Can Drilling Wood Cause Fire: 7 Reasons and Solutions

Yes, drilling wood can cause fire and smoke inside the drilling hole due to increasing friction between the drill bit and the workpiece. The friction increases due to high RPM, applying too much pressure, using a dull drill bit, chip clogging inside the drilling hole, continuous drilling, and misidentifying the type of wood. You can avoid firing during the drilling by identifying the type of wood correctly, choosing a suitable drill bit with RPM, using a sharpened drill bit, using a right drilling machine, and using a sufficient flute length.

When you drill, you can see smoke rising during the drilling. That is due to hole firing, drill bit overheating, and drill overheating. You can observe this smoke using its smell. Below, I have listed out all the reasons, solutions, and identifications about the wood drilling process.

What are the Signs of Wood Firing While Drilling?

When you see the below signs while you are drilling the workpiece can be a wood fire. Therefore you should be aware of these signs to protect the drill and workpiece always.

  1. Smoke emission from the drilling hole – If you notice an excessive amount of smoke is rising form the drilling hole while drilling wood, this might indicate a wood fire. Smoke is typically a result of the heat generated by the friction between the drill bit and the wood, which can ignite the wood particles.
  2. Excessive heating in the drill area – If you notice a significant increase in the heat around the drilling area can be a sign of a wood fire. This happens when the drill bit gets too hot due to excessive speed or pressure, causing the wood to ignite.
  3. Wood burning smell while drilling – If you start to smell something burning while drilling, it could be a sign of a wood fire. The smell is usually caused by the burning of wood fibers due to the heat generated by the drill.
  4. Sparks from the drilling hole – If you see sparks flying out while drilling, it is a clear sign of a wood fire. Sparks are generated when the heat from the drill bit ignites the wood particles.
  5. Darkening or charring of wood drilling area – If the wood around the drilling area starts to darken or char, it could indicate a wood fire . This happens when the heat generated by the drill bit is intense enough to burn the wood surface.

How to Identify the Workpiece, Drill Bit and Drill Smoking?

You can identify the workpiece Smoking, drill bit smoking, and drill smoking by using its smell.

  1. Workpiece Smoke – Workpiece smoke has a wood-burning smell
  2. Drill Bit Smoke – Drill bit smoke has a mix of wood-burning and oil-burning smell.
  3. Drill Smoke – Drill smoke has an oil burning and plastic meting smell. This can be seen directly from the drilling machine.

What are the 7 Reasons for Wood Firing and Smoking When Drilling?

Wood can be smoked and fired while drilling due to these 7 reasons such as using higher RPM, dull drill bit, chips clogging inside the flutes, applying too much pressure to the drill bit, and using an incorrect drill bit. More than that, when you hold the rotating drill bit in the same place, that can be heated, and we can see the smoke.

Below are the detailed reasons for the above reasons.

wood drilling with fire

1. Misidentifying the Type of Wood

When the drill bit is rotating, it produces heat due to the friction between the drill bit and the hole-cutting surface. Due to the friction, heat can be increased easily. As a result of this, the wood surface can burn during the drill bit rotation. This can be seen in dense and tough woods. So you had better know the type of wood before drilling it.

Mainly there are two types of wood. Softwood and hardwood are them. Normally, softwood is less dense with weak fiber. But hardwood is denser with strong fiber. When a hole is drilled inside the wood, there is resistance. We can categorize them as point angle and cutting edge resistance, and outer surface resistance.

Here, wood can be divided into two main types.

  • Softwood
  • Hardwood
HardnessSoft than the hardwoodHeavier than the softwood
UsageProduce temporary structures E.g.: For construction purposes
(props and trusses)
Manufacture furniture manufacturer high
quality and durable structures
ColourLight colourDark Color
PriceLess expensive than the hardwoodMore expensive than the softwood
Ease of DrillingEasy to drillHard to drill
Fire ResistanceFire resistance is poorFire resistance is better
DurabilityLess durabilityHigh durability
Differences between Hardwood and Softwood

Choosing suitable wood for the user’s needs is very important. Because the speed and RPM of the drill bit are determined by the type of wood, therefore, misidentifying the type of wood can cause fires during the drilling.

