Angle Drilling Into Wood (No Special Tools Needed)

  • 01 of 07

    Drilling Angled Holes In Wood Without Special Devices

    Drilling Into Wood at an Angle
    Drilling Into Wood at an Angle. Getty / Studiobox

    When you need to drill a hole in wood at an angle (sometimes called a pocket hole), there are three main ways you can do this.  

    • Drill Press: A drill press is an expensive, standalone tool. Quality drill presses cost in the hundreds of dollars. A drill press is the best possible way to drill an angle. The downside is that you can only work on small pieces of material.
    • Pocket Jig: Pocket jigs are cheap, simple devices that guide your drill bit into the material at an angle. If you need to drill...MORE more than a few holes, it may be worth purchasing a pocket jig. Pocket jigs are not foolproof, though. They still take practice on scrap wood before moving onto the actual work material. Buy From Amazon - Kreg R3 Jr. Pocket Hole Jig System
    • Manually: The manual method--the topic of this article--is more about finesse and patience than fancy tools. You only need a cordless drill and two drill bits of different sizes. One bit is the size of the intended hole; the other bit is half the size of that hole.
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  • 02 of 07

    Introduction and Safe Zones

    First, consider the "safe zones" where you will be able to make this kind of apparatus-free hole. Generally, you will not be able to drill holes past a 75-degree angle.

    1. Zone 1: Safe - From 0 to 45 degrees you can easily make an angled hole.
    2. Zone 2: Maybe - Between 45-75 degrees, you can still probably make the hole. It helps if you're working with softwood.
    3. Zone 3: Not Safe - Past 75 degrees, the drill will move around too much. When the starter bit skitters too much, you cannot...MORE establish the starter hole.

    Manual Angle Drilling: Tips and Basics

    Best on Softwoods: Hardwoods like maple, walnut, and oak are difficult to manually angle-drill. Be patient, making sure that the starter hole is of sufficient depth before proceeding to the larger drill bit.

    Use a Speed Square: Rather than guessing at the angles, using a speed square is one great way to strike a perfect angle. Just lay the square against the side of the board, tilt it to the intended angle, then draw a line on the side of the board.

    Breakage May Happen: Use old bits, if possible (rather than your newest, fanciest ones) because sometimes the first bit will break off.

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  • 03 of 07

    Choose Starter Drill Bit

    How to Drill at an Angle - Choose Bits
    Choose Starter Bit. Lee Wallender

    What size hole do you want? In this example, you want a 1/4-inch diameter hole.

    Begin by choosing a "starter bit" about half that diameter; in this case, 1/8-inch or even a bit less. Just be cautious of using extremely thin bits, as they may break.

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  • 04 of 07

    Drill Pilot Hole 90 Degrees to Material

    Pilot Hole 90 Degrees - How to Drill at Angle
    Pilot Hole 90 Degrees. Lee Wallender

    With that starter bit in your drill, first begin to drill a hole in your material at 90 degrees (or, a right angle), but do not complete the hole.

    Stop your hole when you're about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch into the material. The aim is to produce a hole that is not so long that it fully establishes the ​90-degree angle. If the hole is too deep, you will not be able to perform the next step--changing the angle of the hole.

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  • 05 of 07

    Shift Pilot Hole From 90 Degrees to Desired Angle

    Drill at Angle - Shift Pilot Hole to Angle
    Shift Pilot Hole to Angle. Lee Wallender

    With that bit still in your drill, remove the bit from the hole. Move the drill to the desired angle. Place your bit back in the hole.

    Make sure that the bit is firmly seated in the hole. If it is too close to the edge, it will lose grip and skitter away. If it is too deep into the hole, you will not be able to raise your drill at an angle.

    Now drill the hole, maintaining a slow and steady speed.

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  • 06 of 07

    Switch to Larger Bit

    Drill at Angle - Switch Bits
    Switch Bits. Lee Wallender

    Remove the bit from the drill. Change to your larger bit (of the desired diameter).

    In most cases, you only need to step up bit sizes once. But if you want to drill an eventual hole of 1/2-inch or more, you may find it easier to step up twice.

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  • 07 of 07

    Make Hole of Desired Angle and Diameter

    Drill at Angle - Enlarge Hole to Desired Diameter
    Enlarge Hole to Desired Diameter. Lee Wallender

    With the correctly sized drill bit, enlarge the angled hole previously made. Go as slow as possible. High speeds may cause the bit to move away. Also, the heat produced by friction at high speeds may contribute to bit breakage.