Unplugging a Hole Saw

Here are some ideas for the next time you have to perform that most dreaded task – releasing a wooden plug from a hole saw. If possible, you can avoid the whole problem by drilling halfway through the board and then using the pilot hole to center the drill from the other side, and then complete the task from there. When you get done, the plug will already be halfway out of the saw, and you’ll also have a nice clean hole in both faces.

However, sometimes you can’t access the other face of the board and you have to complete the hole in one process. That’s when the plug usually gets stuck. One of the oldest tricks in the book is especially popular with plumbers. Drill a couple of small (1/8”) pilot holes in the plug, one on either side of the larger (usually ¼”) hole saw’s pilot bit. Then drive a couple of long (3”?) screws into those new holes until the screws bottom out against the steel. Switching from one screw to the other, drive each one a little bit at a time until you start nudging the plug up. You’ll be surprised how quickly it works.

If you’re using a hole saw with two long slits in the sides, you can use Plug Poppers (bottom left in photo). These are inexpensive tools that literally pop the plug loose. They even work with metal.

The last trick is to start the hole and let the hole saw cut a ¼” deep track exactly where you need it. Then remove the hole saw and use the pilot hole that it left in the wood to center a large spade bit. Use this to remove most of the waste and then switch back to the hole saw to finish up, using the “track” you made earlier to align the saw (now that the pilot hole is gone). You’ll be left with a narrow ring that is easy to remove – it will often just fall out all by itself.