I am building a project where I am using a hole saw. After drilling through 2, 1" thick boards I have to clear the scrap out of the saw. This is a really slow process and I suspect I am doing it wrong.

  1. Clamp the two boards I am drilling together and then clamp them in my jig.
  2. Cut my holes.
  3. Unlock the arbor
  4. Unscrew the hole saw from the arbor
  5. Use a screwdriver to poke, pry, and pound the scrap out of the saw
  6. Remount the saw to the arbor
  7. Repeat

What is the right way to do this? Is there a faster (but still safe) solution?

I am using a Milwaukee Hole Saw Arbor with a Milwaukee 2 3/8" hole saw. I am using the pilot bit.

  • 1
    What the hell did the the saw do to you, that you decided to pound the scrap out of it?! Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 14:40

12 Answers 12


Ideally, hole saws have holes or slots in their sides, so you can pry out the scrap, or in the top so you can push it out.

hole saws
(source: mkmorse.com)

Poke in there with a screw driver or other sharp object. You shouldn't need to disassemble everything; just unplug the drill.

I assume yours don't have this already. If you are going to be doing this a lot, you might want to buy a new hole saw with better holes.

Alternatively, you can try drilling holes in the top of yours. Secure the hole saw in a vice or otherwise clamp it down firmly, and drill two holes on opposite sides in the top.

With two holes in the top, you can just push out the scrap with two large pins or nails.

Edit: some have larger side holes which may be easier to clear out. You could possibly enlarge the holes on yours with a file.

hole saw with larger side holes

  • My saw has the side holes but not the top ones. I am using a saw with a pilot bit. That bit makes it harder to pry the plug out. It does not wiggle back and forth as easily.
    – Freiheit
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 16:30
  • Also, try pushing the scrap sideways as well as down, so it "unscrews" along the pilot drill bit.
    – Grunthos
    Commented May 29, 2014 at 16:33
  • 2
    Make sure to clear each one out, don't drill two, then try to clear both out at the same time. If you still find them hard to remove, use two screwdrivers simultaneously, one in each side, and lever the plug out from both sides. This should be fairly quick since you won't be rocking it back and forth and having it bind on the pilot bit. This requires a bit of coordination, though, and you'll need to make sure you don't accidentally hit the trigger while doing this.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 0:20

If all else fails, you can drive a screw or two into the face of the plug and use those to twist/pull it out.

But, yeah, using the side slots to push (alternating from one side to the other) and/or the top holes (ditto) is the official solution. Some pro-quality saws have steps along the side slot, which can be helpful in providing additional leverage points.


You can also drill halfway through the board, then turn it around and drill from the other side using the pilot hole to properly align the drill. The scrap piece will end up only halfway in the hole saw, and it's much easier to grab hold of it and remove it.

  • 1
    this what i do and it is usually successful but it can not be done in some situations.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 21:00

Spray the inside of the bit with wd40 before making the cut. It should now be much easier to push out the scrap. If not, make the cut 90%, and then apply the spray, and then complete the cut.

  • This could be dangerous, especially if the bit is hot from drilling. I'm not sure of the ignition point of WD40, or the average temperature of a hole saw during cutting. I do know, I wouldn't spray any aerosol near a potential ignition source. (according to the MSDS for WD40, the flash point is 122°F (49°C). It also specifically says "DANGER! Flammable aerosol... Keep away from heat, sparks and all other sources of ignition.).
    – Tester101
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 12:01
  • 2
    wd40 is not a lubricant, if you want try this method use a dry silicone lube.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 20:59

Drill two small pilot holes in the plug on either side of the center. Then drive in screws twice as long as the depth of the hole saw into the pilot holes. When the screws bottom out continue screwing and they will drive the plug out. If its a deep plug, you will need to alternate screws to keep the plug from binding.

Apparently the pilot holes are needed to prevent the screws from wedging the plug into the sides.

  • This is the way to do it. Takes an easy 30 seconds to remove a plug.
    – Kurt
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 6:03

I'm too late to help the original ask-er with his project. But if you don't need the plugs, use a spade bit instead of hole-saw when possible.

(I came across this post to I was asking the same question, but I need the plugs - drywall - to be able to put back in place.)


Drill a smaller radius hole first, with its edge just kissing the inner edge of the hole you care about, then make your larger diameter cut. The cut should go a bit faster now since you have a clearance hole for chips, and it gives you a way to grab the circle left in your saw.

  • Except then he'll have the same annoyance removing the waste after drilling the clearance hole. Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 18:41
  • ...with a regular drill bit. Like, 1/2".
    – aaron
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 18:22

This won't be possible in many circumstances, but it would work in the one you describe:

  • Place a third board (scrap wood) below the other two.
  • Screw the second board to the third.
  • Screw the first to the second.

The screws should be within the cut-out area, but not close to the pilot hole or the blade.

The saw should be easy to remove while it's still spinning after cutting through the first two boards.

Note that it might be easier to use longer screws that go through all boards.


No hole-saw kit is complete without a plug remover:

Plug Remover
(source: deepholesaws.com)

Might find them at Home Depot or the like. They work well for rough cut, but the finer the teeth, the tighter its going to be stuck in there. Reaming a few times before you punch through helps.


Along with using the slots on the sides (the new Lenox saws are the BEST with the wide stepped slots) many times we have to remove the cup from the arbor and poke out the slug.


You may not have the clearance to do this with 1" thick boards, but I had to cut a ton of 1.5" holes in 1/4" plywood. After almost stabbing myself with a screwdriver. I felt your frustration and ended up driving a nail with a large flat head into the wood. Then using some pliers, grabbing the nail and pulling out the scrap. This was really helpful to me.

This technique also depends on how important the scrap circle is to you.


Grab your impact driver and screw 3 or 4 2 1/2" screws into the wood plug from the top in sequence. The screws will push against the base of the arbour and push the wood plug up and out.

  • This is essentially identical to the answer already posted by @Ross Williams. Commented Jan 7, 2023 at 0:44

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