Introduction: Coat Hanger Drill Bit

Picture of Coat Hanger Drill Bit

Have you been looking to drill tiny holes straight through your floors or walls? Do you love 2 minute hacks? Have you been searching for a way to make sure you are running wire through the wall and not straight through to the ceiling or floor of another room? Have you been looking to use a piece of trash for something useful? Look no further! I'll show you how you can use a coat hanger to drill through flooring, drywall, or even solid hardwood. I stood there with my mouth open when my electrician pulled out an old coat hanger and used it to drilla hole straight through my closet flooring and into my basement. He used it as a guide to find where to drill with the larger bit, in order to be sure he was drilling inside the wall. The hole left behind is so small I didn't even bother patching it. Here's how to do it.

Step 1: Get a Coat Hanger

Picture of Get a Coat Hanger

Find yourself a wire coat hanger, and cut the straight portion at both ends to separate it from the rest of the hanger. Make sure to taper one end so that its a chiseled point. Once that's done, chuck the other end into your drill.

Step 2: GO!

Picture of GO!

Press the tip of the coat hanger firmly against your piece. Use your free hand to minimize the wobble in the wire while you get the drill up to speed. You want a fairly high rpm. While you drill, keep as much downward pressure as you can without bowing your coat hanger. It is perfectly fine to touch the rotating wire as you push. Just make sure your wire is free of nicks and burrs, or wear some gloves. I've included a video so you can see it in action.

Video Link

Step 3: Do Something Fun!

Picture of Do Something Fun!

Now that you have the ability to drill really long skinny holes, try doing something fun! I drilled a long thin piece of wood lengthwise and ran some wires through it and illuminated an LED. Try drilling through one end of a dowel to the other. It's not easy to stay straight, but this is surprisingly effective!

Step 4: A Few Tips

Picture of A Few Tips
  • If you are drilling through a thick or hard piece of wood, be careful when you pull the bit out. It will likely be very hot, and probably flopping all around.
  • If you find that you are dulling your point, just snip a new point and keep going
  • If your coat hanger is bending too much, ease off and use your free hand to stabilize it
  • It's really difficult to drill in a perfectly straight line doing this. So this is not recommended for precision work unless you've practiced it a bit.

That's all there is to it! If you found this useful please consider voting for me!


JohnC430 (author)2017-04-11

how did you thread the two wires thru the hole? that's another feat!

gravityisweak (author)JohnC4302017-04-11

I'm not going to lie, I had to use really small wires and it took more than one try.

ndr1968 (author)2017-02-05

My (ex) father in law was a cabinet maker.
Whenever he was on a job installing his work, he would "pilot drill" the sometimes thin and easily split trim pieces with a finish nail of the size he was using to "brad & glue" the piece down with.

Cliffystones (author)ndr19682017-02-05

My Father-in-law (now departed) taught me to chop the end off of finishing nails when using them on moulding. That way they didn't split the wood. The blunt end "pushed" the wood out of the way.

allangee (author)Cliffystones2017-04-10

Similar... my Dad (carpenter) always hit the pointed end of a nail with the hammer to prevent splitting (even when framing 2x4's). Prevents the nail head from acting like a wedge.

Captain_Nemo (author)2017-02-12

Don't do this, not worth it. My dad did this when he was younger, cleaning a heater radiator, the 'bit' broke and went through his hand, took a piece of bone with it.

allangee (author)Captain_Nemo2017-02-16

Must have been pushing VERY hard and his hand shot forward impaling itself on the wire.

This is a proven and common approach. I've even seen 1/2-inch threaded rod hammered to an "arrow point" at one end and used to drill through the ground with a 3/4-inch drill as a probe. By using threaded couplings they were able to keep adding 3-foot lengths and got down as far as 15-feet (checking for rock). The only thing they had to watch out for was to keep the drill spinning clockwise/forward, even while removing it from the ground, so that the couplings wouldn't unthread.

Captain_Nemo (author)allangee2017-02-16

Right, because half inch rod is the same as coathangars... You ever hear of metal fatigue? It occurs when you bend certain metals to much, it makes them brittle, so brittle, you can easly bend small (coathangar size) with your bare hands.

jtobako (author)Captain_Nemo2017-04-07

Metal fatigue causes hardness and brittleness. Hardness means it won't bend, but metal fatigue is caused by bending. Try bending a coat hanger wire until it breaks - not so easy is it? You had to find a pre-stressed area (like the hook area where the wire is bent suddenly) didn't you? or hold the wire in a pair of pliers so that you could get a sharp bend, Hmmm?

