When I need to bore a hole in wood larger than ½”, I like to use a Forstner bit. If you haven’t heard of them, they work like a rotary plane shaving out the wood as the bit penetrates. The shavings even curl just like those from a plane. Also unlike holesaws, Forstner bits actually leave a hole that is the size of the bit. This makes for a cleaner hole and uniform sizing.
The 16 piece set from Harbor Freight Tools fills the bill nicely. With an MSRP of $37.99 at the time of this writing, they are very affordable and now that I’ve had the set two years I can attest to the quality. The majority of my work as a fabricator revolves around metals, but I use plastics and wood quite often too. I had a prototype job involving many bored holes into plastic and these Forstner bits paid for themselves in that one job! I also host workshops where a small group comes together and we mass produce craft items. Once we made folding wine tables out of red oak and the Forstner bits were used to bore the holes that two wine glasses would rest in. I had one of the participants at the drill press boring the holes. At the end of the workshop I discovered she had gone through the spoil board at least three times and left some healthy gouges in my steel drill press table. I checked the bit and there was no sign of damage. It was still sharp too!
I’ve used other, more expensive Forstner bits, but I can’t tell any difference in performance. As long as they don’t get overheated, I imagine they’ll last quite some time. One of the things I really like about this set is that they are all ⅜” shaft and the shafts all have three flat landing surfaces for the chuck jaws. The great thing about this is that the bit will never slip in the chuck.
On the down side of things, the labeling of the sizes in the box is confusing and I constantly pick up the wrong size. Also the smaller sizes don’t clear the chips very well so they clog quite severely. I wouldn’t even bother with anything smaller than ½”. That said, I’ve been very happy with this set and will definitely buy another if the need ever arises. At this point it looks like that may be quite some time.