Best Hole Saw/Type of Hole Saw

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Forum topic by willjohnston posted 01-16-2019 01:46 PM 714 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 377 days

01-16-2019 01:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: drill hole saw

I’m just getting into woodworking, and my current project (a pour over coffee stand) needs a hole that would most easily be cut with a hole saw.

I’ve had trouble finding any info on what type of hole saw would be best. Bi-metal? Carbide tipped? Something else? I’m cutting through cherry currently, but I’m planning to make more of these out of a variety of woods. I’m more concerned with precision than speed. I’m not pounding through 2×4s on the jobsite. I need as nice of a finish as I can get. If anyone has any type or brand recommendations, I’m all ears.


12 replies so far

View Robert's profile


3607 posts in 2092 days

#1 posted 01-16-2019 01:57 PM

Any good quality hole saw would work, like Milwaukee or Lenox.

If you plan on doing a lot of them, you might look at a large forstner bit.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View CaptainKlutz's profile


2277 posts in 2106 days

#2 posted 01-16-2019 02:21 PM

Forstner bit will cut much more precise hole than any hole saw I have ever used. They are available up to about 4” OD. That would be my 1st choice if size works.

Milwaukee bi-metal hole saws cut hardwood pretty well, and leave ok finish. Does not pay to buy cheap hole saws, especially the Bosch Daredevil (total junk – wouldn’t even finish one hole with out burning).

For most sizes where both carbide hole saw and regular forstner bit is available, forstner will be cheaper. Colt MaxiCut Forstner bits are my favorite, but even the Freud from BORG are decent value.
If you really need to drill a lot of big holes, spend big and get FMAG carbide forstner bits. Bought 35mm for MDF cabinet work, and it seems invincible after many years of use.

Key to use of of any large hole bit, is keeping teeth free of cuttings, must pull out bit often and let teeth clean out, or you overheat and burn wood. This is especially true with hole saw only cutting the perimeter of hole, not entire area like forstner.

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View willjohnston's profile


3 posts in 377 days

#3 posted 01-16-2019 05:34 PM

Thanks so much! Like I said, I’m new at this and wasn’t familiar with forstner bits, just ordered one this morning!

View Holbs's profile


2262 posts in 2641 days

#4 posted 01-17-2019 03:25 AM

Stumpy did a forstner bit episode. I learned some good stuff from it such as the various teeth (wavey or triangular or hybrid).

View on YouTube

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View runswithscissors's profile


3081 posts in 2636 days

#5 posted 01-17-2019 11:40 PM

Good advice above. My main gripe about hole saws is the mandrels usually induce (or allow) a lot of runout and wobble, leaving a rough hole. I believe there is a mandrel that is supposed to be better for this, but I don’t know who makes it. Not the Milwaukee, in my experience. Anybody?

Also: hole saw or forstner, you’ll get break out at the saw’s/bit’s exit point. One way to deal with this is to clamp the board onto a sacrificial piece of wood. Another way is to stop part way through, and finish from the other side. This is where I sometimes find hole saws frustrating, as the 2 holes may not line up.

An oscillating spindle sander can do a good job of cleaning up a rough hole.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View BFamous's profile


338 posts in 732 days

#6 posted 01-18-2019 01:48 AM

How big is the hole in your design? You never mention it, but I’m assuming it is under the 4” Max size CaptainKlutz mentions. I’m guessing the size of a standard coffee cup?

Forstner bit would be my first choice as well, but if I were going to mass produce these, I might try to dream up a jog for the router or router table and a straight cut bit. It should leave you a cleaner edge to start, which means less time on the spindle sander and less chance of ruining a perfect circle…

Just a different line of thinking for options sake.

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC ::

View SMP's profile


1626 posts in 517 days

#7 posted 01-18-2019 02:16 AM

I also suggest the forstners due to size. You didn’t mention what your use case is either. Forstners tend to be dead on the size, whereas hole saws have a “set” to te blade which makes them tend to be a bit larger. Sure i use them in situations where accuracy doesn’t matter, but say you are putting in a 1/2” dowel, the forstner bit will give you a tight fit.

View Doug's profile


46 posts in 1909 days

#8 posted 01-18-2019 02:21 AM

I agree that a forstner bit can give better control in a drill press, but the big question as asked above is the size of the hole. I use both forstner bits and hole saws. My Rigid hole saw set has been a staple in my shop. The key there is being absolutely 90 degrees to the material. Some don’t like to do it, but if the hole is larger than a forstner and also a smaller hole saw, I use my drill press. Completely impractical and dangerous with larger hole saws where you must trust eyeing the alignment.

Let us know how you finally address it – and how it goes!

-- The only limit to your skills is your willingness to learn

View willjohnston's profile


3 posts in 377 days

#9 posted 01-18-2019 05:40 AM

Forstner bit should come in tomorrow. We’ll see if I have time to use it this weekend. Work is a bit crazy at the moment.

Size is 2 3/4 inches, and I just picked up a drill press, so I think we should be good to go. I did my last one with a cheap Vermont American hole saw and my hand drill, so comparatively this should be a dream!

View splintergroup's profile


3222 posts in 1834 days

#10 posted 01-18-2019 06:09 PM

I’ll +1 with Brian on thinking about a router. You can get good results with a quality Forstner but at 2-3/4” the price isn’t cheap.
A round hole template and a router with a pattern bit can produce excellent results, albeit a bit slower in setup, etc.

A nice thing about the router is you can cut virtually any sized hole with the same bit 8^)

View MrRon's profile


5813 posts in 3855 days

#11 posted 01-19-2019 02:08 AM

A 2-3/4” forstner bit needs a lot of HP. The bit will heat up fast due to friction. Don’t try to bore the hole without raising the bit often to prevent burning. A hole saw has a kerf while a forstner bit has zero kerf. The hole saw will make a burn free hole but you still have to raise the bit to clear the saw dust from the kerf.

View Kelly's profile


2639 posts in 3555 days

#12 posted 01-19-2019 04:49 AM

If the hole is good sized (e.g., a couple inches and larger) and you’re going to free hand the hole, stay with the hole saw. As pointed out, stay with a good hole saw, like rwe2156 suggested.

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