I have been having problems using hole saws when removing the plug of material after use. Looking at What is the right way to clear the drilled plug out of a hole saw? it is still awkward and I have considered spending the extra on buying Forstner bits as an alternative.

Forsner Bit

But then I am told they are not for drilling all the way through. Is it okay (or even safe or wise) to use Forstner bits in this way.

  • 5
    As with hole saws, you'll get a cleaner hole if you stop when the center comes out the backside and then drill in from that side - or you can drill a small center pilot hole so you don't have to be quite as fussy about when to stop drilling, given the rather short center on Forstner bits. Downsides are pretty much cost, available sizes, and the fact that you have to apply enough power to turn all the material into chips, which has to do with available sizes (I have, and use, a 4-1/4 inch hole saw. I think my Forstner set tops out at 2-1/2 inches...)
    – Ecnerwal
    Aug 4, 2019 at 13:17
  • 1
    To get that scrap out of a holesaw, use a woodscrew longer than the hole-saw is deep. Just drive that into the plug that's left in the holesaw. As the screw advances, it will lift the wood-plug out like a screw-jack.
    – Barry
    Aug 4, 2019 at 19:41
  • Surely the plug will jam against the drill bit in the middle? Aug 4, 2019 at 19:49
  • @ChrisRogers Surely it will! More screws, like 3 or 4, are needed. Aug 4, 2019 at 22:04
  • 1
    @Ecnerwal, that comment seems more like an answer to me. Aug 5, 2019 at 11:54

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure why someone told you that you can't drill all the way though with a Forstner bit, but in my opinion, they are incorrect. These bits excel at creating a flat-bottomed hole but will also drill completely through the material just fine. I regularly use mine in a drill press but they can also be used in a handheld drill.

I find that they splinter the material much less than a spade-type bit does although they are significantly more expensive.

Here is what Rockler says about them:


What's so special about Forstner bits?

Unlike the standard twist bit, Forstner bits are optimized for woodworking applications and cut exceptionally precise, clean-edged holes in wood. Because they're designed to produce a minimum amount of tear-out when exiting the material, Forstner bits are the best bit for drilling through holes. Forstner bits drill a flat-bottomed hole, making them a necessary tool for many hardware installations where a precise depth of mortise is required. Forstner bits are guided by the wide outside rim of the bit, unlike most drill bits, which are guided by the tip. Because of that, they can be used along with a drill press to drill angled holes, holes that partially overlap, and holes on the edge of the material.

  • 5
    Forstner bits are more expensive and take longer to drill a hole than a hole saw. If time and money were no object, then use forstner bits for whatever you want.
    – Dotes
    Aug 4, 2019 at 23:31
  • To be fair, while they minimize tear-out, they still cause tear-out to some degree in a lot of materials even if you go slow. I just had this experience last weekend (I just didn't care in this case so I just rammed through it). But if you can come back through the back side instead, it'll almost always be a cleaner hole since tear-out is zero on a starting surface :)
    – dudewad
    Jun 26, 2023 at 18:43

I've always used hole saws before and yes, hard to get the plug out... extra trip to tool box for a screwdriver. Then I used a Forstner bit to install some hinges on cabinet doors. I loved them. They are fine for drilling through wood. They are much more expensive. They work better in a drill press, just like hole saws do but still work well with a standard drill.


When drilling all the way through, a Forstner bit will splinter the back side considerably worse than a standard hole saw. (Of course, a spade bit is worst of all in this regard.)

Removing the "plug" in a hole saw can be tricky at times, but I usually have success by pushing it out with a nail or punch stuck through the holes in the bit. The arrangement of holes in the bit varies with size and design, however.


I found that when using a forstner bit with my hand drill, it’s much more difficult to keep a straight line when making deep holes (ex: drilling 1/2” holes 2.5” deep). I find that they easily veer to another direction, even if your focused on keeping a steady hand. In these scenarios, I prefer a paddle bit since the pointed end does a little better at keeping straight.

However, on a drill press, forstner bits are a dream to use.

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