In ‘Cut Perfect Circles in Wood’ I’ll show you six different ways to cut perfect circles of any size out of wood. Using a range of tools like a table saw, band saw, jig saw, router and even CNC, I’ll show you all the options for your budget and desired outcome.
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Miter Saw Station
In this 40 page detailed plan I’ll show you how to build my miter saw station.
|Materials & Supplies*||Tools*|
|1/4″ Plywood (for trammels)||Table Saw|
|3/4″ Plywood (for sleds)||Band Saw|
|1/4″ dowel (for pivot pin)||Jig Saw|
|Fast Setting Wood Glue||Flush Trim Router Bit|
|Spectape Two Sided Tape||Trim Router Plunge Base|
|Cordless Trim Router|
*I use affiliate links, please see details on my disclaimer.
Cut Perfect Circles in Wood
There are a lot of different options for cutting circles in wood and there are a lot of different needs to consider. Am I making a 12″ cutting board or a 4′ table top? Can I have a hole in my work piece or not? What tools/budget is available to me? I’m going to give you the widest possible range of woodworking tools you can use to cut perfect circles in wood!
Cut Perfect Circles at the Table Saw
Alright, so the first method I’m going to try is using the table saw and I’ve never actually done this one before so I need to make the jig first.
To start, I made a runner out of hardwood to ride in the miter slot.
Then I’ll cover that with 2-sided tape which will help me position the runner on the jig.
I also need to add some washers under the runner so that it sits proud of the surface of the saw otherwise that tape won’t be able to do its job.
Then, I can drop a scrap of plywood onto the tape and press.
Now, I can lift the jig off the saw and the runner comes with it.
After that, I can drill some pilot holes into the jig and secure the runner.
Once that’s done, I can run the jig across the blade to remove the excess and we are ready to go.
To cut a circle on this jig I need to set the distance from the blade for the pivot point. Basically, however big you want your circle to be, divide that by two and that’s where you mark.
I drilled a quarter inch hole into the jig.
Then, inserted a ¼” dowel.
Now I need to find the center of my work piece and to do that I mark with a straight edge from corner to corner and where those lines meet is my center.
I then drill a ¼” hole there about half way through the bottom side of my work piece. This method assumes the bottom of the piece wont be visible, like the bottom side of a table.
Now I can drop my work piece onto the pin and check that it’s nice and spinny spinny.
Cutting with the Table Saw Jig
OK, so the way this method works is I need to cut the corners one by one.
And after, I cut the big corners, I move on to each new corner, cutting them off as they get smaller and smaller.
It pretty cool seeing the circle begin to take form and at this point I can finish it off.
I position the work piece right at the cutting edge of the blade and spin it until it is perfectly round. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with how that worked!
Cut Perfect Circles at the Bandsaw
OK, moving right along the next method for cutting circles is actually my favorite, and it’s done with a jig on the band saw.
This is my jig and just like the table saw jig it has a runner and holes a different distances from the blade and a pivot pin.
The jig goes right to the edge of the blade as well.
Once again I made a hole in the center of my work piece and dropped it onto the pivot pin of the jig.
Now, here’s where this method differs from the table saw.
With one, smooth, nearly effortless motion I can spin the work piece and create my circle.
Of all the method for cutting circles that I found, I don’t think any of them beat the band saw for speed and effort.
The one downside to this method is that a bandsaw blade leaves a pretty rough edge.
Cutting a Circle Without Needing a Hole
One question you may have is what do I do if I cant put a hole in my work piece, well here’s the solve for that.
I created a circle with the pivot hole all the way through it.
Then, I use two sided tape to stick the circle to my work piece.
The hole in the circle lines up with the center of the X I made on the work piece. I can then drop that onto the pivot pin of my jig.
Two-sided tape holds really well and this method requires so little effort.
This is a great option if your making cutting boards or other items where you don’t want a hole in your work.
Cut Perfect Circles with a Router
Method number three, which is probably the most well known way to cut circles, is using a router and a trammel.
To make a trammel I just cut a strip of ¼” Baltic birch ply at the table saw.
I then use my router base plate to mark the position of the router at one end of the ply.
On the other end I make a smaller circle using a can.
Next, I draw two lines from the edge of the little circle to the edge of the big circle.
I can then cut this out at the band saw staying just outside my lines.
