How To Make A Hole Bigger Without A Drill

Do-It-Yourself projects can be fun and rewarding when you have the correct tools. But going out to the hardware store to buy a quality power drill for a simple one time fix is hard to justify. When all you are trying to do is make a hole bigger in a piece of wood or pipe, power tools are a waste of money.

To make a hole bigger without a drill, you need to get either sandpaper and a dowel, a hand file, or a jab saw. It’s helpful to draw the size of the circle needed first, then manually file the excess wood until the hole is the right size. Wipe away the dust and your project is ready to continue.

How To Make A Hole Bigger Without A Drill

The following five steps below will help you enlarge a hole without any power tools. It will need some arm strength and patience, but your goal will be achieved in the end.

* This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

1. Buy the Tools

Your options for manually making a pre-existing hole larger are limited because today, most people have a power drill (or know someone who does).

If you are one of the unlucky people who don’t or don’t want to ask, you will need to buy a manual tool.

There are three options to help you get the job done. If you can spare the money, it’s a good idea to get all three of them and return what you don’t use.

Each method will need different levels of strength and patience.

Sandpaper and Dowel

Using sandpaper will need the least amount of muscle, but the most amount of patience. This method requires you to buy coarse grit sandpaper and a dowel small enough to fit into the hole you are trying to make bigger.

The dowel or long cylindrical device needs to have a diameter small enough to be able to wrap the sandpaper around it and fit into the hole.

It will need to be long enough to wrap the sandpaper and hold it while sanding up and down.

To make sure your dowel is the correct diameter, measure the diameter of your hole, and buy a dowel smaller than the hole’s measurement.

These are cheap and come in different sizes. I recommend getting this pack of various sizes from Amazon.

The correct grit sandpaper will make the work easier and take less time. Coarse sandpaper is under #100, and #80 Grit is the recommended grit.

It’s important you get PAPER and not a block. A large sheet is okay because you can cut it down to a better size.

3M is the largest maker of sandpaper in the United States and you can get a 5-pack of 9 x 11 inches (22 cm x 27 cm) from Amazon. Go with the #80 Grit option.

Hand Rasp or File

If the sandpaper and dowel system seems like it will be too slow for your liking, then consider buying a hand rasp or file.

These industrial files shave away at wood, metal, PVC, tile, or glass. If you are looking for a tool that will be great for other projects, the hand file is great.

These come in a variety of options, but you will need one that is curved or a full circle. Not sure which one to get, then invest in the multi-pack like the Kalim Mini Needle File Set. (Amazon affiliate link)

Jab Saw

The jab saw will need the most amount of effort and is best for larger beginning holes. The blade does taper, so you could use it on smaller holes, but it will be harder.

These saws are used to cut drywall and have teeth pointed in 2 directions.

If you want a jab saw that is good as a multi-tool for all sawing purposes, order the Klein Tools 31737 Drywall Saw from Amazon. It folds for safe storage, but as strong as a fixed blade.

A jab saw is a sharp tool, so pick up a pair of safety work gloves while you are at the store.

2. Set-Up Work Site

Having your prep work done before you start filing at the hole will make sure you don’t make your hole too big and decrease the mess. Whether you are working with wood, PVC, or metal, there will be shavings to clean up.

You don’t need to go all out for this project. Whether it’s a door or a piece of furniture, you will need a couple of added supplies:

  • Rag towel. Or sheet to lay under the work area for easy clean-up
  • Pencil. To draw out the desired size circle on the work surface
  • Vacuum cleaner. To get any dust the towel didn’t catch
  • The tool of choice: Sandpaper and dowel, hand file, or jab saw
  • Safety gear. Leather or nylon gloves and safety glasses.

3. Draw the New Hole

You don’t need direction in drawing a circle on a piece of wood, but you do need it to be exact and perfectly round.

If you have the object you are fitting into the hole on hand, then use the pencil to trace the circumference of it on the outside of the existing hole.

If you don’t have an object to go in the hole after it’s the correct size, find another round object around the house that is the correct size (i.e., coin).

4. File, Saw, or Sand the Hole

Now is the time for the actual work. The process is close to the same for each of the three tool options.

Sandpaper and Dowel

If you decide to try the sandpaper and dowel, the next step is to attach the sandpaper to the dowel with tape, rubber bands, or staple gun. The sandpaper needs to be secure enough to create friction without slipping off.

Once the sandpaper and dowel are one, it’s time to get sanding. You will want to sand up and down (or back and forth) until you reach the new hole pencil line.

It might take some time, but it’s the cheapest choice to enlarge a hole without a drill.

Hand Rasp or File

The hand file requires no extra prep. Put the file in the hole as far as it can go and start filing the wood away.

It will go fast if you can put some extra muscle into the motion. Keep filing in all parts of the circle until you have reached the hole size you want.

Jab Saw

The jab saw isn’t as straightforward as sanding or filing; it cuts into wood or drywall. Once you have your gloves on, you will need to put the saw blade into the hole and slowly slice away pieces of the wood.

The jab saw will give you a more chopped appearance, so this is a good one to pair with the sandpaper to smooth out the hole once it’s the correct size.

5. Clean Up

Now that your hole is the correct size, clean up! Roll up the towel or sheet to keep the debris from flying onto the floor, and vacuum up any that does.

Shake the towel outside into the yard (assuming its biodegradable material) or shake it over the trash.

Store your tools in a safe place to await the next project.


When your home project is thwarted by a hole that is too small, don’t get discouraged because you don’t have a drill.

Go on Amazon, buy a hand file, sandpaper, or a jab saw to widen a hole in wood or plastic. You will impress all your friends with your ability to work with your hands and not power tools.

Good luck with your projects!

Cheers, tools owners!

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Hi there! My name is Jack and I write for ToolsOwner. I have a passion for everything related to tools and DIY projects around the house. You often find me in my workshop working on new projects.