August 21, 2022
If making a straight cut in wood is already tricky for newbie woodworkers, cutting circles would be doubly challenging for them. Luckily, you won’t often cut circles in most of your wood projects. But when a project requires cutting circular figures, you won’t be needing elaborate calculations and math. As long as you have knowledge of the right methods and got the right tools at hand, you can always end up cutting great circles.
Some simple methods will enable you to cut a circular hole. Yet, you will not only cut out circular holes, for there are instances when you will be creating wooden circles too. Hence, you need to know the different methods for cutting both a circular hole and a wooden circle. Moreover, some of these methods are more straightforward than others.
Different Methods You Can Use To Cut Perfect Circle on Wood
There are various ways to cut holes and circles in wood, and some tools you can use include a hole saw, jigsaw, router, bandsaw, and table saw. Below, you will learn about the most popular methods for cutting circles and holes in wood, along with their concomitant pros and cons:
1) Cutting a Circle Using a Hole Saw
The easiest and most common way of cutting circles is using a hole saw. It is easy to use. You only need to lock in your hole saw in the drill’s chuck, and you can commence cutting. You can cut circles with sizes ranging from 3/4″ to 7″ in diameter.
It will help if you use moderate pressure when using the hole saw. Moreover, you will need to pull up the hole saw more often to let the sawdust escape from your cut. If you fail to do it, the hole saw would heat up. One indication that your hole saw is heating up is if you notice on the hole some scorch marks.
Another thing to be wary of is the severe blow out on the other side of the hole if you fail to take caution when cutting. Of course, the hole’s entry side will tend to be clean. Yet, the backside may exhibit serious blowout.
This is because the pressure of the hole saw on the backboard tends to splinter the backboard. So, you need to clamp scrap wood underneath the board to prevent fibers from splintering or blowing out.
The use of a hole saw, however, has its drawback. In some instances, you may end up with a limited cut if you are cutting thicker wood pieces because the hole saw has a shallow or limited depth of cut. Yet, you can solve this drawback by beginning to cut the hole until you reach the bottom.
Then, set the drill into reverse to take out the cut materials. You can then flip over the board. Afterward, line up with the hole your hole saw’s center bit. The saw will cut through the flipside until it meets the middle cut of the board. In this way, you will have a clean cut on both sides.
2) Using a Circle Cutting Jig and a Jigsaw
One of the accurate ways of cutting circles is using a circle cutting jig and your jigsaw. The jig revolves around a center point, guiding the saw along the way. If you do not have a circle cutting jig, you can always buy one.
There is no need to buy many circular cutting jigs, for you can get by with a single circular cutting jig. To use this circle cutting jig, you can utilize a wood strip, about 1/2″ thick and 5 inches wide. Then, attach to one end of your board the saw and attach to the center point its other end, using a nail.
Using the circle cutting jig will allow you to cut a perfect circle, though the edge of your circle will be a bit jagged because that’s the way the jigsaw cuts. Nevertheless, if you want a cut with smooth edges, it will be best to use a router.
3) Cutting a Circle with a Jigsaw
One of the common ways of cutting circles in wood is via the use of a jigsaw. The jigsaw is perfect for cutting circles and making fancy curves and tight cuts. It is also perfect for making quick cuts that do not necessitate superior accuracy. You can also use it to create quality cuts.
To use the jigsaw to cut a circle, you can first outline the circular figure on the wood surface or material you would like to cut. You can use a beam compass to trace the circular outline. Then, lock in the radius. Afterward, position the point at the center and starts outlining.
You can also use a string that you can tie to a pencil or nail. Then, pull the pencil tightly as you move it around the center point.
You can also cut a circle freehand using the jigsaw. However, how you begin the cut depends on whether you want to cut a hole or make a circle.
You can begin your cut at the board’s edge when cutting out a ring. Then, guide the blade along the line. Ensure that you are cutting along the outside edge of your outline. In this way, you allow for sanding down the edge until you produce the exact diameter.
On the other hand, if you are cutting out a circular hole, you need to drill first a tiny hole for inserting the jigsaw blade. You can use a drill bit to drill this small hole. Then, you should insert the saw blade of the jigsaw into the small hole. Follow the inside edge of the circular outline you have drawn. Then, sand down the edge to its perfect size.
4) Using a Router to Cut a Circle
Using a router, you can cut larger circles and come up with the most accurate circular cuts. With this tool, you will get the cleanest cut. However, you need to use a guide called a trammel when cutting a circle using the router.
You can buy a trammel from your nearest hardware or woodworking store. You will not need multiple trammels. You only need to buy a single trammel unless you want to cut various circles.
The wood router is one power tool that excels in cutting circles in wood. It can make intricate cuts and curves. Using the router, you can employ the routing technique you have learned to convert those simple curves into circles. You will need a portable wood router to accomplish a perfect circle in wood. Besides, you will need chalk or a pencil to mark the loop you will cut. You will also need a piece of wood to get the ideal diameter of the ring you will cut out of the wood.
