A jigsaw is a staple of carpentry, one of the most useful tools out there. Among other things, it can be used to cut circles into or out of wood.
In this article, I will take you through two different techniques of doing so. The first method is going to be a very basic and quick one while the second one involves a bit more work.
That said, it also usually results in a much cleaner and smoother cut with a perfect circular shape.
How to Cut a Circle in Wood with a Jigsaw: A Step by Step Guide
Let’s take a closer, step-by-step look at the two methods.
Method 1: The Quick Way
This first method for cutting a circle into wood using a jigsaw is best if you need a very simple and quick way to do it. It doesn’t involve much measuring or crafting. It’s a simple trace and cut job.
Keep in mind that this method is best for more experienced carpenters, as it relies more on your own skill. You aren’t using a guide here.
Step 1: Measure the Circle
The first step is to take the piece of wood which you plan on cutting the circle into. Use measuring tools to place your circle in the appropriate location. Using a simple tool known as a compass, you can trace a perfect circle onto that piece of wood.
Step 2: Secure the Workpiece
You will have to secure the piece of wood being cut with the jigsaw to a horizontal vice, a workbench, or a work table.
Never cut anything with a jigsaw when the piece is not secured. This will help keep you safe during cutting, and it will help provide stability as well.
Step 3: Drill the Starter Hole
You will need to insert the jigsaw blade through the piece of wood being cut before you can begin sawing. Therefore, you will need to use your drill to cut a starter hole into the wood. This is where the jigsaw blade will be inserted.
If you are cutting a circle into a piece of wood, drill the starter hole to the inside of the outline you made with the compass, as this will help create a perfect circle on the inside of the outline.
However, if you are trying to cut a circle out of a piece of wood (for later use), drill the starter hole to the outside of the outline made with the compass.
Step 4: Cut the Circle
Now you can simply insert the blade of the jigsaw into the starter hole made by your drill, start the jigsaw, get it up to full speed, and then proceed to push it along the outline of the circle which you made with the compass in step 1.
Step 5: Sanding
Chances are that the circle will be a bit rough at the edges, seeing as jigsaws aren’t best for fine detail and precision work. To achieve smooth and flush edges, you can then use a piece of sandpaper or belt sander to even things out.
Method 2: The Precision Way
Whereas the first method I talked about is great for a quick circle cut, it is best used by more experienced carpenters, as it relies on your own skill and hand-eye coordination to get the job done.
This second method is my personal favorite, especially for beginners. It does involve more work, as you first need to build a jig to guide the jigsaw along the circular outline, but the cutting itself is much easier and more precise thanks to this guide.
Let me explain.
Step 1: Draw the Circle
The first step in this method is the same as with the quick cutting method.
Get the piece of wood you wish to cut a circle into and use a compass and other measuring tools to find the exact placement of the circle, and to draw a perfect outline.
Step 2: Create the Jig
Now it is time to create the jig or guide that you will be resting the jigsaw on, which will remove the need for you to follow the outline by hand. Using this guide, you just have to push the saw along while letting the jig determine the direction.
To build this jig, take a thin piece of rectangular plywood (something like a thin board) that is slightly longer than the diameter of your circle.
The diameter of the circle is how wide it is from one side to another. If your circle has a diameter of 15 inches, cut the piece of plywood to around 18 inches (It’s best to have a bit of extra space to work with).
Take this piece of plywood and lay it on the circle so that it covers the diameter. Take a pencil or other marking tool and measure the radius of the circle (half of the diameter – the radius of a circle is the measurement from the center to the outside). In other words, you are looking for the exact center of the circle.
Take your piece of plywood and mark it right in the center of the circle (the radius of your circle should match the length of the piece of plywood from the exact center to the outside).
With the center of the circle lined up with the middle point of the plywood, take a drill with a screw, and in this center dot, very lightly screw the plywood to the piece of wood being cut. Make sure that the middle of the circle is aligned with the halfway point in the plywood.
Now you should have your wood with the circular outline, and on top of this, you should have a rectangular piece of plywood lightly screwed onto the center which covers the diameter of the circle from one side to another.
This piece of plywood should be able to easily spin in a circle as it will guide your jigsaw along. In the next step, you will be placing the jigsaw on this guide.
3. Mount the Jigsaw on the Guide
The next step is to mount the jigsaw on that guide you just created. Here, you need to mark the exact point on the plywood which aligns with the outside/circumference of the circle. This is where the saw blade will cut to create that perfect circle.
Now you need to measure the base plate of the jigsaw, particularly the width and length. You will cut 3 small pieces of wood, you can use scrap wood, and glue them to the plywood guide around the jigsaw’s base plate.
You should now have a small 3 sided wall which surrounds the base plate of the jigsaw on both sides and at the front. This will help keep the jigsaw firmly in place as you push it along.
4. Drill the Starter Hole
Just like with the quick method, here you will also need to drill a starter hole. Take your drill and drill the starter hole both through the plywood guide and the piece of wood through which the circle is being cut.
Make sure to drill the starter hole in the exact location where you are making the cut. This starter hole needs to line up with the circumference of the circle.
Now you can insert the jigsaw into the guide, while ensuring that the blade passes through the starter hole, from the top of the plywood guide through the bottom of the piece being cut.
5. Make the Cut
Making the cut is very easy now, and it’s all thanks to the guide you built in the previous steps. You simply have to turn the jigsaw on, get it to full speed, and push it forward.
The circular guide will allow you to move the blade along the outline of the circle without you having to do the work yourself.
The guide will keep you on track.
Keep sawing until the cut has been completed.
Tips & Tricks for Better Cutting
Let me quickly tell you about some quick tips and tricks to make cutting a circle with a jigsaw easier for you.
- Always wear safety goggles to ensure that nothing flies into your eyes.
- Always make sure to secure the piece being cut to a workbench or worktable. It needs to be secure and immobile, both to make a clean cut and for your own safety.
- Ensure that you have the right type of blade for the specific type of wood in question. Different types of blades are designed for different types of wood.
- Although the second method I discussed involves more work, it will result in an easier and cleaner cut.
Cutting a circle in a piece of wood with a jigsaw can be done in two ways, both of which I have outlined here today.
Always remember to measure twice and cut once, always follow all safety precautions, and take your time. A jigsaw may not be the first choice for cutting a circle, but if you know what you are doing, it works fine.