Top Five Hole Saw Hacks

The challenges tradespeople face and how to overcome them


The materials and technologies in our homes and commercial buildings are advancing rapidly. While this is great news for designers and engineers, it poses challenges for tradespeople responsible for fitting new projects and refurbishing existing buildings . Here John Cove, marketing manager at power tool accessories and hand tool specialist, Starrett, looks at the top five hole saw hacks that can make these jobs a breeze.

Whether you're a plumber, an electrician or a carpenter you will be all too familiar with the challenges involved in cutting and fitting various materials day to day. Surfaces made of metal, timber, engineered wood, plastic, glass, porcelain and masonry, among others, can all require different approaches to create a clean hole.

It's not just surfaces either. Being able to adapt to your surroundings when you come up against non-standard fittings, jobs that product a lot of debris and dust, and even environments that are poorly ventilated can be a real hassle, taking up precious time on the job and reducing productivity. However, making some simple changes to your workflow and choosing the right tool for the job can make all the difference. So here are our top five hole saw hacks to help you do just that.

1. Cutting porcelain tiles

Ceramic tiles have been around for centuries, so we’re all used to seeing them on everything from flooring and kitchen backsplashes to bathrooms and even as decorative murals. Advancements in production techniques have made porcelain tiles more popular than ever. Although ceramic tiles are made from a soft mineral clay substrate topped with a glaze, porcelain tiles are fired at higher temperatures and pressures. This liquefies the mineral into solid glass, so the tile itself is much harder and denser, making it ideal for a wide variety of applications.

This strength has made porcelain tiles a popular modern interior design choice, with tiles being used in areas other than simply on floors, kitchens and bathrooms. However, the hardness of the tile makes it very difficult to cut using a simple tile cutter, and porcelain tiles are also more prone to chipping during the cutting process.

When a job requires cutting holes to fit a tile around cables and pipes, or fittings need to be attached to a tiled surface, always use a hole saw with a  diamond-grit coated tip. The diamond coating will easily cut through porcelain, glass, ceramics, brick and stone without chipping or breaking. When accompanied with proper water-cooling, you will be left with a clean cut and smooth surface finish.

2. Hole enlargement

Turning up to a job fitting downlights and realising that the 75mm super low voltage spotlights that the customer has specified need to fit into the 50mm holes left by the previous lights can put you in a bit of a pickle. Where it would normally be suitable to simply drill a 75mm hole to fit the light, here there is no obvious way to pilot the 75mm hole saw.

In this case, consider replacing the pilot drill with a  hole enlargement arbor. The arbor can be fitted with a hole saw that has the same diameter as the existing hole — this acts as the pilot — as well as a larger diameter hole saw, allowing the larger diameter to be cut in one single motion.

3. Cutting thick steel


There’s nothing more frustrating when a tool breaks unexpectedly. However, for most tools, this is rarely something that happens out of the blue, but is rather caused by long-term wear on a tool that can lead to a sudden break. Cutting steel is a perfect example of something that can cause this. Although regular hole saws will do the job, cutting thicker steel can cause the tool to become hot, quickly increasing wear on the cutting surface and significantly reducing product life.

When cutting thicker steel, consider using a  carbide tipped hole saw designed specifically for deep cutting of steel up to 25mm thick. This operates at a higher speed for a faster cut, preventing the saw from getting hot and wearing down. By taking such precautions contractors can increase the lifespan of their power tool accessories and deliver a higher return on investment.


4. Cut out unpleasant fumes

Composite and engineered wood, including medium-density fibreboard (MDF), might provide a versatile, lightweight and strong building material for a variety of applications — from cabinets, desks and flooring — however, cutting it can produce really unpleasant fumes. The density of the fibreboard can cause the hole saw to heat up, potentially melting the glue adhesive in the composite itself.

To overcome this problem and speed up the cut, some contractors will drill numerous pilot holes around the circumference of the hole to be cut and then use a hole saw to finish the job. However, this method is time consuming and doesn't result in a perfect, clean cut.

When drilling MDF, engineered and composite woods that contain adhesives, as well as plastics and plasterboard, consider using a  tungsten carbide tipped multipurpose hole saw. This will deliver cutting speeds that are up to five times faster than a typical bi-metal hole saw and the rapid cut will build up less residual heat, giving less time for the adhesive to reach a melting temperature.

5. Dust and debris

Most contractors will testify that one of the biggest pet peeves of customers is site cleanliness. Although maintaining a clean working environment is a habit of all good tradespeople, it is inevitable that most jobs will produce excess dust and debris that needs to be cleaned up afterwards.

Many solutions have been tried included shoe boxes with holes drilled in them and various arrangements involving vacuum cleaners. Ideas like these might work well for simple tasks or once off jobs, but it can become dangerous for more complex or hard to reach areas where ladders might be involved. This can not only pose an insurance liability, but failure to protect the motor of a power tool from dust and debris, leading to its eventual failure, can also void the warranty on most power tools.

When sawing or cutting using a hand held power tool, a  debris collector attachment that can catch the dust and debris created during the cutting process, ready for easy disposal, can make things so much simpler. Not only is this quicker, with time saved on clean up, it also eliminates the need to mask high-risk areas prior to sawing or cutting and prevents the ingress of dust and debris into your power tool's motor housing.


Get the job done

There is no reason for advances in materials and design technology to get in the way of tradespeople achieving perfection. With a little ingenuity and the help of a few specialised tools, people of all trades can stay ahead of the curve and get the job done without hassle.