How to Use Pilot Holes When Drilling

Pilot holes are designed to make it easier to drill accurate holes in wood. As their name suggests, they help to guide the drill through the wood. 

They prevent wood from splitting and cracking when you drill. They also ensure that your drilling is precise and accurate. When they are made properly, you’ll have smooth, clean holes that prepare your wood for drilling. Less force is needed when you are drilling hardwood, preventing fasteners from bending or going out of alignment as you start drilling. It may seem like these holes make more work, as you are drilling the holes before drilling the wood. They can end up saving you a lot of time and hassle, however. They'll prevent problems that can end up ruining your projects and wasting materials.

Wondering how to use pilot holes when you’re drilling? Let’s take a look.

Using Pilot Holes When Drilling

These tips will help you make perfectly smooth pilot holes for your woodworking projects.

Mark the spot before you start 

First, you will need to mark the place where you plan to make the hole. You can do this with a pencil. Or, better still, you can use painters tape to mark the area. This has the added benefit of preventing the wood from cracking as the tape reinforces the wood. 

Make a slight indent in the wood

Once you’ve marked the spot, use a nail or an unattached drill bit to gently create an indent in the wood. You don’t need to make it too deep or too wide. The aim of this step is to make it easier for the drill bit to stay in place once you start drilling.

Choose the right drill bit

There are many different types of drill bits for wood. At Ruwag, we offer a wide variety of bits for every project. The best types for projects that require fasteners to be attached are brad point drill bits and turbo drill bits. Brad point bits are ideal for making small diameter holes in a variety of wood types. These come in a few different sizes, from 4mm all the way to 16mm. Turbo drill bits are also very useful, with centring tips that give you even more precision. These bits also range in size. Generally speaking, you want a drill bit that is wide enough for you to insert a fastener easily, without any wiggling. If you are making a smaller hole for nails, you will want a bit that is smaller than the nail shank. If you are using a screw, you want a bit that is the same size as the screw (excluding the threads). When in doubt, go for a bit that is just a little smaller than the body of the screw. 

Secure your pieces and start drilling

The last thing you want is pieces to suddenly shift out of place while you’re drilling. Clamps are essential for clean, accurate drilling. Wood glue can add even more stability. Once your pieces are clamped securely, you can start drilling your pilot hole. Carefully place the tip of the drill bit in the indent you have made in the wood. Keep the drill directly above the hole so that it stands straight up. Use a slow setting so that you can keep the drill steady. You will need to drill a hole that is roughly the same depth as the length of your nail or screw. If you’re not sure when to stop, try using a drill stop or a bit of tape to mark the length of the screw on the drill bit. Next, slowly bring the drill back up again, keeping the same straight line as before when you made the hole. You can then drill the hole to attach your fasteners. 

We hope that these tips make it easier to get the best results from your woodworking projects. Browse our full collection of wood drill bits to get the best quality bits from Ruwag.

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