How to Drill at an Angle (With No Special Tools)

  • 01 of 07

    Drilling an Angled Hole With No Special Tools

    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.  

    This article deals with the third method--manually drilling an angled hole, using only a drill and drill bit:

    • 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:...MORE  Pocket jigs are cheap, simple devices that guide your drill bit into the material at an angle.  If you need to drill more than a few holes, it may be worth purchasing a pocket jig.  Buy From Amazon - Kreg R3 Jr. Pocket Hole Jig System
    • Manually:  The manual method 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.
    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    How to Drill at an Angle - Introduction and Safe Zones

    How to Drill at an Angle - Introduction and Safe Zones
    Drill at an Angle Without Apparatus. © Lee Wallender; licensed to

    First look at 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 soft wood.
    3. Zone 3: No - Past 75 degrees the drill will move around too much.
    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Choose Starter Drill Bit

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

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

    Begin by choosing a "starter bit" about half that diameter; in this case, 1/8" or even a bit less.

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    First Drill Pilot Hole 90 Degrees to Material

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

    With that starter bit in your drill, first drill a hole in your material at 90 degrees (or, a right angle).

    Stop your hole when you're about 1/8"-1/4" 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.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 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; licensed to

    This is really the only tricky move:

    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.

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Switch to Larger Bit

    Drill at Angle - Switch Bits
    Switch Bits. © Lee Wallender; licensed to

    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" or more, you may find it easier to step up twice (1/8", then 1/4", then the 1/2" bit).

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 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; licensed to
    With the correctly sized drill bit, enlarge the angled hole previously made.