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How to Cut a Square Hole in Wood using DIY Tools

Last Updated on October 9, 2021 by Derek Backman

For someone just about to kickstart their woodworking journey, a quiet minuscule task for professionals such as cutting a square hole from a wood piece could seem daunting to finish as a beginner. Cutting a square hole out of wood is something one should be enough versed with as a woodworker working on more than just basic projects. Since carving out a square hole is something you’d likely encounter in most of your DIY projects, we will be guiding you today in detail about the different methods you can use to get the hang of it! Here’s how to cut a square hole in wood using varieties of DIY tools.

Tools Needed:

The cutting tool depends on the method you will use, which we will discuss shortly after. There are few other things you’ll need by the side to get you through:

  1. A framing square
  2. Pencil
  3. Measuring tape
  4. Straight edge
  5. Sandpaper
  6. Oscillating tool for finishing up

Initial Step: Making the Square

Before you get started, you are supposed to draw a square on the wood just as you did the tracings on a drawing sheet in childhood. For the blurry-flashback folks, here is what you need to do:

  • Pin-point to the center of the wooden sheet.
  • Mark the point with your pen/pencil.
  • With the framing square, draw the square as per your preference.
  • Make sure the dimensions are precise.

Cutting the Square Out:

Mainly there are three very well-known techniques you can use to get done with this task. Let us have a brief look at each of them!

1. Cutting a Square Hole With a Chisel

How to cut a square in wood with chisel

Chisel is perhaps the most traditional and basic way to get a square hole on a wooden sheet. Being an older practice, with the least of the technicalities involved, it requires you to put in some time and a bit of effort to get it done correctly.

Also, don’t expect a clean, precise cut on your first go. Chisel is notoriously known for the old players; it might take you a long time before you start cutting in with great precision. Chisels are best suited while dealing with a thin sheet of wood. A sharp chisel is all you need to get a proper square cut in your small woodworking project!

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to cut a square hole in wood with a Chisel:

  • Put the tip on any of the vertices of the square (or corner of the square) on the wood.
  • Solidify your grip, and keep tapping on the sledgehammer as hard as you can.
  • If the thickness of the sheet wasn’t too much, you will easily cut through the whole thickness (edge of the square)!
  • Do the same for other edges. Put the tip on another vertex, and keep tapping the sledgehammer to cut through the whole thickness.
  • Properly take the square out.

2. Cutting a Square Hole With a Saw and a Drill

Cutting a square hole in wood with jigsaw

Even though a chisel is a pretty basic tool, it works brilliantly well when dealing with small woodworking projects involving wooden sheets of small thickness; or when you need to have a couple of square holes. The most significant advantage of this method over the chisel one is that you can comfortably use this technique on small as well as big woodworking projects. To sum it up, you should be fine getting through thin and thick woods with this method.

Using a drill doesn’t require you to be an expert. But the catch is, do you know how to use different saws properly? If your answer is no, you will have a tough time cutting a smoothie with this technique. It requires decent experience and stable hands to get a clean cut.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for you to implement this:

  • Find a suitable drill bit for yourself and install it.
  • Place the drill bit at any of the fourth vertices of the square you drew.
  • Keep drilling.
  • Stop when a clean hole is formed.
  • Repeat the steps for all vertices.
  • Use the circular saw to cut along the edges of the square.
  • Cut the square out.

3. Cutting a Square Hole With a Router

Cutting Square Hole with Router

Being the last method on the list, here’s a little PSA you need to know; this technique is not suitable for beginners. We recommend you try either of the two methods we discussed above will be fine for you! This method requires immense practice to get the hang of it and start cutting square holes through woods. When dealing with a very high thickness of woods, the router seems to be your only friend and gets the job done perfectly well.

Here are the instructions to make it a little easier for you:

  • Create a template with the template guide.
  • Using the square dimensions, form a layout for the template.
  • Add a little more (about 0.4 inches) to all the lines of the template.
  • Point the drill at one of the vertices of the square and start drilling into it. This pilot hole will be the beginning of your cut.
  • Make use of the pilot hole you created by orienting the router fence along the edge of the square.
  • When you are done with one edge, pause and rotate the router to get through another edge.
  • Repeat the above steps to the remaining edges.
  • Cut the square out.

Final Touch

If you use a relevant tool like a jigsaw or a router and follow all the steps properly, there shouldn’t be much scope for improvement. Irrespective of the method you’ve used, there are some things you should do anyway to ensure a clean and proper cut! Using sandpaper is as basic as it may sound but works wonders while smoothening out the edges. Low grit sandpapers should work well enough on the unfinished edges, but keep increasing the grit closer to 320 to get a more precise cut.

Conclusion

Even though we have discussed three very different methods in our guide, you can potentially use any of the methods. In any case, I’d always recommend you to go in with whichever you find comfortable. Cutting in through a saw and drill is known to be the most versatile of all and hasn’t got me disappointed in my projects so far! Just find whatever feels easiest to go with, follow all the safety precautions, and you will be greatly satisfied by the results.

About Derek Backman

Hello there, I'm Derek Backman, a full-time woodworker living in Miami, FL. I love to share guides and tips with others in my free time. I'm very passionate about sharing my experience with everyone on TheSawingYard. Thank you.