Drilling a pole

September 25, 2018

How to make a simple hole in a pole – useful for all sorts of projects.

pole clamped to workbench hand drilling hole near top
Author: Muddy Faces

Age Range: 6+

Duration: less than an hour

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: drill, hand drill, pole, tools

Category: tool use & traditional crafts

Environmental considerations

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

  • If harvesting wood, ensure this is done considerately, to reduce impact on the trees
  • ‘leave no trace’ – account for all tools and drill bits
  • don’t 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:

  • drill bits are sharp, consider how the bit will be handled and cleaned
  • safe tool storage
  • if working with a long pole, allow a larger safety area, so poles do not create trip hazards or impacts when being manoeuvred
  • risk with external gears on drills – potential entanglement – tie back loose clothing and hair


You will need:

portable wokbench - a plank on top of log rounds

Step 1 – set up your work space & workbench

Ensure that the area you are working in is clear and that you have something comfortable to kneel on if you are working on the ground. We recommend keeping a distance of 2 poles length from other people.

A plank on a couple of log rounds provides a good portable workbench if you are out and about and need to work from the floor.

Aim for a comfortable position that allows you to work vertically down without leaning on the drill for support. Ideally, you want to be working where your hands and body are above the work bench and working piece.

person using a rotary hand drill to drill hole through a wooden disc clamped with a spring clamp to a wooden bench

Step 2 – secure the pole

There are various methods you can use to secure the pole. Including

• a v-shaped saw horse
• use grooves in logs
• woodwork benches with vices

In our example we are using a mini portable vice on a portable bench.

Clamp the pole into position

You will need to clamp the pole in place using 2 clamps. Sliding clamps allow a greater gripping distance compared to plastic spring clamps (see our guide to clamps & vices for more info).

In our example we used a set of ‘F’ clamps; with the jaws open up to 150mm.

Place your pole onto the workbench, so it sits along the length of the bench.

If you don’t want to damage the bench, place a small disc under the workpiece to raise it slightly so you can see if the drill has made it through the pole.

pole clamped with two F clamps to a workbench

Position one clamp at one end of the pole and fit it so that the clamp sits under the workbench and over the pole.

When the clamp is roughly in position tighten it by holding the T-bar handle in a horizontal position, turning clockwise to tighten/close the clamp.

Repeat this at the other end of the pole until the pole is secure. You might need to make some adjustments to the position of the pole so it sits well in the clamps, for example avoiding knots in the wood.

Step 3 – mark up the position of the hole

Take any measurements needed and mark up the place you want to drill the hole with a pencil or marker.

You can do this before or after you have clamped the pole.

pole clamped to a log plank marking position of a hole near top of pole

Step 4 – make a pilot hole

Making a pilot hole is not essential, but can be helpful when using a rotary hand drill. A pilot hole will help the drill bit sit in place and stop it from skidding around on the surface of the pole.

Using a palm drill, make a small pilot hole (approximately 2mm deep) in the place that has been marked.

Because you will have a hand free when using the palm drill, you can hold the pole with one hand and use the other to use the palm drill. Use your workbench to lean down on.

pole clamped to log plank showing pilot hole and palm drill