Correct Drilling Speed for Different Kinds of Wood

Nowadays, electric drills are versatile and you can use them to either drill holes or drive fasteners during fitting works among other functions. They also come with different speed settings so that you can adjust and set the suitable RPM that matches your drilling needs. In this article, we are focusing on drilling holes in different types of wood, and the factors that play in the RPM you should set. So, what is the right speed to drill wood?

The recommended speed for drilling wood using a twist drill bit size of 1/4” to 3/8” is 3000 RPM for softwood and 1500 RPM for hardwood. For 7/16” to 5/8” drill sizes, the perfect drilling speed is 1500 RPM and 750 RPM for softwood and hardwood respectively. The speed would also be different when using brad point bits, Forstner bits, or hole saws and also when using different sizes of drill bits. Hardwood needs slower speed than softwood and so do large diameter drills.

There are a lot of factors that play in deciding the right speed for drilling your wood, from drill size, to wood condition, and of course wood type, to much more little things. We’ve made it all very comprehensive and easy for you to understand, to start things off, let’s discuss the correct RPM depending on some of these factors:

Correct RPM Depending on Drill Size, Wood Type, and Wood Condition

In the charts below, we have the different speeds for drilling softwood and hardwood using different drill bits of different sizes.

1.     Twist drill bits sizes correct drilling speed for softwood and hardwood.

Twist drill bits are common types of drill bits that every woodworker would come across. They are useful when drilling small holes into the wood. They are mostly used and the advantage with these drill bits is the ability to work on wood, steel, concrete, and plastic. They also come in different sizes to suit different purposes.

2.     Brad-point bits sizes correct drilling speed for softwood and hardwood.

The difference between twist bits and brad point bits is that the latter is used to bore clean and precise holes on either softwood or hardwood. It features outlining spurs that work to cut the wood on the edges as it drills hence leaving clean precise hole edges that may need no sanding to finish.

3.     Forstner bits sizes correct drilling speed for softwood and hardwood.

If you want to drill holes with a flat bottom, then Forstner drill bits can do. They are specially designed unlike the other drills that may leave a steep ground tip in the hole, the result of using Forstner bits will leave the precise flat bottom in the holes. This is important for drilling holes partway into the wood.

4.     Hole saw sizes correct drilling speed for softwood and hardwood.

These are useful for cutting a large hole on wood where pipes, cables, tubes, or door hardware can go through. They are specially designed and features a small but cylindrical metal blade that is attached to the drills. It also features a circular saw blade that is mounted on the arbor.

The above are just a few charts of the most common types of drill bits that are used for different projects. You can use these carts to match your drilling speed for a specific type of wood and using different-sized drill bits.

Is It Better To Drill Wood Fast or Slow?

Many people would ask, do you drill slow or fast? For this, no answer fits all. This is because different types of wood would require different drilling speeds. Also, the diameter or the type of drill would determine the speed at which to drill with.

You need to find out the perfect speed to drill different types of wood so that you don’t damage it, cause it to split, or cause heat that can burn the wood. It is also important to note that drilling too slow may damage the wood and the results may not be appealing.

Therefore, the right RPM to set your drill will depend on whether you are drilling a softwood or a hardwood. It also depends on the size of the drill bit that you are using. A large diameter drill bit is efficient at a lower speed compared to a small diameter bit. Refer to the chart above for the perfect RPM for different woods, and drill sizes.

How To Determine The Correct Drill Speed For Wood

As we did mention, you can only determine the correct drilling speed for wood by checking different factors that include the following:

  • Type of wood– the type of wood that you want to drill will determine the speed that you are going to use. For softwood, as you can see in the charts, the speed is always more than that of hardwood. Therefore, it is comfortable to drill softwood at a relatively high speed than hardwood. Drilling at too low speed may damage a softwood and drilling at too fast speed may cause the hardwood to burn.
  • Size of the drill bits– Drill bits come in different types and sizes. You can choose a suitable drill bit depending on the nature of drilling that you want and the purpose of the holes. As in the charts, you can drill at a relatively higher speed with small-size drill bits than large drill bits.
  • Type of drill bits– there are different types of drill bits and the common ones include the twist bits, brad point bits, Forstner bits, hole saws, and auger bits as discussed above. There is no common speed that you can use with all these drill bits since they also come in different sizes and so each has its own recommended RMP at different sizes.

