How to Cut a Square Hole in Wood (Without a Jigsaw)


Do you want to learn how to cut a square hole in wood? In this article we show you four ways to do that and include helpful information about the tools needed and steps to take. Continue reading to find out more!

Safety Tips Before You Start

Working with wood means handling sharp tools and being around splinters. Therefore, you should use the following safety tips before you start:

  • Wear safety glasses or goggles at all times. This protects your eyes from wood particles flying around and prevents dust from getting in your eyes.
  • Dust can cause respiratory problems, so work in a ventilated area or outside if possible.
  • Use protective gloves while handling sharp objects. They may not completely protect you, but they offer some resistance.
  • Read the manual for each power tool you encounter before operating it.
  • Wear protective clothing, including overalls, safety boots, and a mask.
  • Sharpen the cutting tools before you begin.
  • Clean the workspace of anything you don’t require.
  • Read about the procedure you wish to use before starting.
  • Don’t begin a project if you’re taking medications, are tired, or have been drinking.
  • Place the tools so that they’re close to you but not overcrowding the table.

How to Cut a Square Hole in Wood

1. Using a Router to Cut a Square Hole in Thick Wood

You can cut the perfect square hole in wood if you have a router. This works well for thicker pieces and saves you effort and time. Plus, it’s faster than other methods and produces a clean result.

However, routers aren’t recommended for beginners. You need extensive practice to use it efficiently, so you might want to try other methods until you’ve mastered the router. Experienced woodworkers and those who use the tool often should have no trouble.

Tools Needed

  • Router
  • Drill
  • Wood piece
  • Router fence
  • Template guides 
  • Router bits
  • Ruler or framing square
  • Wood file or sandpaper

Steps to Take

The precision you get depends on the template you create with the router table. Clean shapes require accuracy, and here are the steps to take:

  1. Use your router bits and template guides to make a drawing of the square.
  2. Measure the square, using those dimensions to prepare the template layout.
  3. Add roughly 0.35 inches to each side for cutting.
  4. Use a drill to create a pilot hole in one corner of your square. Make sure you clean the dirt and waste before continuing.
  5. Prepare your router fence and ensure that it aligns with the square.
  6. Turn on the router machine, letting it cut through the line you drew.
  7. Shut off the router, rotating the wood piece so that the fence is now on the next line.
  8. Repeat steps six and seven for all four lines of the square.
  9. Set the router to the side after turning it off, and clean up the square. Sand the edges to remove jagged pieces with a wood file or sandpaper.

2. Use a Chisel to Cut a Square Hole

A chisel is the most basic tool and woodcutting technique. It’s common for smaller projects and simple to do. However, they are quite sharp, so you should carefully handle them.

Beginners should spend time learning the skill and perfecting it to achieve precise cuts. 

The technique does take more time and effort than other methods. Plus, the final shape might not be smooth and accurate when working with thick wood.

Tools Needed

  • Chisel
  • Sledgehammer or hammer
  • Framing square
  • Sandpaper

Steps to Take

Ensure that the chisel is sharpened before you complete the steps below:

  1. Measure the square’s dimensions, drawing it on the wood piece. Ensure that each side is parallel to the opposite one.
  2. Put the tip of the chisel on the corner of your drawn square.
  3. Take your sledgehammer and tap firmly on the chisel, making sure it’s hard enough to go through your wood. Keep your tool straight to avoid an angled cut.
  4. Maintain this motion until the chisel goes through the full thickness of your wood.
  5. Repeat steps three and four for each corner.
  6. Continue tapping along the edge to cover the full square.
  7. Push the cut square out to reveal the hole.
  8. Sand off the ragged edges with sandpaper.

3. Use a Drill and Saw

It’s possible to cut square holes using a saw and drill. This method requires using two tools, and it works well for complex and simple projects and wood of all thicknesses.

Be careful when handling a saw or drill. You require a steady hand and experience to get a smooth cut.

Tools Needed

  • Drill
  • Circular saw
  • Appropriate drill bits
  • Sandpaper
  • Framing square

Steps to Take

Now that you’ve got the tools necessary, here are the steps to take:

  1. Measure the dimensions you need for your square, drawing it on the wood with a framing square.
  2. Choose the best drill bit and put it into the drilling machine.
  3. Turn on the drill, pointing it at a corner of your drawn square.
  4. Drill firmly into that corner until you’ve made a clean hole.
  5. Repeat steps three and four for the remaining corners.
  6. Turn the drill off, setting it aside.
  7. Get your saw, turn it on, and cut on the reference lines you drew from one hole to the other and so on. You may use a swinging motion to get a clean cut.
  8. Push the wood out and look at your square.
  9. Sand the edges to create a smooth shape.

While a circular saw works best, you may use a handsaw or jigsaw. The steps are similar with those tools.

4. Angle Grinder

Angle grinders aren’t often the first tool of choice for cutting a square hole. However, it works if that’s all you have.

Tools Needed

  • Angle grinder
  • Sandpaper
  • Sawhorses
  • Framing square

Steps to Take

Use these steps to create a square hole with an angle grinder:

  1. Change the angle grinder’s disc to one with fine teeth so that it works on wood.
  2. Use the framing square to measure the hole area you need, and draw it on the wood piece.
  3. Secure your wood to a table or two sawhorses. Turn on the angle grinder, let it speed up, and cut the shape you’ve drawn by moving along the lines.
  4. Turn the angle grinder off, let the disc fully stop, and set it down.
  5. Use some sandpaper to remove the roughness, smoothing the edges.

Factors to Consider When Determining the Technique to Use

Woodcutting is simple, but it takes time and effort when you need to create specific shapes from wood. Beginners might also waste material, but the steps shown above can help. 

Here are some factors to think about when choosing your technique:

  • Skill Level – Take time to become familiar with the tools you plan to use to avoid mistakes and injury.
  • Tools Available – Save money by using the tools you already have instead of buying new ones.
  • Timing – Some projects might be time-sensitive, so you want to finish them quickly by using a router, angle grinder, or saw.
  • Piece Count – If you only need to cut a square hole into one wood piece, the chisel method is ideal. However, it’s time-consuming and tedious when working on multiple projects simultaneously.
  • Wood Thickness – Routers and saws work well on thicker wood pieces, but chisels don’t.
  • The Result – If you require accuracy, chisels aren’t the best choice. You need a router or saw to produce a precise and clean hole.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Routers Cut Square Holes?

Yes, you can cut a square hole with a router but must design a square template first. Guide bushings help you follow the drawing perfectly to create your shape. Consider buying or making your own templates.

What Should You Use to Cut Thinner Pieces of Wood?

Most people don’t require power tools to cut thin pieces of wood. Ideally, you want a coping saw because it features a narrow blade that makes precise and intricate cuts.

A sharp chisel or machete works well if you can’t find a coping saw. However, they can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

What Saw Type Is Best for Cutting Square Holes in Wood?

Every saw type available is specialized for its specific function. A hack saw is ideal for metal, but a traditional handsaw is best for wood. It features a sturdy handle and a big blade. There are several types, including:

  • Crosscut handsaws – Cut across the wood grain
  • Rip saws – Cut lengthwise with the grain
  • Hybrid handsaws – Perform both cuts well


It’s easy to cut square holes into a piece of wood. You require the best tools, gear, and technique. 

Are you planning to cut a square hole for a project? The four methods described earlier help you achieve your goal. Pick the one that fits your needs best.

You learned safety tips to help you on your journey. Get perfect results without accidents. We also went over technique factors to consider.