- Answers & Solutions

It’s too bad you forgot to plug in your power equipment last night so you can finish that project in the woodshop this afternoon. You shouldn’t put your woodworking project on wait because of that. Numerous non-electric alternatives exist for making holes in wood, such as drills and chisels. Methods for boring a hole in wood without the use of power tools.

To drill a hole in wood without using electricity, consider these seven hand tools:

Force the drill forward
Archery practise with a bow
Hand drills
Gimlets and an Awl Brace
White-hot coals
You may already be familiar with some of these tools, while others will be brand new. Don’t stop reading now; I’ll fill you in on the details. Don’t miss out on hearing my thoughts on whether or not it’s possible to bore a hole by hand in a piece of wood.

These Are the 7 Best Ways to Cut a Hole in Wood Without Power Tools

1. Push Drill

Most drills needed you to manually make holes before power drills became the standard. A push drill is a good example of this. To some, push drills are a relic from the past, while others still find them to be quite useful.

Yes, indeed, they do! For when your electric tools run out of juice, as we explained in the introduction, a push drill is always ready and waiting. Very often it works as promised.

How, therefore, does a push drill function? Push drills, just like regular drills, include a bit storage compartment in the top of the handle. Pick a bit, slide it into the drill’s tip, and secure it with the drill’s thumbscrew. The point of the push drill should then be aimed at the wood and positioned where a hole is to be drilled.

By applying force to the drill, you’ll be able to turn the bit via the internal screw thread, thereby making a hole. Bear in mind that this isn’t happening instantly. Using a single stroke to make a mark half an inch deep in softwood requires a few passes.

Push drills can create holes between 1/16 and 5/32 inches in diameter. Not every task calls for such precision, but when a tiny hole needs to be drilled, a push drill comes in quite helpful.

2. Bow Drill

Bow drills are another viable alternative. Bow drills are older than push drills since they are a two-part tool. Sometime in the fourth or fifth millennia BC, the first bow drills appeared.

The bow drill makes use of a spindle or drill shaft, which is a rod. A bow drill’s rod can be set in motion by wrapping a string around it. The drill’s other component is the hand-held bow of the same name.

It’s not just wood that bow drills may pierce; stone, metal, and even teeth and bone are all fair game. When camping or in a survival emergency, this equipment can be used in the same way as a fire drill to create a fire.

The bow would require some alterations though. Fire bows, for instance, require a fireboard and have a rounded tip on the bow’s shaft. It’s a hollow piece of wood. Turning the shaft generates heat by the interaction of pressure and velocity, turning charcoal into a fine powder that can be used to ignite a fire.

3. Palm Drill

In the event that your power tools break, you may always rely on a palm drill. Palm drills are hand tools used for drilling holes into wood and are also known as hand drills. To make holes in softer wood, certain drills are designed specifically for that purpose, while others are designed for harder wood.

Palm drills come in a variety of diameters, often ranging from 2 mm to 4 mm (and occasionally going up to 6 mm). The ease or difficulty of drilling a hole with a palm drill depends on the user’s dexterity with the tool in their hands.

If you become tired of using your hands quickly, a palm drill won’t be very effective for you. However, just like with any other muscle, the more regularly you do the drill, the easier it will get to use it for extended lengths of time.

4. Awl

A screwdriver is a commonplace instrument, but an awl is something quite different. The awl has a sharp tip at the end.

Scratch awls are a special kind of awl; they are distinct from stitching awls. The former is intended for carpentry and the latter for stitching into canvas or leather. These awls are not compatible with one another.

A scratch awl will only allow you to cut a shallow hole. These instruments are designed to make a hole in which a drill bit can be inserted to complete the task. An awl may be able to penetrate softer woods more easily.

5. Brace and Bit

This is still one of my go- to’s, and it really does the trick! A bit for drilling into wood is part of the brace and bit set. You may adjust the bracing by turning a crank. Aside from the shell, there is also a handle and a ratchet that is attached to the handle. The link between the bit and the shell is the shell.

The bit is a lengthy spiral with twists along its length. The spur is the pointy end, and on either side of the feed screw, in the middle, are two cutting lips.

It will require similar hand and forearm strength as when using a palm drill, as the brace and bit requires manual rotation to function. It may take some time to build up the muscle strength necessary to cut a hole in wood with a brace and bit if you’ve only ever used power tools in your woodworking projects before.