2. Use High RPM

When the RPM is increased, the heat-generating rate is also increased. As a result of this, workpiece burns can be observed in higher RPMs.

More than that, these factors help to increase the heating during drilling.

  • Material (Softwood or hardwood)
  • Diameter of the drill bit
  • Drill bit type

When the user drills the wood at a high RPM, the wood can be burned and damaged. However, low RPM is also not ideal for wood drill bits. Moreover, using a large drill bit at high RPM cause fire.

3. Using a Dull Drill Bit

When the drill bit is dull, it tends to scratch on the surface rather than cut and remove the material. Hence a lot of heat is generated.

If the drill is not sharpened properly and dull drill bit, then it is a cause of the fire. Moreover, it also leads to reduce work efficiency. Therefore, this is the most common cause of firing the wood while drilling.

4. Wood Flakes/ Chips Get Trapped in the Flutes

When drilling wood, small wood flakes/ chips are formed inside the hole. If the flute length of the drill bit is insufficient, those wood flakes/ chips get trapped in the flute of the drill bit. Those flakes/ chips burn due to friction and heat.

5. Apply too Much Pressure

Pressing the drill bit too hard will cause burning marks. Burning marks occur due to the fire that generates when drilling wood.  Therefore, if the user continues to apply too much pressure, the wood will burn. And also sometimes, the drill bit can break due to the higher temperature.

6. Use an Incorrect Drill Bit

As mentioned earlier, the drill bit use will vary depending on the type of wood. Moreover, some drill bits are not suitable for wood, such as Cobalt drill bits. Therefore, using an incorrect drill bit also led to firing the wood while drilling.

7. Drill the Same Place/ Hole Continuously

Accordingly, when drilling wood, repeatedly drilling the same place/ hole will increase the heat and cause it to burn. Moreover, the drill bit can be dull if use the drill bit without breaks. You should cool the drill bit during drilling.

How Can You Drill Wood Without Firing and Smoking?

You can drill wood without firing and smoking by using below helpful facts. First, you should identify the type of wood correctly. Then, find a correct RPM for the wood type. Next, you can choose a suitable drill bit. If the drill bit is not sharpened, you should sharpen it properly. Then you should use a proper drilling machine finally drill the hole until the sufficient flute length.

1. Identifying the Type of Wood Correctly.

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of wood: softwood and hardwood. The wood can be drilled without burning by correctly identifying the respective wood by the characteristics of each type of wood. It is also very important to choose the type of wood that is relevant to one’s needs.

2. Choose a Suitable RPM

As mentioned earlier, RPM for drilling wood depends on several factors. Accordingly, the user must identify the appropriate RPM for the wood drill.

Simply, hardwood requires low RPM than softwood. Moreover, it requires low RPM if the drill bit is larger. The RPM is also determined by the type of the drill bit. Accordingly, different types of drill bits with the same diameter have different RPM values.

RPM table for softwood and hardwood
Drill bit and Suitable RPM for Softwood and Hardwood

3. Choose a Suitable Drill Bit

wood drill bits
Wood drill bits

The drill bit used will vary depending on the wood. Accordingly, the pressure and speed to be applied are also determined. Therefore, choosing the right drill bit for the job is very important. Moreover, using high-quality drill bits is also really important.

4. Sharpen the Drill Bit

You should sharpen the drill bit because that leads to avoiding wood burning and increases efficiency.

5. Choose a Suitable Drill

Choosing a suitable drill can avoid wood burning. For example, when you select an electric drill, you should choose a sufficiently powerful drill machine that will not overheat with the load.

6. Sufficient Flute Length

Sufficient flute length is important to prevent the chips from clogging inside the drilling hole. If the drill bit penetrates below the flute limits, inside chips can be clogged easily. Hence, you should choose a sufficient flute length and flute density when you are choosing a drill bit.

Tom Mackency

Tom Mackency

Hi, I am Tom Mackency. It has been 10 years that I have been working as a professional woodworker since 2013. I am really enjoying my carrier by creating many kinds of projects in my workshop. But mostly I like for home improvement projects. Home improvement and DIY projects are the most interesting things for me. More than that, the coolest things are power tools. Those are very precious and efficient than a decade ago. So I try to introduce so many things about power tools, woodworking, DIY projects, home improvement and many more interesting topics here.

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