Ask WWGOA: Cutting Square Holes


What is the best piece of equipment you can buy to cut a square hole in a piece of wood and what is the best way to cut a square hole?–any size from 1/2″ to 2″ square?

Submitted by rwhayes323


There are many ways to cut a square hole. One method is to layout the hole and drill away most of the waste using a Forstner bit whose diameter is as close to the hole’s width as possible. If the hole goes all the way through the work piece, then use a scroll saw to cut the square sides. If the hole goes only part way through the work piece, then use a chisel to cut the square sides.


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10 Responses to “Ask WWGOA: Cutting Square Holes”

  1. Mike Zimmer
    Mike Zimmer

    I want to cut square holes through a 2″ thick piece of pecan I’m using as a desk top. And at a slight angle.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Mike. The easiest way to do this would be to use a mortising machine. If you do not have access to this, you can mark the outline of your square hole using a marking knife, and use a chisel to cut the hole. To get the angle that you want I would suggest cutting a block of scrap wood at the desired angle, and using that as a guide for your chisel as you get started.

  2. Judith S.
    Judith S.

    I use a drill for most of the cut & then I use a Whiteside square corner chisel bit to square it up.

  3. J.R. Sloan
    J.R. Sloan

    What about using one of those reciprocating tools with the snap-on or bolt-on saw &/or grinder blades. I had a flooring subcontractor use one of those for trip around the footers in a room prior to installing moldings, and it worked like a charm, using a 2×4 as a shim/guide. If a single (or a few) square mortise(s) is/are needed, seems like one of these would be just the ticket.

  4. Robert Taylor
    Robert Taylor

    Hi…I have a bench top that cme with square holes for use with the vice. I have not seen any in our local wood shops. I live in a small town in central WA. How would I keep the pegs from falling through after I make a few?

  5. Burton r Schriber
    Burton r Schriber

    I have a question, I just reviewed your video concerning finishing (2 Faces Mage Easy). I noticed all of the clamps mounted on the wall in the background. Do you have a video on building or mounting those clamps. Or could send me a few photos so that I can copy your technique. I have several clamps to mount and have been looking for a great method. Thank you

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Burton. We don’t have any content that covers how this was built, but we will add this to George’s list of ideas, and perhaps he will make a video on this at some point. Thanks for your suggestion.
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

  6. Ellie

    Is it worth the money for a casual woodworker to invest in a mortising attachment for a drill press. Some kits come with 4 square hole drill bits with chisels and the fence and hold down attachments. Here in Canada King sell a kit for about $100.00. Model MA-511.

    • Gary

      Hi Ellie,

      I have to admit that I do not have one of these so I cannot speak to personal experience but the reason I do not have one of these was all of the negative comments I had heard about this mashup.

      FWIW, for many years I did my mortices by drill press and by hand. “Generally” I did my initial drilling just as George does it in his morticing video. The primary way I did it differently was that I clamped a block of wood up against the hole to have a vertical surface to work against.

      This was fine for the sides but the front and back, where there was less wood to clamp against, I made a “U” fixture to be able to clamp and not worry about the fixture falling off. this was done by taking one piece of wood and gluing it to two blocks on both sides. This “U” device could be clamped using the side pieces and the base of the “U” is what I used as my flat surface to work against. Below is the idea of what I’m talking about the lines show the grain direction of the wood.

      ||||| |||||
      ||||| |||||
      ||||| ||||| <— clamp down on these two
      ||||| |||||

      I would recommend that you use a very hard wood for this surface, in my experience poplar was too soft but hard maple or oak was fine.