6. Gimlets

You may be familiar with the gimlet as an alcoholic beverage, but the woodworking tool is not the same thing. In his book Architecture, published in 1859, Joseph Gwilt established that gimlets had been around since the 1850s. Check out the other excellent woodworking books I’ve suggested.

What, then, is the gimlet? In appearance and size, it corresponds to a standard screwdriver. Unlike an awl, its point is shaped like a screw. The spiral-shaped cutting edges on the gimlet’s side can be used to enlarge a hole it has already made in the wood. After penetrating wood with the gimlet, you won’t need to apply any additional force.

7. Hot Coals

Even if you don’t have any working power tools and none of the aforementioned items, you still have a chance. Until the invention of drills, this was the only way that humans could bore holes in wood, thus we only suggest it as a last choice.

That’s right, I’m referring about using firewood. For this, you’ll need to place hot coal on the wood at the desired location. You can control where the coal goes with the use of tongs. Even a wire from a clothes hanger can be heated and used to generate pinpoint holes.

As fire is inherently harmful and unpredictable, it is not recommended to employ it if another tool is available. No matter how long it takes, you should wait until you have all the necessary resources. To add insult to injury, even if you did manage to utilise coals to cut holes in the wood, the resulting holes would be of varying sizes.

How Can You Drill a Hole Without a Drill?

A Brace and Bit, push drill, or palm drill can all be used to bore holes in wood. Not your standard power drills, but they get the job done when you need a hole quickly.

Another tool that can be used in place of a drill to bore holes in wood is an awl. Additionally, even if it’s not the best plan, you could always heat up wire and make little holes that way.

How to Cut a Hole in Wood Without a Jigsaw

You use a jigsaw for woodworking more often than your power drills. Saws with reciprocating blades can cut through stencils and other forms with ease.

You loaned your friend your jigsaw a week ago, not anticipating you’d need it yourself this very day. You’re stuck in the middle of your woodworking project and don’t know if you should return the jigsaw early or not.

In general, a jigsaw is not required to cut a round hole in a piece of wood. Here are some alternate approaches to consider.

Sandpaper + Coping Saw

If you have sandpaper, a coping saw, and a compass, you can make cuts in wood much like you would with a jigsaw. Determine the exact centre of the circle using your piece of wood. Definitely make a note of it. Find the radius of your circle by adjusting the compass needle. Next, use a pencil to sketch the contours of the circle.

Cut the circle out using a coping saw. The outer edge of the circle will not be quite smooth after being cut with a coping saw, but that’s fine. In this case, sandpaper will do the trick. If you don’t have access to a sandpaper machine, you may get the job done just as quickly and easily by rubbing a few pieces of sandpaper over the rim of a circular object.

Pinning + Drilling

The second choice is useful if you need to cut a circle out of a piece of wood that is neither round nor square. The planks of wood should be around two inches in width. Dot the wood with pins, and then drill through them. Just like that, it’s easy!

How to Cut a Hole in Wood by Hand

There’s a certain amount of gratification to be had while cutting wood with your own hands. Perhaps it’s the bare fact that you’re cutting wood the same way people did thousands of years ago, and yet here you are in the twenty-first century.

Fun can be had by all by manually boring a hole in wood with a hand drill, awl, or gimlet. But as I mentioned before, it’s not as easy as it seems to do all this craftsmanship. When you cut wood by hand, you’ll be using a lot of muscles in your hands and forearms.

For more information on where to buy high-quality hand tools, read the piece I wrote for you.

As a precaution, I recommend taking frequent rests, as your hands and arms are likely to experience initial discomfort. Try not to lose hope. Over time, your muscle memory will improve and you’ll become more proficient with a handsaw and other hand tools.

How to Cut a Hole in Wood Without Going All the Way Through

Using one of the following techniques, you can drill a hole without completely completing it:

Using a depth stop and a drill bit
Tape your drill bit with masking tape.
You may set the depth of your drill by attaching a tiny block of wood to the drill bit.
For a straight cut, a router with a straight bit is your best bet.
Known as a Forstner bit because of the sharp point it produces
In this situation, you need to drill into some wood without completely penetrating the material. Grab yourself an awl! A hole can be started with this tool and completed using a power drill or one of the other options listed below.


Even though power tools are a convenient innovation that’s become standard for many woodworkers, they aren’t your only option. Manual equipment such as hand saws, awls, bracing and bits, and even fire can be used to bore holes in wood in the event that your electric tools malfunction or run out of juice. To your success!

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