How to Cut a Circle in Wood with a Router

How to Cut a Circle in Wood with a Router
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Routers are some very convenient tools in woodworking no doubt. They are often used in furniture and cabinet making and can be used to make things like bowls and anything else that has a space hollowed out inside of it.

Separately from that, while a router is not the top choice when it comes to cutting circles in wood, it is still doable with a bit of ingenuity. This guide will take you through the process.

That said, if you have a jigsaw, you might want to consider using that instead.

How to Cut a Circle in Wood with a Router: A Step-by-Step Guide

What is important to know here is that routers are not designed to cut large circles in and out of pieces of wood. They are designed to cut out small hollows and holes using a spinning head. The bits they use are generally quite small, which means that while they do a good job at hollowing and drilling, they aren’t ideal for significant cutting.

Because of that, to cut a large circle in wood using a router, you will first need to create a jig.

Step 1: Gathering the Materials

The first thing that you need to do before you get started is to gather the appropriate materials. Here is what you will need to build your circle cutting jig and to use it:

  • Wood router
  • Router bits
  • Sandpaper
  • Plywood
  • Wood blocks
  • Wood glue
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Compass

Wood Router

Step 2: Measuring and Drawing the Circle

The first thing you will need to do once you have your materials and tools ready is to measure the circle on whatever piece of wood you are planning to cut into. Make sure to use a compass or another appropriate tool to draw the circle.

Once you have figured out how large the circle being cut is, you can then move onto the following steps.

Step 3: Cutting a Piece of Plywood

The next thing that you need to do is to start building the circle cutting jig for the router. So, take your plywood and measure it out. Remember that this piece of plywood needs to be the same length as the radius of the circle being cut, a few inches more in fact.

This piece of plywood is going to guide the router around the circle. Therefore, it needs to be able to pivot in the center, with the router moving around the outside. As such, cut the piece of plywood so it matches the length from the center of the circle to the circumference.

The bit of the router needs to be able to move around the circumference of the circle. Remember that the bit is located in the center of the router. So, to build this jig, you’ll need to accommodate for the extra few inches from the center of the router to the outside of the router’s base plate.

Now, on one end of the plywood, cut out a circle that is the same size as the base plate of the router.

This will be the end that you attach to the base plate. What you should be left with here is a piece of plywood that looks like a large and flat spoon, with one end consisting of a circle that will be attached under the router, and the other end being long and square, the end that you will attach to the center of the circle being cut.

Step 4: Attaching the Jig to the Base Plate

Once you have the jig ready, attach the router to it.

To do so, first, you need to route a hole out in the center of the circle made on the jig. This is where the bit will pass through to cut the circle. You will also need to drill 3 to 4 holes that match the outer holes in the base plate of the router. Now, take screws and screw the jig into the base plate of the router.

Step 5: Drill the Pivot Hole

Next, in the long and square end of the plywood, you will drill the pivot hole.

This is where you will attach the jig to the piece of wood being cut. The pivot hole needs to be placed in the plywood in the place that will be right over the center of the circle on the workpiece. In other words, it needs to be the same distance from the router bit as your desired radius of the circle.

Now that you have made the pivot hole, take a nail and lightly nail it through and into the center of the circle on the workpiece.

With that, your circle cutting jig has been made and you can get to cutting your circle with the router.

Step 6: Make the Cut

With the router and jig in place, all you have left to do is cut. To do so, simply start the router and push it along the circle.

Tips on Router Safety

Finally, below are a few safety tips to keep in mind before you get started on your project. If you are new to using the tool, make sure to also read my beginner’s guide to using a wood router.

  • Never wear long- and loose-sleeved clothing when working with power tools. If you do wear a long-sleeved shirt, ensure that the sleeves are tight to your skin.
  • If you have long hair, always tie it back to ensure that your hair cannot get caught in any moving parts.
  • As is the case with all tools and woodworking projects, always wear safety goggles to ensure that your eyes are safe at all times.
  • Never let go of the router when it is still running. Always make sure that the router comes to a full stop before you let go of it, or else injuries may occur.
  • Always secure your piece to a table or bench to ensure that it is stable while making the cut.


As you can see, while the router is not the number one power tool for cutting circles in wood, it is doable.

You first need to make a special circle cutting jig. While that takes a bit of work, if done right, it is going to make the rest of the job easy.