How to Drill a Tapered Hole in Wood – It’s Easy!

Working on projects around the house is one of my favorite things to do. It’s very satisfying to see the end result; on top of that, I really like the small challenges you encounter from time to time when you have to put on your thinking cap to solve a certain problem. Let’s take tapered holes for instance; if you are here, reading this article, chances are you are looking for advice. Is there a way to drill a tapered hole in wood?

There are multiple ways to do that, depending on the size and shape of the hole you need. In any case, most of the matter can be solved by getting the correct tool for the job. You have a bunch of alternatives here. For bigger, standard-shaped tapered holes, you can either use a step bit or a conebit, depending on the finish you need. If your application requires a tapered hole with a peculiar shape, you’ll have to get a spade bit and modify it accordingly. Finally, I’ll give you a couple of ideas for making deep holes with a small angle.

Choose the Right Tool for the Job

As always, the most important thing is using the correct tool for the application at hand. It will spare you many headaches, and you’ll also get better and quicker results. In our scenario, you have several options to choose from, depending on the size and shape you need to achieve:

  • The first bit to consider is the step drill bit: As you can imagine by its name, it works in steps so it’s easy to reach a certain depth. On the other hand, the final result will look quite rough.
  • Following the earlier bit, a probably smarter choice would be the “conecut“. This type of bit is mainly intended to make holes in metal, but it can be used in wood too. Using this type of bit will get you a cleaner finish than with a step bit since its edges are smooth.
  • Maybe you need to cut a tapered hole with a particular shape, and you can’t seem to find a bit that suits your needs. In that scenario, consider taking a spade bit and grinding down its sides to reach the desired shape.
  • If you need to cut a long tapered hole, you’ll have to create a pilot hole first and then finish the job with either a tapered reamer or a rat-tail file.

Different tools require slightly different approaches. Let’s discuss them in the following paragraphs.

How to Drill a Tapered Hole in Wood Using a Conecut or A Step Bit

If you are lucky enough, you might be able to find a bit that suits your needs perfectly. You want to look first into conecuts: then, if you can’t find the appropriate dimension, move into step bits. Make sure to double-check the start and ending diameter.

For the best results, follow these steps:

  • If you are using a drill press, make sure to place a block of scrap wood underneath your project. You don’t want your expensive bit to hit the metal base;
  • Clamp down the wood before you start drilling. These kinds of bits apply a lot of force on the edges; if you don’t firmly secure the wood you are working on, there’s a high chance it will fly away as soon as you touch it, making it very dangerous for you;
  • If you are cutting a blind hole, make sure to stop at the correct depth to avoid making a hole too large. In case you are using a drill press, simply adjust the stroke accordingly. In any other case, mark the depth on the bit and frequently stop to check the progress you made. Take advantage of the steps on the step bit for this purpose.
  • When drilling, frequently go up and down to allow the removed material to flush away.
  • With this type of bit, there’s a lot of friction since the contact surface is large. If you push too hard, the drill will stop. Go slow; let the tool work at its own rate.
  • If you used a conecut, the surface should be quite smooth already; a little bit of sanding should be enough to get a good-looking hole.
  • In case you used a step cut, some additional work is required to get a nice finish. Use a wood file to smooth the edges.

Drilling a Tapered Hole Using a Spade Bit

For certain applications, you might not find a step bit or a conecut that suits your needs. In that scenario, consider modifying a spade bit. These kinds of bits are generally used to drill large holes in wood. They have a threaded tip that drives into the wood and pulls the rest of the bit along with it. For our purpose, you’ll have to shape the sides of a spade bit to get the desired configuration. Draw the shape onto the bit with a marker; leave a bit more material than needed since you’ll have to sharpen it later. Cut it with an angle grinder. Then begin to sharpen it with a bench grinder (refer to this article for more tips about sharpening with a bench grinder). After getting a well-shaped cutting edge, smooth its surface with a finer tool, such as a hand file, some fine sandpaper, or a honing stone.

When using this type of bit, make sure to stop from time to time to remove the cut material. Don’t push too hard on the drill; there’s a high chance of jamming the tool or even breaking the bit. Let it work at its pace. The good thing with this method is you don’t risk cutting too deep. The spade bit will work as a depth check on its own.

Once you finished cutting, you’ll notice that the threaded tip left a centering spur. Chisel it away if needed, or use some wood filler. If the surface is rough, use some sandpaper to make it smoother.

How to Drill a Long Tapered Hole?

If your application requires a deep, slightly tapered hole, chances are there’s no conebit, step bit, or spade bit small enough for your application. In this scenario, we’ll have to look for a different solution. You have two options here:

  • A handheld tapered reamer: This type of tool is generally used to align holes or remove burrs. In our case, you can take advantage of its shape to obtain a tapered hole with a small angle. Start by cutting a small pilot hole, then carefully use the reamer to enlarge it. It will require some time to get the result you need.
  • A rat-tile file. In case you didn’t find a reamer of the appropriate size, consider using a file to taper a previously drilled hole. Start with a smaller file to make room for bigger ones. You’ll have to eyeball the taper here. Be careful not to remove too much material. Frequently check the dimensions of the hole so that it suits your application perfectly.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are different solutions for different problems when it comes to drilling tapered holes in wood. You might want to start by looking into conebits and step bits. These bits perform best when used with a drill press. It might be hard to control them with a handheld drill, especially when working on hardwood. You might want to give it a try onto a piece of scrap wood to see if you can get the kind of results you need. In any case, the same approach applies to both conecuts and step bits.

If you can’t find an appropriate conecut, consider modifying a spade bit. Make sure your skillset is up to the task.

In any case, don’t forget to wear appropriate safety gear. This includes gloves, glasses, and goggles. When using conecuts, make sure to keep your fingers off the edges of the cone, which are quite sharp. Be careful when using spade bits: don’t apply too much force when drilling. They are quite prone to breakage, even more after being modified. Try to get bits of a quality brand, such as these from Dewalt.

Any other idea on how to drill tapered holes in wood? Let me know in the comments below!

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