Hole saw or fostner bit

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Forum topic by Tennwood posted 09-10-2010 11:28 PM 14883 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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109 posts in 2720 days

09-10-2010 11:28 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hole saw fostner bit

I am working on a storage cabinet project and need to drill over 200 1-7/8” and 2-3/8” holes in 3/4” plywood. What would work best and last the longest – a hole saw or a fostner bit? Or should I make two templates and rout them out?

-- Jim, SE Tennessee, "Don't spare the kindling Dear, we have plenty"

17 replies so far

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

5301 posts in 2733 days

#1 posted 09-10-2010 11:47 PM

Greetings Jim,

WOW….that’s a lot of holes to drill…... I’ve drilled holes that big, and a few bigger…...If I were drilling that many, I would use a Forstner bit, especially in ply….It will make a cleaner hole in my book, but I’ve also used the hole saw….I presume you are drilling all the through, so I suggest the F.B. If you take your time, and set the right speed for the bit, you’ll be ok…

-- Here in the South, we say "down the road a piece"...and , "it's over yonder".....!!

View swirt's profile


2137 posts in 2511 days

#2 posted 09-11-2010 04:13 AM

If at all possible, gang the wood together. If you double them up you nearly cut your time drilling in half. Bigger gains if you can triple or quadruple them.

Removing he plug from a hole saw can be annoying. Removing 200 of them would just be obnoxious. FOr that reason I would go with a Forstner in a press if you can. Should also save time on cleaning up the edged of the holes if that is a requirement.

-- Galootish log blog,

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2613 days

#3 posted 09-11-2010 04:57 AM

I’d use Forstner bits simply because I have never had good luck with a hole saw. Of course, you should have good sharp Forstner bits and you should be willing and able to sharpen them as needed. Forstner bits are not hard to sharpen.

Here’s my opinion about what is wrong with hole saws – - With every other saw, the teeth make contact with the wood and then they free from the wood. When the teeth are free of the wood, the tiny clippings in the gullets are released so you have clean gullets the next time you make contact with the wood. With a hole saw, the teeth are in constant contact with the wood, and the tiny clippings have no efficient way to release and they clog up the saw. I believe that is why it is so hard to get a clean cut with a hole saw.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View jusfine's profile


2411 posts in 2465 days

#4 posted 09-11-2010 05:46 AM

I bought a 4 5/8” carbide Milwaukee hole saw, and I was amazed at the clean cuts. The teeth are bigger, leave more room for chip clearance and the center that is usually stuck on the bit just falls out. The thick carbide teeth give it clearance.

Check out Milwaukee hole (carbide) saws, you will like them.

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2613 days

#5 posted 09-11-2010 03:42 PM


I had such bad luck the first times I tried to use a hole saw that I never considered them further and I really didn’t know that there were some quality hole saws available. Thanks for the advice – I will check them out.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2377 days

#6 posted 09-11-2010 03:44 PM

Forstner bit- use Porter-Cable bits.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View MrsN's profile


975 posts in 3065 days

#7 posted 09-11-2010 05:04 PM

What are all those holes for? I am having a hard time visualizing a project with that many holes in it, would you mind explaining your design?

-- ----- ----- --

View Tennwood's profile


109 posts in 2720 days

#8 posted 09-12-2010 02:09 AM

Thanks for all the input. I will have to mull this over but know I need to take back the hole saws I got from the big box. Fortunately I have not opened them yet.

I know this many holes sounds a bit weird. I am actually making 10 cabinets to hold the flags and gear for the high school color guard. There are about 50 girls with as many as four different poles each. The holes will be in the base with a pvc inserts and the racks on top will be half holes (drill the holes and cut the board in half).

I’ll build them but they are going to have to sands and stain.

Thanks again for the input.

-- Jim, SE Tennessee, "Don't spare the kindling Dear, we have plenty"

View stnich's profile


116 posts in 2463 days

#9 posted 09-13-2010 02:22 PM

I use both carbide tip hole saws and large Forstner bits as well. For me it really depends on what my task is.
I get reasonably clean holes with both. I had to drill 160 3” holes with a Forstner bit recently. I’ve drilled hundreds if not thousands of holes with the same bit and have never had to have it sharpened.

View JCantin's profile


167 posts in 2951 days

#10 posted 09-13-2010 03:24 PM

If using a hole saw, don’t forget to drill a small through-hole on the inside border of your circle first. It will give the cuttings somewhere to go, reduce clogging, and give you a cleaner cut.

View helluvawreck's profile


24230 posts in 2406 days

#11 posted 09-13-2010 04:00 PM

Way back when we built European cabinets with all sorts of KD fittings we had feed thru drilling machines that could drill a whole wardrobe or wall unit side about every 5 to 10 seconds and a common size hole was 35mm. We used carbide boring bits which were quite similar to forstner bits. We drilled literally thousands of holes in particle bored which is quite abrasive. 35 mm is right at 1-3/8 inch.

I would think that forsner bits similar to this would do the job.

We buy all sorts of tooling at auctions (usually internet auctions now) and in the last batch of assorted tooling that we bought there were some forstner like bits that were 3-1/4 in dia. so I’m sure somebody makes a 2-3/8 industrial carbide bit. These 3-1/4 bits actually have teeth arranged in a circle to cut the edge nice and smooth but also the central shearing carbide blades to cut out the center. I’m sure there is something out there that will do it. Every hole saw that I have used I did not like unless it was used on an odd hole or two.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2613 days

#12 posted 09-13-2010 04:51 PM

JCantin – That sounds like an excellent suggestion that I had never heard of or thought of. Thank you.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View jusfine's profile


2411 posts in 2465 days

#13 posted 09-13-2010 07:33 PM

Shopgurl, I just got back and checked this topic. Somehow I missed your comment when I first responded.

I really didn’t need to add anything, with your link and description there. :)

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

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jim C

1468 posts in 2637 days

#14 posted 09-14-2010 01:02 AM

Just another idea.
Google a machine shop in your area that has 4’ x 8’ CO2 laser machine. They can cut that size hole through 3/4 plywood in about 10 seconds. Your project has gone above the hobby line. This is serious production and a “farm out” might be your best option.

-- When I was a boy, I was told "anyone can be President", now I'm beginning to believe it!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17818 posts in 3215 days

#15 posted 09-14-2010 09:47 PM

bimetal hole saws are for cutting metal. they will burn up in a few holes cutting wood.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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