone). 

You see, while screwing, the screw will move when you are twisting it. That’s when all the accidents occur. How can you avoid it?

How can you screw in wood without power tools? Here is the step-by-step process: 

  • Initially, make a small hole in the wood with the help of a small nail and hammer (also known as a pilot hole). 
  • Once the pilot hole is created, gently remove the nail (otherwise, it’ll damage the wooden surface).
  • Now, adjust the tip of the screwdriver and screw head properly. 
  • Firmly hold the screwdriver and start twisting slowly. 

Note: If the screw and wood aren’t aligned properly, use a clamp.

Making Round, Larger Holes

Making large round holes without power tools was one of the wholesome things that woodcrafters used to do. 

Earlier, woodcrafters used to do it by hand. And it requires a lot of hard work. However, if you are someone new who is trying to cut without power tools, do it slowly. Otherwise, you may hurt your hand. 

You can use many tools to cut a round hole in wood, like push drill, power drill, brace and bit, gimlets, and much more.

How to Cut a Hole in Wood With Other Power Tools (Without a Drilling Machine) 

You see, having a drill machine isn’t enough! But, sometimes (especially when you are working on a big project) you may need different shapes and sizes of holes. 

And, when you need to drill something big or different in shape, you may also need the help of a different electric tool. 

In this section, you’ll learn about other power tools that can cut holes faster with better accuracy. So, don’t forget to check this out! 

Jigsaw

Basically, the jigsaw isn’t a perfect power tool to cut a hole. But, if you want to cut corners or give it a nice curve, a jigsaw is a great tool.

This saw blade isn’t perfect for plunge cutting (tiny holes). But, if you want to make a large hole in the wooden board, I recommend you follow this video:

Reciprocating Saw (Sawzall)

Jigsaw and reciprocating saw may look alike but these are two different tools. But the sawzall has a different feature which is plunge cutting. 

Blades with plunge cutting ability can cut round holes accurately which other sawblades cannot. 

But, sawzall is one of the fastest woodcutting tools and without expertise, you cannot cut a hole properly. 

Circular Saw

Though a circular saw isn’t recommended for creating holes (especially the round ones). If you want to cut square or rectangular holes, then it’s great. 

The main problem is visualization. While cutting, you cannot visualize, so you’ll struggle a lot at the beginning.

But, once you become an expert, you can make a perfect square hole of your desired depth within no time with a circular saw. 

Oscillating Multi-Tool

This tool is relatively new to the woodcrafting industry. Due to the blessing of technology, you can do many things (like plunge cutting) with this tool. This tool also comes with a wide range of blades. 

However, it’s not for cutting round holes, but if you want to cut square holes, you can do it easily with this tool. 

Router

If you are only concerned about small holes, then a router can be a great tool besides a drill. The router can also help you to cut a perfectly circular hole. But it can be a problem if you want to make multiple holes of different sizes (due to limited cutting bits). 

However, many woodcrafter without a drill prefer to plunge cut with a router first and then use a jigsaw to cut the outer surface of the hole. 

Hole Saw 

Finally, here I am revealing the best tool for making holes, the hole saws. Just like a drill machine, this tool can easily create any size of the clean hole. 

This tool requires almost no skill and expertise to cut wood. If you often have to create holes with high accuracy, this can be a great option. 

Also, if you want to create a small hole or mark, you can use a soldering iron

Final Words 

Electric tools like electric drills make things a lot faster. But, wasting hours waiting for electricity or getting your drill charged isn’t an option either. 

I am not recommending you get rid of all your electric tools and go for manual ones. But, you should always have something for backup. 

I hope you have learned about all the methods and found a reliable solution for yourself above. If there’s any query, please comment below! 

Happy Woodcrafting! 

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