Not saying it didn't happen to your dad, but i'm not saying that manufacturing techniques haven't changed in the last 40+ years either...

Captain_Nemo (author)jtobako2017-04-07

Actually, I got into trouble a kid for breaking coat hangers, would get bored and sit there and break half a dozen by bending them back and forth. I was 5. If a 5 year old can break them with his bare hands (not on the edge even, right smack in the middle of the straight) what do you think a power tool will do? You're right about the hardness making it not bend, once it's fatigued, it doesn't bend, it shears, as in it breaks in a way that gives it a nice sharp point to go through your, skin, muscle, nerves, bone, and/or cartilage. Whoever uses this way to drill, have fun losing the use of your hands, I hope you have good health insureance.

jtobako (author)Captain_Nemo2017-04-08

And how many fingers did you loose as a 5 year old?

yes, it could be dangerous, but eating a steak that's off the grill can cause cancer. It's a matter of degree of risk. You make it sound like plutonium when the risk is more like chest x-ray or cross country aircraft ride.

Captain_Nemo (author)jtobako2017-04-08

None, I lost zero fingers. You know why? Of course you don't, so I'll fill you in.


gravityisweak (author)allangee2017-02-16

That's awesome. I'd love to see that in action!

I'm not sure exactly what you mean when you say he was using it for cleaning a heater radiator, but that doesn't really sound like the same application. From what I'm told this is a tried and true trick of the trade that many professionals have been using for years. Many of the other comments here support that info.

Yes, there are post here that support using unsafe tools, just because there's a consensus doesn't mean that the consensus is correct or safe.

Just buy an actual drill bit people, a few bucks is not worth losing chunks of flesh and bone.

boatmakertoo (author)2017-02-06

Good idea if you need a long thin drill. Nails can be used in the same way. Long finishing nails are particularly good.

SpinninJenny (author)2017-02-05

How do you keep the wire from spinning in the drill chuck? Do you have to tighten the chuck really tight? This is a great idea nd I can see lots of potential with this idea!

To Skylane and Uneektalent: Thanks for these comments, it helps a lot. I love Instructables and the community!

skylane (author)SpinninJenny2017-02-05

Being softer than drill rod material, the chuck will grip the wire much easier.

uneektalent (author)SpinninJenny2017-02-05

No tighter than you would with any other drill bit.

RandyPerson (author)2017-02-05

Been doing this for years. A few tips - just steadying the center of a long piece with a gloved hand will take care of vibrations. The spinning action self-centers the single bevel cut, but a couple quick strokes with a file will put a more centered point on it, if you like. Keep a couple moderate length pieces with your drill, both from fat and skinny wire hangers. Use them for lead holes for your screws, and you will no longer have bit sets missing the small, delicate ones that always get broken. Bonus when running wood or sheet metal screws into wood - since the wire "drills" by compressing the wood fibers rather than removing them, you get a more solid bite from the screw threads. This is especially helpful when screwing into end grain. That's also why clipping the head of a finish nail and using it as a bit works so well. When the nail "bit" is pulled from the hole, the hole closes up just a bit. This assures a nice, snug fit for the driven nail, while still preventing splitting. Lastly, if you want a slightly larger hole, just flatten the tip a little bit on the anvil of your bench vise. At the sizes we're dealing with, these small "spade" bits do a nice job. And the price is certainly right!

TeresaM7 (author)RandyPerson2017-02-06

How many tiny drill bits have I broken using them to make lead holes for screws/nails? No more! Thank you!

MoP1 (author)RandyPerson2017-02-05

Great tips...thanks! :)

Mastros (author)2017-02-06

Very nice idea!! Excellent tool in just the right price!!

It should be possible to stabilize a long piece of wire in the following way:

-- sandwich a part of the length, say 5 or 10 centimetres (2 or 4 inches) within two pieces of wood.

-- then sandwich the next part of length in another two pieces of wood, this time placing them vertical to the previous two.

-- continue like this untill you cover the whole length of the wire.

When you look at the wire from its axis, the pairs of wood should look like a cross.

You will also have to construct some support to keep the pairs of wood in place.

Each pair will prevent the wire from wobbling in one direction. The pair after it will prevent it from wobbling in a direction verical to the previous one. In all, the wire should turn straight without any wobbling.

As you drill through, you will remove one pair of woods to expose a length of wire.

Well, I actually have'nt tried this suggestion yet, but I believe...., it should work perfectly!!

