How to Drill Holes in Balsa Wood



Balsa wood could be pretty difficult to drill through. Therefore, you may find it difficult and unavoidably encounter difficulties while drilling into balsa wood with a manual or comparable handheld drill. For this, too, there is a good reason.

Due in part to its low density, balsa wood makes great carving and whittling material. On the other hand, the low density makes drilling this lightweight lumber challenging. There can be a lot of problems when drilling through balsa with an electric drill or a manual one. Many model makers are familiar with this issue because balsa wood is used to build most model ships and planes.

You’ll learn in this post how to drill holes in balsa wood and why drilling Balsa wood is more complex than drilling any other sort of hardwood.

Can You Drill Holes in Balsa Wood?

Although it is hardwood, it is not incredibly dense. As a result, you cannot treat it the same way as other hardwoods. Despite being categorized as a hardwood, balsa is the softest and lightest wood. It has more air than wood fibers below it because of the gaps. This is in contrast to, say, another hardwood like maple wood. Balsa has a Janka rating of up to 20 times that of Maple wood, which is 1450lbs.

On the Janka Hardness Scale, which measures how much force is necessary to damage a piece of wood, balsa wood only obtains a value of 70lbf. In other words, cutting through this hardwood only requires 70 lbs of force.

Balsa is one of the softest lumbers on the market. Thus you cannot treat it like any other hardwood. So you can see why it’s challenging to drill into it. With a standard manual hand drill, drilling the balsa wood is challenging. This suggests that the usual drill operates poorly with balsa wood because it applies too much pressure.

Pre-drilling a pilot hole before expanding it when drilling is a good idea. Balsa wood, regrettably, does not work like that. It is difficult to stop the ripping that is taking place around the pilot hole.

For instance, balsa can break if there is too much pressure. Nothing can be done, not even pre-drilling a pilot hole, to prevent ripping from happening around one. No hole will be created by light pressure. But if you push too hard, the wood can end up splitting.


How Do You Cut Holes in Balsa Wood?

So how to drill holes in balsa wood? Drilling into balsa wood is possible, but not with a hand drill. You need to employ other methods while working with balsa in addition to your traditional woodworking techniques. You can drill balsa wood in several ways. Here is a handful of them and some strategies for preventing tearing:

Drill Press

A drill press, also referred to as a drilling machine, maintains a drill fixed so you may drill holes in balsa with extreme accuracy. It keeps the drill in place so that precise holes can be drilled with it. In addition, slow drilling with little to no pressure is possible with a drill press. But a drilling machine is only a part of the solution. A drill press and extra drill bits must be used if you want stunning results.

Forstner Drill

The shape of Forstner drill bits is substantially different from traditional twist bits. Given that they are both flatter and wider, Forstner bits lessen the chance of Balsa wood splintering and blowing up around this specialized bit.

Brass Tube

The potential for the wood to break and splinter when drilling balsa is one of the critical problems. The best way to stop this is to use a brass tube with the drill. Put a brass tube into a drill bit and exert exactly the right amount of pressure to prevent pulling out the wood.

First, file the brass edge with a round-tip filer before sharpening it. The drill is then connected to the brass tube. Begin by turning on the drill, then gradually bring it down to exert pressure and make a hole. Drilling will be used to remove a piece of wood stuck inside the brass tube’s cylindrical shape.

Can You Put Screws in Balsa Wood?

If done correctly, yes. Aliphatic resin is more durable than actual wood if the joint is tightly sealed. As you can see, the ideal separation should be between .003 and .006; however, woodworking doesn’t benefit from this measurement. AR adhesive favors straight, coplanar, non-gapped joints for the best outcomes.

However, the screw won’t hold very well because balsa wood is so porous and brittle. Loosely speaking, like screwing into corrugated cardboard. If it is cut too thin, it might break quite quickly. However, when used in a thicker format, it surprisingly has a lot of strength.

When gluing table tops together, you can attach each board individually beforehand using glue and clamps to create a strong bond. According to the general rule, adhesive problems can develop down the road if there are gaps or if you have to apply too much pressure to seal the connection. For example, if you have to hammer or press a joint shut, it probably has too little glue and is too tight. If gravity cannot hold a connection, such as a mortise and a tenon, together, glue should only be used.


Since balsa wood has a lot of pores, drilling through it is challenging. You must be exact with the amount of pressure you apply to this low-density wood. If you want to drill through balsa wood, use a drill press. This will make it easier for you to drill through Balsa wood.

Additionally, use a Forstner bit. Using this exact drill bit instead of a twist bit will reduce the likelihood of Balsa wood blowing out and tearing.

To prevent tearing out of the wood, use a well-sharpened brass tube fitted with a drill bit and exert the proper amount of pressure. You can also use a sharp spur drill bit at high speeds to prevent splintering. Additionally, using glue can make it simpler to punch precise holes in this wood.


  • Bayram Sarıkaya

    Hello, my name is Bayram and I’m 26 years old. You may know me from my writings here on Hardware Culture. I'm trying to convey what I've learned over more than four years of blog-searching and forum journeys. I'm a technical employee at a radio station, the almost polar opposite of the natural habitat where I think I belong. I love my job as I used to toy with technological gadgets when I was a kid, too. My hobbies are writing papers on cinema, playing basketball, and playing guitar. Now, let's get back to the plants, the topic of this biography. Why I share my opinions and reviews here is to share the knowledge with others who might be up and coming and having trouble finding the fundamental info on the net. I see myself in those and feel a kind of fraternity. Let's walk this road together for we’ll enjoy the experience of each other.

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