If you have much experience with woodworking, then you know the challenge presented by the prospect of cutting a perfect circle from a piece of wood. Though this job appears simple on the surface, many woodworkers find themselves cutting oblong ovals if they don’t carefully plan out and execute a tried-and-true wood circle cutting technique.
These techniques, as it turns out, take a lot of the guesswork out of making these uniquely curved cuts. In fact, using these techniques can help you reliably create wood circles of the same size without needing to start from scratch each time. But these techniques aren’t as intuitive as you might think, so it’s worth your time to learn about them before making your first cut.
5 Best Techniques for Cutting Circles in Wood
This guide will take you through five such techniques. Each of these is based around a particular power tool, such as a band saw or a router. As such, you should be able to find a way you can utilize regardless of what tools you have available in your shop.
If you don’t find a technique you like below, you can also try cutting circles in wood using a jigsaw.
Using a Hole Saw
The first, and perhaps the most obvious, method for cutting holes out of a woodwork piece is to utilize a hole saw. These saws that are attached to drills operate just as their name suggests, which is to say, by lowering a rounded blade head and cutting out reliably perfect discs of wood.
This process is reminiscent of a cookie-cutter action and can allow you to achieve a comparable level of replication for circles from as small as 3/4-inch to up to 7 inches across.
Admittedly, most woodworkers do not have a hole saw available to them. However, if you can obtain access to one, you’ll find them very easy to use for this purpose.
Specifically, you’ll want to place a backing board behind your targeted workpiece to prevent a blowout. Also, while following the operational instructions for that particular saw, you’ll want to lower its spinning head slowly onto the target work piece’s surface. This will allow for a cleaner cut that is free of undesirable burns.
Using a Bandsaw
Many woodworkers have a bandsaw available to them, so they are considered one of the best suited for the job of cutting wood circles. In practice, this technique is not exceptionally difficult. That being said, it does require some setup and careful planning in order to execute properly and safely.
At its core, this technique requires you to create a jig-like work surface upon which you can create your wood circle without needing to constantly readjust the angle of its exterior curve. This jig can be made from any kind of scrap or plywood, so long as it is large enough to be secured to your band saw’s worktable.
Besides that, this technique does require you to drill a hole through your wood and affix them together loosely and non-permanently. So, you’ll likely want a drill, compass, pencil, and a bolt/nut combo on hand before proceeding.
Be aware that the set up for this method can take a little extra time, though. So, if you are in a hurry, you might consider opting for a different method.
Using a Table Saw
However, you may immediately recognize the added challenge of using a tool that is optimized only for cutting straight lines. In particular, this technique takes that challenge into account and translates it into a workable method for cutting curves into your numerous workpieces.
Like several other circle-cutting methods, this technique requires you to sketch out your intended circle before making your cuts. To do that, you’ll need some chalk or a pencil as well as a compass. This will allow you to see the intended exterior of your final circle while you are cutting it down to size from a square.
To that end, this method will require you to continuously cut the corners off of a sided polygon until you have a nearly rounded slice of wood. Once it has been ground down to that point, the multi-sided wood disc can be rounded off using the same table saw or using a sander.
Either way, this method is fairly efficient and reliable, despite the challenge associated with not being able to make explicit curves while cutting.
Using a Disc Sander
I’ll admit, using a disc sander to cut a wood circle might sound like more trouble than it is worth. But believe it or not, lots of experienced woodworkers use this technique to achieve a reliable smooth curve on their wood circles.
With a bit of practice and the aid of a jig, you, too, can utilize your disc sander to accomplish this otherwise challenging task.
That being said, this method does require a bit of practice to get right. That’s because this technique’s jig must be aligned precisely such that a rotating workpiece (that is, the lumber you wish to turn into a circle) makes just enough contact with the sander’s face. Too much contact will cause burning, while too little will cause the process to take an extra-long time. So, it may take you some time to find the right balance here.
However, this method doesn’t require extra set up once you find the right spot for contacting your workpiece with the sander’s face. To that end, this method can be used to make several wood circles right in a row by simply adding successive workpieces onto the rotating jig. Each of these circles will also come out with a very smooth edge, which saves you time when it comes to finishing that same disc later on.
Using a Router
Finally, we come to the router, which might feel like the natural pick for cutting wood circles.
After all, wood routers excel when it comes to making intricate cuts, including those that involve curves. With that in mind, you’ll be able to use the router technique to turn those curves into a continuous rounded shape.
Naturally, this method will require you to have a portable wood router available to you. You’ll also need a pencil or chalk, as well as a piece of wood that is cut to the diameter length of your desired circle. This piece of wood must also be wide enough to mount onto the face of your wood router such that it will serve as a guide while you work the router in a circular pattern.
You’ll also find that this method relies on a “clock-like” motion in order to keep the circle in question even.
To that end, the board mounted to the face of your router should also be pinned down at its center such that it is secure, but still able to pivot. You may also be able to free-hand your circle with your router but using the board-based guide is still recommended.
For a detailed explanation of this method, read this article.
Which Technique for Cutting Circles in Wood Should You Choose?
As you can see, there are a variety of methods you can choose from when it comes to cutting circles out of wood. However, not every method is suitable to all occasions.
For example, a hobbyist woodworker may choose to utilize the bandsaw or table saw method given that these tools are readily available in most woodshop set-ups. By the same token, though, a woodworker with considerable experience can easily use the router technique to cut an even circle without needing to perform much preparation work.
Also, if you are planning on only cutting small circles, utilizing the hole saw method will allow you to cut those discs in a time-efficient manner. Along the same lines, woodworkers who are cutting circles from thick pieces of lumber may come to rely on the table saw method because of a table saw’s capacity to slice through dense workpieces.
All things considered, cutting circles out of wood is not the easiest woodworking task available.
But for many projects, the creation of wood discs is very necessary. So, it is worth it to you to try out each of the techniques described above (if you have the appropriate power tools, that is).
If you do, you’ll find yourself better able to take on this challenging task with the confidence and skills needed to succeed.