JohnC430 (author)2017-02-05

I made a drill bit from a 3/8" foot long
threaded rod I had bought from Home Depot. Just hammer the end of the rod
flat and then file it to shape like a wood drill bit and make sure your sharp
edges are facing the right direction. Works great. You can use
almost any diameter as long as you can hammer the tip flat and shape it. HD also carries 3 foot long rods of various diameters.

I don’t know enough about heat hardening so if it
is possible maybe the tip can also be hardened so it does not wear out too soon.

RayJN (author)JohnC4302017-02-05

Here is an instructable:

DennisG58 (author)2017-02-05

I have used this on my planes, too. Also sharpened brass tubing.

claudette sova (author)2017-02-05

My husband would always use this when you have to drill a small hole where there is carpeting. A regular bit would unravel the carpet since it would catch a strand. It is used to drill a "pilot hole".so that they would know where to drill the bigger hole to run electrical wires.

JerryS42 (author)2017-02-05

those 16" steel "insulation supports" you find in your crawlspace or basement works really well too.

Zaacharia (author)2017-02-05

I have some welding rod of various gauges left over from glass bead making (used as mandrels) - not free but definitely a good re-purposing. Thanks for the great idea!

dominic0012 (author)2017-02-05

never heard of this before, it's super. I plan to use it for drilling through wings of model RC aircraft for carbon tube insertion

JohnC430 (author)2017-02-05

COOOOLLLLL IDEA. thanks for sharing.

spark master (author)2017-02-05

If you want safer and maybe straighter, use a smaller"bit" of wire first then switch to a longer one, do it thice if you must. The hanger they use to hang curtains at a dry cleaner are thickerer, and lopping off a bit ever few inches do give a nicer hole.

I used to do this to make starter holes for screws.

And if you really want a tad more safety for the first inch use finishing nails you lop the heads off.

BRUSE (author)2017-02-05


Quantumdust (author)BRUSE2017-02-05

be safe and sell your car.....

DanC66 (author)BRUSE2017-02-05

Safety third!

malibro (author)DanC662017-02-05

right, control the bleeding first.

malibro (author)BRUSE2017-02-05

...or perhaps a success

mikecz (author)BRUSE2017-02-05

What could possibly go wrong? I've broken several 1/8" x 6" drill bits (which are kind of expensive) on various projects. I've also done this wire-as-a-drill several times to make sure of where I was going to come out on the other side of a wall or a finished ceiling WITHOUT breaking the wire. It works quite a bit better than one would think!

BetsyFartBlossom (author)2017-02-05

I have absolutely no use for this, but I MUST find one! This is so cool. Can't wait to try it. And Joan Crawford said "No more wire hangers!" What was she thinking??? I'm off to the garage to give it a go right now. In your face Mommy Dearest! HA!

GTO3x2 (author)2017-02-05

An inapparant (and inexpensive) option to have in the "box" of tricks. The thicker (typically older) coat hangers look only to be usable. Thanks.

GTO3x2 (author)GTO3x22017-02-05

I wonder if a double, pointed cut would help in keeping it from veering.

uneektalent (author)GTO3x22017-02-05

The single bevel runs true and straight.

uneektalent (author)2017-02-05

Some have voiced their concerns for safety, I've been doing this for over 20 years using insulation hangers and never had or heard of any injuries. This is a fairly common tool with many different trades.

The insulation hangers are harder spring steel that will not twist up like a pretzel. They already have a beveled tip on both ends, and they are very cheap at the hardware store.

I have used this to locate the squeaky floor joist below the carpet. There are so many aplications.

sandbed (author)2017-02-05

You could cut a piece off a brass supply tube and use it to stabilize the wire until you get the hole started.

perrobayfeild (author)2017-02-05

Great idea,but a better material to use a bicycle spoke or motercyle spoke .Also hammer the tip flat and file it into a shape like an arrowhead.Now file a bevel in apposing detections. This tool is great for drilling a pilot hole in boat plank before driving your.nail.The spoke is strong enough that when you manipulate the drill the : bit: will follow the shape of the boat

jdoggett (author)2017-02-05

I have been using these for years. Always a success. Excellent when running speaker, network, thermostat wires or trying to find a stud.

perrobayfeild (author)2017-02-05


throbscottle (author)2017-02-05

Amazing. Thank you.

Cliffystones (author)2017-02-05

Wow! Back in the 80s I hung ceiling fans for an appliance store. I would use a piece of wire from Romex cable and poke it through the ceiling drywall to locate the mounting spot. But this is awesome! It certainly could have save me time on those jobs, and will in the future. Thanks for sharing.

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