Best Way to Cut Circles in Wood – Which Tool to Use? – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Cutting wood accurately is typically pretty easy. Need to cut a specific size piece of wood? Easy: measure and saw away. Even cutting some more intricate shapes, like triangles, can be done with a simple ruler and a pencil. However, there is one shape that stands above all in difficulty – the circle.
Luckily, circles are not used for many projects. In most cases, you’re going to be working with straight lines. However, when circles are called for, it is essential that you get them right. This requires falling back on some tried-and-true techniques and breaking out special tools.
In this article, we’ll strive to provide you with the easiest and most accurate way to cut circles out of wood, including the best tools you need for the job. Whether you need a top for your handcrafted table or various sized circles for the giant bubble art mural you’re making, this guide will help you master the techniques you need and select the perfect tools for the job.
Comparison of Our Favorite Picks for 2020
|Best Overall||Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig||
|Best for Small Circles||HYCHIKA Hole Saw Set||
|TACKLIFE Belt Sander||
Truthfully, there are probably dozens and dozens of ways to cut a circle. But some techniques are significantly more straightforward than others. We’ll take a look at seven of the techniques we consider to be the best. These are the easiest ways to cut a perfect circle without spending a bunch of money.
1. Circle Cutting Jig – Best Overall
Circle cutting jigs were made to cut circles out of wood. That’s their only purpose, and they do it quite well. These machines take all the guesswork out of the process and ensure that you get a near-perfect circle every time. If you want to jump right into your project without much trial-and-error, this is the tool to go to.
Of course, because they are only used to cut circles, they probably aren’t going to be used much. Unless you specialize in crafting round furniture, you’ll likely only pull this tool out occasionally. Because of this, it can seem like an unnecessary splurge, especially if you’re on a budget. Still, we stand by this method as being the most straightforward option out there.
Most of these jigs even come with instructions. All you have to do is give them a quick read, and you’ll be prepared to make perfect circles in only a matter of moments. The process is usually straightforward. You secure the pivot point to the position you want to be the center of your circle. Slide the router out to your desired radius length, and you’ll be ready to go. Simple. Easy. Straightforward.
For this method, we recommend the Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig
- Cut circles from 10" to 52" in diameter
- Tough, long-lasting phenolic core
- Includes mounting hardware to fit a variety of routers
2. Plunge Router
Plunge routers are pretty straightforward tools. They cut directly underneath themselves, which makes them perfect for cutting out circles. If you already have one of these, you may attempt to cut out a circle by hand. This is possible, theoretically, but you’ll likely need to be a magician to cut out a perfect circle using just a plunge router. (Sometimes you do not necessarily need a perfect circle though, in which case just going at it with a router may be plenty accurate.)
In most cases, we recommend using one of these routers alongside a circle cutting jig. This is a natural, uncomplicated way to ensure that your circle is as accurate as possible. It requires minimal measuring and no complicated math. All you need to know is the radius of your circle, and you’re good to go.
If you decide to purchase one of these tools, we recommend the Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
- Variable speed control dial (10,000 to 30,000 RPM) enables user to match the speed to the...
- Smooth rack and pinion fine depth adjustment system for more precise settings
- Slim and ergonomically designed body for increased comfort and control
3. Hole Saw – Best for Small Circles
Plunge routers and circle jigs are great for larger circles. But they really won’t work for smaller circles. If you need to cut out very tiny circles for your project, the easiest thing to do is to purchase a hole saw. These are straightforward tools that are explicitly designed to cut circles. They’re exceedingly accurate and require zero set up, measurements, or math.
Cutting with one of these tools is very easy as well. You need a backer board to prevent blowout, but that’s it. Most of these saws are pretty thick, so they should be able to cut through most woods without any issue. If you need to double the cutting depth, you can flip the wood over after you begin sawing and saw through the other side as well. The pilot hole will help you stay in line and produce that perfect circle.
Take it slowly with these saws, as they aren’t the most powerful thing in the world. Give the teeth time to eat through the wood to reduce the number of burns.
We recommend the HYCHIKA Hole Saw Set
- 【19PC ACCESSORIES】: 13 hole saws with the size of 3/4" (19mm), 7/8" (22mm), 1-1/8" (28mm),...
