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Muddy Faces

Guide to palm drills

Palm drills are perfect to use with children as an introduction to tool use in woodwork and simple activities.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts


Palm drills are the perfect tools to start and practice the skill of drilling, helping to develop motor skills.

A palm drill is any drill held in the palm – including softwood hand drills.

Palm drills are used one-handed. They have an ergonomic handle and are light and easy to carry around.

What you'll need

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Environmental Considerations

Consider the environmental impact of preparing, carrying out & completing this activity. Could this impact be reduced? Specific considerations for this activity could include:

  • at the end of your session make sure all tools are removed from an outdoor site
  • never drill into living trees.

Health & Safety Considerations

Follow your usual operating procedures and carry out appropriate risk benefit assessments.
Some considerations particular to this activity include:

  • skill level of group
  • drill bits have sharp edges/points
  • consider safe storage of tools
  • always drill down onto a hard surface.
A selection of palm drills

Palm Drills

We have developed a range of palm drills including:

  • child sized
  • left -handed
  • rustic
  • palm drills with different sized bits

View our Palm Drills & Hand Tools here.

Using a palm drill

Build up skill level step-by-step

It’s a good idea to gradually build up the skill level when first using a palm drill.

Below we describe the technique of using a palm drill, with a step-by-step skill progression, followed by some examples of simple

starter projects.

Pile of log rounds

Setting up a work area

When using a palm drill it is advisable to drill onto a hard and level surface.

It is likely that the surface will get damaged as the drill goes through the object being drilled, so the surface may need to be protected.

When working outdoors use log rounds (pictured) as individual workstations.

Step #1 How to hold the palm drill

Hold the wooden handle in the dominant hand and position the bit (metal drill part) vertically down.

Turn the drill in a clockwise direction whilst applying gentle downward pressure.

Tip – you may need to apply more pressure to get started.

As you turn the palm drill you will notice residue coming out of the hole – from time to time you may need to pull out the drill, clean it and clear the hole out – be careful – the edges are sharp (see Cleaning the drill below). You can then begin the drilling process again.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #2 drilling into a large piece of wood

A good starting point is to drill into a large heavy item such as a log round. These are solid and should not move when being drilled, so the focus can be on the drilling action rather than holding the object.

When removing the drill ensure it comes out vertically – a sideways force on the drill torque could cause the drill to snap.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #3 drilling into a wooden disc

A simple progression is to then drill into a wooden disc – these are perfect to use as they are easy to hold steady on a log round. And being thin and flat, the drill doesn’t need to travel too far to finish the job.

To protect the work bench you can overlap the disc, as pictured, or put an old disc underneath the working piece.

Tip – you could drill a bigger hole into the work bench specifically to support this type of drilling.

Tool use & Traditional Crafts

Step #4 drilling into other small objects

As children become more confident in using the palm drill, they can then try to hold a non-flat object like a noggin.

Cleaning the drill bit

You may have to remove some of the debris from the hole (particularly if the wood is wet) by pulling the drill out of the item you are working on.

Twist as you remove the drill and tap off the wood shavings, or clean them off with a toothbrush.

Don’t be tempted to clean off with your fingers as the groove edges are sharp, as is the end of the softwood drill.

Softwood hand drills

Softwood hand drills can also be used one-handed and are ideal for drilling smaller holes in wood, conkers, acorns and pith.

Softwood hand drills come in 2, 3 and 4 mm diameter, they require greater dexterity to hold and have a more pointed end compared to the palm drill.

softwood palm drills

How to use a softwood drill:

The technique is slightly different then the palm drill – using the fingertips rather than the palm to twist the drill, like twisting a key on a wind-up toy.

  • hold the softwood drill in the dominant hand and use the sharp end to pierce the conker/acorn/softwood
  • turn the drill in a clockwise direction (because the drill has a screw end it will go into the wood with the turning action and requires minimal downward pressure)
  • continue screwing until you get to the required depth or go all the way through
  • to remove the softwood drill twist it in the opposite direction until the drill is removed
  • if you want the hole to be bigger keep twisting the same way but pull it out as you do so

Tip: When items are a bit too small or slippy to hold try using a conker clamp. Once the item is clamped in position rest it on the work bench and and drill vertically down.

A few activities to try:

Drilling conkers

An easy introduction to drilling that can result in some amazingly creative pieces of art.

Read More about Drilling conkers

Drill a wooden disc

A simple and fun tool activity for young children using a rotary hand drill or a palm drill.

Read More about Drill a wooden disc

Make a counting rope

A great activity to practice fine motor skills and tool use ending up with an outdoor maths abacus.

Read More about Make a counting rope

Disclaimer: Muddy Faces cannot take any responsibility for accidents or damage that occurs as a result of following this activity.You are responsible for making sure the activity is conducted safely.

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