This doesn’t have to be perfect, just close. Then I can sand back to my lines and smooth out the curves.
Once that’s done I can use the base plate again to mark the center hole and the screw placements.
I used a forstner bit to drill out the center and then drilled the screw holes.
Make sure to countersink these holes so the screws sit below the surface of the jig and don’t interfere with its operation.
And last I drilled a series of ¼” holes down the center of the jig at ½” intervals.
Now I can fasten the trammel to my router and I’m all set.
I went ahead and made a trammel for my small router as well.
Cutting with The Router Trammel
Now, I can drop the trammel onto my pivot pin like so and plunge ¼” into my work piece.
I just spin the trammel and make the cut before I plunge deeper and continue cutting.
At this point I could continue plunging and cutting until I make it all the way through. That can be a bit dangerous though if your work isn’t supported well enough and it can leave chip out on the edge.
What I like to do is finish the cut with a jig saw, following the path of the trench and staying away from the work piece as much as possible.
This will leave me with a bit of waste at the bottom to deal with. But I also have a nice smooth edge to act as a template for the rest of the cut.
To clear the remaining waste I’ll use a flush trim bit.
The bearing of the bit will ride along the smooth edge and flush up the waste.
The end result is a perfectly smooth round circle.
OK, here’s my take on this method.
The pros are that you can pretty much make any size circle you need, provided your trammel is big enough. The trammel on my large router can make up to a 4 foot circle. I can’t imagine needing to make anything bigger than that, but I could if I wanted to.
This method also leaves a pretty clean edge that won’t require as much sanding.
The cons of this method are that you pretty much have to have a hole in your work piece. Another con is that this method is tedious. Depending on how thick your work piece is, you will spend a lot of time plunging and cutting in multiple passes. And finally, maybe the biggest con, depending on your viewpoint is that this method is by far the messiest. I made one heck of a mess cutting out this table top and it may take me just as much time to clean this up as it did to cut out the circle.
Cut Perfect Circles with a Jigsaw
So, what do you do if you don’t have a router? Well, do you have a jig saw? Method number four is probably the most cost effective way to cut your circles and to do it I made another trammel.
The only difference between this and the router trammel is that the business end is shaped for a jig saw base.
But since you can’t screw it to the bottom like you can on a router, I needed to make a place for the jig saw to sit in and I just used some scraps of ply to do it.
I glued these little strips to the trammel, making sure everything was nice and square and that the jigsaw fit snugly inside.
if you have any play, you won’t get a perfectly round circle.
I then went back and fastened them with screws just to make sure they never came apart in the middle of a cut.
I marked reference lines to show where the inside edge of the jigsaw blade lines up.
You can see this trammel has a center hole for the blade and pivot points that line up with that hole.
Cutting with a Jigsaw Trammel
It’s best if you size your work piece to the dimension of your finished circle that way you can drop the jigsaw in and begin cutting.
But if your workpiece is larger than the final circle will be, you’ll have to drill a pilot hole for the blade to have clearance to begin the cut
Just like that I’ve got another circle.
Cut Perfect Circles with Another Circle
OK, what if you already have something that’s round, maybe a cutting board or a table top and you need to duplicate it? Method number five is cutting a circle using a template and router.
So this one is probably the easiest method because you already have something to reference. Let’s pretend like this circle is say, a bar stool. I’m going to add some two-sided tape to it and stick it firmly on to my work piece.
There, that’ll do nicely.
Next I’m going to cut away most of the waste using a band saw or a jig saw, whatever you have will work here, just remove the waste leaving between 1/8 to ¼ inch of waste around the template.
Then using a flush trim bit, just like I did earlier the bearing rides along the template and trims the work piece flush.
And just like that I have an exact copy of my original.
Cut Perfect Circles with CNC
And finally, that brings us to method number six, which cutting a circle on the CNC. Yeah, I get it, it’s expensive and it’s a robot and its “not real woodworking”, but CNC is becoming more and more commonplace in this age of digital fabrication and it deserves to be on the list.
And, for good reason because if you can get past the expense and the learning curve, it has all the pros. You can use two sided tape or hold downs, so no hole is needed.
It’s the safest to operate because the machine does the cutting for you.
It leaves super clean edges. With dust collection it’s not very messy at all and you can create circles with diameters exact down to the thousandth of an inch.
The only limitation to the size of circles you can cut is the size of your CNC.