Drilling Wood With Bits Specially Made For Wood

As a handyman, you want to have the best tools for your drilling. Different types of drill bits are available from different brands and we will discuss this per type. On Amazon, we have chosen the best quality drill bits that you can use for your drilling and includes:

DEWALT Titanium Drill Bits Set

This is made from Titanium and finished with Titanium. It looks great and is strong to withstand tough drilling conditions on different types of materials. The set comes with 21 pieces and is durable hence would last for a long time.

The different sizes that are available in the set will allow you to drill different hole sizes without hassle. In addition to that, they deliver clean and accurate holes.

Dremel 631 Brad Point Bits

This set comes with 4 pieces and is strong and durable. The bits are compatible with any Dremel brand tools and are coated with titanium for strength and durability. They are of different sizes and would deliver perfectly clean holes on any wood.

PORTER-CABLE Forstner Bit Set

As we mentioned, Forstner bits are useful for drilling holes with a flat bottom on wood. PORTER-CABLE Forstner Bit Set comes with 14 pieces of different sizes and hence you have what you need for different projects in your workshop. The set will deliver clean holes that do not need sanding finishing. They are also made to last longer.

Tips for drilling wood

Drilling wood is an art. Many craftsmen who perhaps are beginners may start making some mistakes before they become masters of their craft. Even as a novice, you can start as a veteran when you have the theory backup. In this case, some of the tips to always keep in mind when drilling wood include the following:

Choose the right drill bit type and size

As we have seen above, there are different types of drill bits and each comes in different sizes. Therefore, based on your project and the size and purpose of holes that you want to drill, you need to get a perfect drill bit suitable for your task to achieve the best results.

Select the right RPM

The charts in this guide will help you select the suitable RPM to drill your wood. This will depend on whether you are drilling hardwood or softwood, and the size of your drill bit as well.

Clean the wood

Cleaning here means getting rid of dust before you begin your drilling. The dust may block the marks on your wood and the specific area that you want to drill. After drilling, you can also get rid of all the dust as you check the results of your work.

Pre-drill the holes

Pre-drilling small holes will act as a guide when drilling large holes. You don’t want to mess up with your wood since it would be costly to make that mistake. Therefore, if you are drilling about 15mm, you may first start using a 5mm drill bit as a guide.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These are the most common questions that many woodworkers are asking:

Drill does not go through wood, should I speed up?

The drill may not go through the wood if your drill bit is too blunt and the wood is hard and dry, or when you haven’t applied sufficient force or pressure, or you have set an improper style in the point used. To correct this, you need to increase your force or pressure, sharpen your drill bit, and adjust the style of the jobber respectively.

It is also important to check on the chart if you are operating at the right speed for the type of wood that you are drilling, and the size of the drill bit that you are using. If you have set the wrong speed, then you may adjust and begin the drilling again.

When should you use a high-speed drill?

Different drills come with different speed settings depending on the manufacturer. You may want to use high-speed drills when drilling small diameter holes or when operating on softwood. There is a recommended speed for each as in the charts shown.

Does RPM matter for a drill?

Yes. Since you will use a drill on different types of wood, RPM is useful for setting the right speed so that you don’t destroy or burn the wood. In addition to that drilling different diameter holes would happen at different speeds and so RPM is important for woodworking projects.


As we have noted, the correct drilling speed would depend on whether the wood is soft or hard, and also the type of drill bit and different sizes. The charts that we have on this guide are useful when drilling softwood and hardwood using different sizes of different types of drill bits. Therefore, you can use the charts to match your drilling needs.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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