Welcome to geometry class, readers. The reviews today will cover the best tools available to cut circles in wood. As we all know, circles are a fundamental element of geometry. Therefore, there may also be talk of angles, tangents, and other of your favorite geometric topics. Whoa, just kidding! No geometry unless necessary.
One of the most challenging woodworking tasks is cutting perfect circles in your stock. We are referring to circles larger than those you can cut with a hole saw or adjustable cutter bits for drill presses. Those options max out around 7” or so. Perhaps you have a round sink to mount or need a second seat in the outdoor privy. Or you need a hole for the observation bubble on your replica Millennium Falcon.
We strive to give you, our readers, insight into the best tools and methods to get things done (GTD for those with project management experience). That is precisely what is going to happen here. We’ll look at tools to take the pain out of cutting precise circles. Let’s get moving!
|Rank||Model||Our Favorite Product|
|#1||A Circle Cutting Jig|
(Our Favorite and #1 Pick)
| Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig
|#2||A Plunge Router||Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
|#3||A Dremel Plunge Base Attachment||Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment
|#4||A Jigsaw||BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jigsaw:
|#5||A Jigsaw and Quality Circle Cutting Jig||Festool 490118 Circle Cutter Attachment for PS 300 And PSB 300 Jigsaws
As we mentioned, we are going to look at tools capable of holes far larger than standard drill bits and hole saws can cut. We are also going to focus on tools that provide a perfect circle, or close to it. If you can live with a circle that looks more like the flat tire on your quad, that is a topic for another day. Think chain and reciprocating saws.
We are not fans of attempting this task with hand tools. Let’s say previous the results of efforts have not had much in common with a circle. To save you such misery, we go right to the best method, a circle cutting jig for a router. This fantastic combination of circle-cutting splendor takes all the guesswork out of the process.
All you do is secure the pivot point of the jig at the center of your hole. Then, you slide your router out to the proper radius length, you know, half the circle’s diameter? Oh, that was geometry. Sorry. Moving on, you set your router at the point where the radius touches the circle’s circumference. D’oh, did it again. Never mind, the jig comes with instructions. Follow those, fire up your router, and make lovely circles. We recommend making several passes, lowering the router bit a little more each time.
We recommend the Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig:
Should your shop not have a router, we recommend a plunge router, especially for this task. Set your cutting depth, turn it on, push the tool down, and move the jig. If you are working in the Northern Hemisphere, we suggest a clockwise cutting direction. Counterclockwise if you live in the southern half of our planet. Again, just kidding. It doesn’t make a difference.
Why a plunge router? If you don’t have one, it is an excellent tool to buy first. Most can be locked to act like a fixed router. With a jig, the plunge router will be easy to control making it a better choice.
We recommend the Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit:
For those readers with a Dremel in their tool loadout, the question might be, “Can I use my Dremel for this task?” The answer is yes, the Dremel can be used to cut circles. You need a plunge base attachment to set it up correctly. And, you will still need the jig.
Note: Be sure the Dremel attachment fits the Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig. The Dremel jig only cuts circles 12” in diameter.
Fortunately, the attachment we recommend appears to fit just about every Dremel rotary tool model ever made, from 275 to 8220. However, to be on the safe side, check the list to make sure your model is compatible. Set up and operation is like a plunge router, secure the Dremel in the attachment, set your depth, and go!
We recommend the Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment:
Jigsaws are a standard tool, and if you have one, they can be used to cut nice clean circles. The only problem we ran into with our research was most jigsaw circle cutting jigs were manufacturer specific or of poor quality. The good news is that the internet is chock full of videos and step-by-step guides for making your own jig. Some are MacGyver style, some dead simple, and others were sophisticated works of the woodworking art. Are you a DIYer or not?
If you have a jigsaw, you are set. If you don’t, there is no better time to get one than when a project needs a tool you do not have.
We recommend the BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jigsaw:
We suspect most of you are familiar with the excellent tools turned out by Festool. They have an excellent reputation for quality and innovation. They also are some of the more expensive tools on the market. But, if you can swing it and want a jig and jigsaw that are designed to work together, Festool has what the DIY doctor ordered.
Expect well built, rugged, fully featured tools designed to provide precision cuts for many years. The jigsaw also features a dust extraction system that is rumored to work.
We recommend the Festool 490118 Circle Cutter Attachment for PS 300 And PSB 300 Jigsaws:
For the jigsaw, we recommend the Festool 561443 PS 300 EQ Jigsaw:
When setting out to get the tools needed to cut your ideal circle, you should focus on a jig that will eliminate the chances of the tool wandering off the circle path. The jig takes all the guesswork out of it. Make a couple of measurements, position your tool, set depth (if necessary), and get cutting. You want to buy one that is of good quality with as little play as possible.
How about the cutting tool itself? Routers are the preferred tool for this task. When looking for a router, don’t skimp on the horsepower. You want at least 1.25 HP to prevent the tool from bogging down, especially in harder wood. This is the limiting factor for the Dremel. They may not have the power to do the job without burning out.
Bit selection is also important. Few routers come with bits these days., When they do, the quality can be suspect. They are usually suitable for use in junk wood and provide you with practice without killing an expensive bit. For this job, we recommend straight bits ¼ to 3/8 inches wide. Going with a thinner bit reduces the workload of the tool.
This brings us to the end of our circle cutting tool reviews. We feel the Rockler jig paired with a plunge router is the best way to cut perfect circles in wood without a lot of frustration. DIY work is supposed to be satisfying and relaxing, so eliminate chances of frustration with our top pick combination, the Rockler jig and the Makita router.