The wood piece must be mounted onto the wood router’s face to guide you while cutting the circle. To keep the router in your cut line, you will need to rely heavily on the clock-like movement of the router.
It will be best to pin the other end of the board you’ve mounted on the router’s face while allowing the board to pivot around its center. However, if you have a steady and reliable hand, you can do away with the board and cut freehand the circle. You can guide your router along the cut line to cut a circle. However, the board-based guide is still the most recommended technique for cutting a circle in wood.
Additionally, you can use the router with a trammel to cut ovals and arcs. You can also devise your trammel from scrap wood. In this way, you will not need to spend money on a trammel.
5) Cutting a Circle with a Bandsaw
Aside from the abovementioned ways of cutting a circle, you can also use a bandsaw to cut a circle in wood. However, you should ensure at the onset that you set the bandsaw correctly. Since your cut will depend on accurate measurements, you need to measure well. Ensure that your blade tension, bearings, and guide blocks are on point to get precise circular cuts.
The bandsaw is another power tool for cutting circles in wood. The bandsaw is known for its versatility and ability to cut curves and shapes. Yet, you will need to get the hang of its use before you can start making those perfect circles. But once you’ve mastered using a bandsaw, making circles becomes a piece of cake.
Learning the easy way of cutting circles using the bandsaw entails learning how to pivot the workpiece from its fixed position. This way, you can carve a perfect circle on your workpiece, achieving the same length on every side.
When making a circle in a wood, you would often need to cut into the workpiece’s middle, which might be impossible to achieve sometimes using the bandsaw.
But to make a circle, you need to gently push the workpiece forward while rotating it into the blade. You completely cut the ring once the saw blade reaches the guide track’s end.
The bandsaw is excellent for cutting smooth curves because of its narrow blade. If you would cut nonsymmetrical shapes using the bandsaw, cutting freehand will do the trick.
Following the cutline of a perfect circle would be very daunting and difficult. The results, likewise, are not often perfect. However, you can use the circle-cutting jigs specialized for bandsaw too.
6) Cutting a Circle Using a Table Saw
You may think that the table saw is just for making straight cuts. Yet, you can also use it to cut perfect circles with a little patience. To use the table saw to cut a ring, you can outline your circle on the material. Determine the radius of the circle you would like to cut. Then, drill a hole.
Drill a hole on the saw’s side far away from the motor. Inspect underneath for any snag or obstruction. Then, drill a hole at the wood center, and push a bolt (1/4″) through the hole. Position the bolt’s end on the hole and then drill on the table.
Afterward, the wood should freely rotate around the bolt along the table saw. Before cutting, raise by 1/8″ the blade of the saw. Then, start cutting by rotating the wood and turning on the saw.
You can spin the wood using a push stick. Moreover, it will help raise the saw blade slightly after every pass until you finish cutting the circle.
How to Determine the Most Suitable Method for Cutting a Circle?
As a woodworker, you would surely want to end up with the best woodworks you can ever create because you know that your work mirrors your personality. Similarly, when your project requires you to create circles or circular holes in wood, you would want that circle or hole to be perfect. However, your choice of tools and methods will be dictated by the following factors:
Your budget will dictate the tools and the materials you will be using for your project. Of course, if you don’t have enough money to buy a router or a jigsaw, you will end up using your table saw. A router may cost several hundred dollars while a table saw would cost below a hundred dollars.
If you don’t have a money issue, you can always go for the best and most expensive router in the market today. You can also buy the best circle rig at hand. So, your budget at hand will surely be your primary limitation when purchasing the best woodworking tools.
Your Level of Expertise
Woodworking is one of those trades that require an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is the training of the new generation of workers or practitioners of the trade, and it requires on-the-job training.
A woodworker usually improves his level of expertise by apprenticeship. He undergoes training under the keen eye of an expert who willingly imparts his know-how to the apprentice. If you are not used to cutting circles using a table saw, you need to ask someone who knows it or check the DIY videos online to learn the steps.
Moreover, go for a tool you are most comfortable with to get the best result. Your level of expertise and the machines you use will also determine the quality of the circles or holes you can cut.
The Sizes and Number of Circles
Some methods are perfect for cutting small-sized circles and holes, while others are great for cutting larger circles. Thus, you should first determine the size of circles or holes you would like to create. Then, figure out the tools that are best suited for circular cuts of such size.
If you are cutting small circles, you won’t be needing a circle cutting jig to accomplish the task. The use of a hole saw would do. Thus, the circle’s size will also factor well in the determination of the tools and methods you will employ during the cutting process.
Cutting circles in a wood will not require elaborate woodworking math or computation. Of course, if you are cutting wooden circular figures for a NASA project, you need a rocket science measurement to do that. Yet, cutting circles and holes in wood for your woodworking projects does not require rocket science.
Nevertheless, when cutting circles in wood, it will still be useful to get the precise measurement before you cut. Double-check all your calculations and make the necessary test cuts before cutting the materials you have invested your money in.
It will also help if you choose the right tool and method for cutting circles. In this way, you can breeze through the cutting process with confidence, knowing that you would end up with excellent woodworking results.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.