Relief holes when using large forstner bit?

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Forum topic by rooster posted 02-01-2014 12:15 PM 2776 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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116 posts in 3360 days

02-01-2014 12:15 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tool forstner drill

Hey all,

I’m trying to drill very large diameter holes (3-1/4”) into hardwood blanks using a forstner bit. My bench top press says…”Heck no”. I plan to take the workpieces to a buddies house to use a much larger floor model press. My question before I go..

Should I drill a series of 1/4” relief holes inside the perimeter of the large circle? Obviously avoiding the edges for a clean hole and the center for the Forstner bit point. Would this help or would it just encourage the bit to bite/grab on the relief holes?


26 replies so far

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2098 days

#1 posted 02-01-2014 12:34 PM

nah…don’t bother. You’ll just make the large drill bit angry. Let it do it’s job. Definitely use a drill press if possible.

If you drill a small 1/8” pilot hole, you can flip it over and finish the hole to prevent blowout, if it matters.

View rooster's profile


116 posts in 3360 days

#2 posted 02-01-2014 01:16 PM

Thanks Mark! I’ll just use the larger press.

I’m trying to build a wine bottle tree. 3-1/4” hole is a bigger task than I anticipated.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2391 days

#3 posted 02-01-2014 01:51 PM

If that fails you could make a template and do it with a router.

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 1174 days

#4 posted 02-01-2014 03:22 PM

Try using a fly cutter like this one. It only takes a narrow swath of wood and your small drill press should be able to handle it. I have one of these and use it all the time for larger holes.

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View waho6o9's profile


7122 posts in 1999 days

#5 posted 02-01-2014 03:28 PM

Be careful using a fly cutter, maybe read Candy’s review on it.

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2112 days

#6 posted 02-02-2014 02:00 AM

The big drillpress should do the job BUT there are other ways: hole saw, router and straight bit with template, etc.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 2999 days

#7 posted 02-02-2014 02:14 AM

A hole saw could do the job.

-- Custom furniture

View rooster's profile


116 posts in 3360 days

#8 posted 02-02-2014 12:39 PM

Thanks all. I looked at a hole saw, the problem is that the material is 4” thick. I couldn’t find a hole saw that was deep enough. The larger press worked, but even on the lowest speed setting it hung up on occasion. After about 32” of hardwood, I could tell the bit was dull. Now for the next task of trying to sharpen a forstner bit.

I’ll post some pics when complete. Thanks again for the feedback.

View RodNGun's profile


118 posts in 1726 days

#9 posted 02-02-2014 02:36 PM

I drilled 250 3.5” forstner bit holes to make these wine racks. Big drill press, slow speed, headphones and a long playlist. Then I drilled the same number of small holes!

View rooster's profile


116 posts in 3360 days

#10 posted 02-03-2014 12:44 PM

whoa. nice work. a bit more than what I was doing.

View Rick's profile


8287 posts in 2455 days

#11 posted 02-04-2014 03:25 AM

There is NO Problem using a Relief Hole! I use them when I’m drilling an hole with a Hole saw. Should be NO Problem for a Forstner Bit. It certainly won’t “Make It Angry” ...LOL..

The reason mine USE TO Smoke all the time was just that the Cut Sawdust had no where to go. Some Diagrams below of relief hole.

The Circle Cutter that Candy’s Article is about is a Cheap Piece of Junk from Harbor Freight. About $6.00 Bucks I think. (Pic Below) They didn’t mention that!

I have one from Lee Valley ($32.90) It works just Fine. MAX RPM Of 500/550! Faster than that and you’re asking for Trouble! Also Pictured Below.

It also cuts an “Inside” or “outside’ Cut.

Hope it’s of some help.





-- Hope Everyone Is Doing Well! .... Best Regards: Rick

View Tenfingers58's profile


96 posts in 2100 days

#12 posted 02-04-2014 06:18 AM

What I’ve done is clamp the board to the table, and drill a hole about 1/3 the diameter, then 2/3’s the diameter, then the full hole size. That way the bit isn’t trying to cut out all the waste at once.

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2098 days

#13 posted 02-04-2014 01:21 PM

Hey Rick, That’s a good idea with a hole saw.
The dust is fine and would drop through the smaller hole. I’ll have to try that next time.

But that crazy wheel cutter bit looks like a medieval torture device. Too scary! Ha!

He’s drilling a 4” deep hole so the hole saw wouldn’t work. he’s also using a forstener bit which cuts large shavings and wouldn’t drop through a small hole – probably just get clogged.

I’d clamp a fence guide to the drill press and use an air hose and constantly clear the hole and work area. Do short 3/4 cuts and then blow it out, that’s the key. Cut most of the hole, drill a pilot hole, flip and finish it.

The problem with trying to drill it out first is the blowout on the back – unless you plan on flipping it and finishing the holes. I see this as a huge waste of time. Just drill the damn thing already! Ha! and don’t force it till it burns.

You might have to buy a new bit too.

View oldnovice's profile


5655 posts in 2790 days

#14 posted 02-04-2014 06:19 PM

I would do like renners suggested with a router, guide bushing, and template?

I use that method when I need to make holes bigger than my Forstner bits plus you get left over large diameter hole plugs.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View dhazelton's profile


2289 posts in 1719 days

#15 posted 02-04-2014 06:25 PM

The hole saw works if you flip the piece and attack the hole from the other side using the pilot bit as your registration. Not perfect, but it works. What’s the design that it has to be a hole in a 4 inch thick piece?

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