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How to Use a Hole Saw

Hole saws are fast, efficient and neat.

Hole saws are the perfect tool to use if you are laying cable, plumbing in a bathroom, or fitting door handles and locks. They cut wider diameter holes to cater to many different purposes. Using hole saws makes life a lot easier.

Want to know how to use a hole saw? Follow our step-by-step guide to get the lowdown on the best techniques.

Tips for Using a Hole Saw

  1. Mark where the center point of the hole will go.
  2. Drill a pilot hole to enable the hole saw to have a guide.
  3. Attach the center bit of the hole saw to the drill chuck.
  4. Select the size hole saw and push it onto the pilot bit, making sure that the threads tighten.
  5. Twist the hole saw so it is locked tight. Insert the locking nut (if applicable).

When to Use a Hole Saw

Hole saws create large holes in double-quick time, making them the tool of choice for carpenters, plumbers and electricians. If you are laying cable and need a wide channel through drywall or wooden frames, a hole saw is the tool to use.

Likewise, plumbers need that extra width to lay pipework when fitting toilets and bathrooms, and door furniture is easier to install with a hole saw. Can you imagine the chore of drilling multiple holes with a regular drill bit and the time it would take?

What You Need

There are some tools you will need to complete your tasks safely and with a better outcome.


Drilling through wood and drywall creates dust, which is harmful to your eyes. Also, keeping your eyes protected means you get a better view of the task you are completing.

Face Mask

Sawdust and particles of drywall are toxic if inhaled. An N95 face mask ensures that 95 percent of pollutants are filtered out, keeping you safe from long term lung damage.


Using a hole saw can be loud, so using earplugs protects your hearing from sustained noise that could cause damage.

Hand Drill

It sounds a little obvious, but to complete this task, you will need a power drill.

Pilot Bit

Hole saws are hollow, although most have pilot bits in the center. You should drill a pilot hole because the hole saw is so wide, you might struggle to line the center bit to the spot where you want to drill.

Tape Measure

Achieving accuracy means you need to get your measurements right. A tape measure helps you to achieve this.

Hole Saw

The hole saw you use should cater to the material you are cutting. For harder surfaces like metal and concrete, consider a diamond-coated hole saw for a smoother cut. Also, the saw’s width is crucial, because unlike other drilling techniques that scale up in sizes as you go, you can’t do that with a hole saw. Once the hole is cut, if you need to make it bigger, it can be a tricky job to do accurately.

Vacuum or Dustpan and Brush

Once the job is complete, you need to clean up the area.

How to Use a Hole Saw

Here is a step-by-step guide to using a hole saw successfully.

1. Put on Your Safety Gear

As we always say, safety is paramount when using power tools. Put on your goggles, earplugs and face mask before you start any task.

2. Mark Your Spot

Using your tape measure, decide where the hole is going and mark the center spot where the hole saw pilot bit sits to give you a perfect cut in the correct location. Make sure you double-check the measurements so that you only have to make one cut.

3. Pilot Hole

Using a standard drill bit, make a pilot hole so that the hole saw has a guide to follow. Make sure the drill is straight when you make the pilot hole. This stops you veering at an angle later.

The pilot hole makes it easier to be accurate and removes the guesswork of whether you have the hole in the correct spot. Make sure the pilot bit you use is the same size as the center bit on the hole saw to avoid any movement when drilling.

Top Tip

Drill a second hole off-center so that you can insert a screw and easily remove the plug after drilling.

4. Attach the Hole Saw

Swap the pilot bit for the correct size hole saw. Tighten the chuck, so there is zero movement. Ensure the hole saw is tightened on the arbor thread, so there is no chance of it working loose. The last thing you want is for the hole saw to move about in the chuck and ruin the neatness of your task.

5. Make Your Hole

Place the hole saw in the pilot hole so that the pilot center bit fits snugly. Make sure the hole saw is flat against the surface of the material you are cutting. At this stage, you should not engage the drills motor.

If you are satisfied that the hole aligns and is accurate, start the drill slowly, allowing the hole saw to make its first cut. As the saw starts to bite, gradually increase the drill’s speed until the hole saw breaks through to the other side of the material.

Top Tip

To avoid blowout, start the hole from one side and then swap over and drill through from the other side. This reduces splintering and gives a neater finish.

6. Tidy Up

Unplug the drill and grab the vacuum or dustpan and brush and start the cleanup. Keep your protective gear on at this stage because disturbing the debris will kick dust into the air.

7. Remove Your Safety Equipment

Once you are happy that the dust has settled, remove your goggles and face mask and admire the fruits of your labor.

Hole Saw Safety Tips

Use a Side Handle

If you are cutting a larger hole, using a side handle on the drill will give you extra stability and purchase. It also helps if you are cutting through harder material that requires extra downward pressure.

Keep the Drill Straight

Keeping the drill straight ensures that the hole saw is less likely to bind in the hole. It also means your hole is neater and more accurate.

Use Lubricating Oil

Lubricating oil is ideal when you are drilling through metal. It helps the hole saw to rotate and make the cut, and it removes shards of metal from the kerf.

Removing the Plug

Some hole saws have a plug removal feature, but they are less common and often come in limited sizes. The easiest way to remove a plug is with a flat-sided screwdriver. However, this can increase the risk of stabbing your fingers if you slip.

Another technique is to drill a second hole off-center from the pilot hole. When the plug traps in the hole saw, insert a screw and twist it a couple of times and pull the plug out.

Hole Saw FAQs

How Do You Attach a Hole Saw to a Drill?

The pilot bit is detachable to enable you to swap between various sizes of hole saw. Check that the arbor of the center bit fits your drill chuck. Most hole saws are universal sizes to attach to most drills.

Insert the pilot bit and tighten the chuck, so it stays in place. Now select the hole saw size and slide it onto the pilot bit, ensuring the threads align. Twist the hole saw and tighten. Some hole saws have a locking nut to hold them in place.

Can You Use a Hole Saw Without a Pilot Bit?

You can use a hole saw without a pilot bit, especially when cutting through brittle material like tiles. Often, the center bit can crack the tile. It is a bit more tricky to align the hole.

There is a straightforward way to do this. Select the size hole saw you want, place it on the material in the position you need, and draw around the saw with a marker or pencil. Then all you have to do is make sure the hole saw lines up to your marks before you start drilling.

How Do You Change a Bit on a Hole Saw?

The simplest way to achieve this is to insert a flat-head screwdriver into the slots in the hole saw and grip the arbor with a wrench. Twist the screwdriver and wrench in opposite directions, and the hole saw should start to spin free of the threads.

If you have trouble detaching it, place the hole saw in a vice for extra purchase.

How Do You Attach a Hole Saw to an Arbor?

Make sure the arbor is firmly attached to the drill chuck. Select the correct size hole saw for the job and slide it over the pilot bit fixed to the drill. Turn the hole saw so that the threads on the chuck arbor meet, and tighten until the hole saw can no longer turn. Some hole saws have a locking nut to hold them in place. Now you are ready for business.

How Do You Get the Wood Out of a Hole Saw?

The simplest way is to use a flat-head screwdriver and slide it along the edge of the plug to lever it out of the hole saw. Another method is to drill a second hole off-center to the pilot hole, and when the plug is in the hole saw, insert a screw for added grip. Pull, and the plug should come out.

The “Hole” Truth

Hole saws are excellent tools, but they do take some practice to get used to. Once mastered, they are efficient and super-accurate at making holes of a wider diameter for a host of applications.

They can cut through wood, metal, plastic and even brittle material like tiles. If you don’t have a hole saw in your toolkit, maybe the time has come to rectify this and get a hole saw in your life.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.