- 【HIGH-QUALITY AND PRECISE】: Made of premium heat treated carbon steel, rust-proof and...
- 【MULTI-PURPOSE USE】: Suitable for soft wood, plywood, thin PVC board, plastic, plasterboard but...
4. Belt Sander
For some types of wood, a belt sander can help you make a decently small circle. There are a few ways you can do this. The easiest way is simple to measure out and draw your circle onto your workpiece, and then use the sander to get the shape you want. The circle likely won’t be perfect, but it should be close enough.
As you might imagine, you’ll need to go very slow to cut out a circle properly. Also, this method doesn’t necessarily work for large circles, since you’ll need to quickly turn and tilt the workpiece against the sander belt.
If you need a single circle and don’t see yourself cutting any more circles any time soon, this method may be all that you need. Belt sanders are used for a variety of different tasks, and you may even already have one.
For those who need a specific recommendation, we recommend purchasing the TACKLIFE Belt Sander
- 🏡【2 In 1: Bench & Belt Sander】 Provided with two metal screw clamps, TACKLIFE belt sander can...
- 🏡【13Pcs Sanding Belts】 Come with 6pcs 120 grits and 7pcs 80 grits aluminum oxide sanding...
- 🏡【Power & Variable-Speed Design】5 Amp motor offers great power to the sanding surface,...
5. Band Saw
Band saws are well known for their ability to cut out many different kinds of shapes, including circles. However, this takes quite a bit of experience. Not everyone can easily hand cut out a circle with a band saw. But, if you’ve been using a band saw for years, you may be able to do it after some trial and error.
The easiest way to do this is to figure out a way to pivot your workpiece from a fixed position. This would cause the workpiece to an almost complete circle since it would be cut to the same length on each side. Some people do this using a piece of plywood and a nail. Others figure out their method. Nearly everything you do is going to require cutting into the middle of your workpiece, though, which may or may not be possible depending on your project.
We do not recommend going out and buying a band saw just to cut circles. They are expensive, and this method is far from fool-proof. It also assumes that you already have some experience with a band saw. However, if you already have a band saw sitting in your workshop, you might want to give this method a try before purchasing a new tool for the job.
If you decide to purchase a band saw, we recommend picking up the WEN 3962.
- 3.5 amp motor creates cuts up to six inches deep and 9-3/4 inches wide
- Uses 72-inch blades anywhere from 1/8 to 1/2 inches in size
- Spacious 14-1/8 x 12-1/2 inch work table bevels up to 45 degrees
6. Table Saw
A table saw is probably not what you were thinking of when you first started reading this list. But a table saw can produce pretty awesome circles when it is done correctly.
This is a longer process, but it can be useful for those who already own a table saw. Firstly, you’re going to want to get your circle somewhat circular. Just cut off the corners until you have something that is vaguely the size that you want. Next, you’re going to get another piece of wood and set up the pivot point for your workpiece. For this, you’ll need to measure out the radius from one side. Your workpiece will turn around this pivot point, getting cut to precisely the correct radius on each side.
You will have to nail through your workpiece for this to work, or at least cut off a notch on one side for the workpiece to sit on. This may make this method unusable for specific projects since holes right in the middle of your workpiece aren’t always aesthetically pleasing or functional. This is one of the significant reasons we rated this method much lower than the others.
For those who want to purchase a table saw, we recommend the TACKLIFE Table Saw.
- 【Powerful Efficient Motor】 The TACKLIFE table saw features a 15.0A high torque Motor with the...
- 【Aluminum Extension Table】 25 -1/3'' x 28 -1/3'' aluminum table extends to 25 -1/3'' x 36 -...
- 【45 ° Bevel Cut】 0 ° to 45 ° bevel range allows you to make bevel cuts. Height and tilt can...
Jigsaws are very common. If you’re reading this article, you probably have one. Even if you don’t, they’re decently inexpensive, so they won’t put you out much money if you decide to purchase one. Furthermore, they can be used for a wide variety of projects, so you will probably get your money’s worth.
There are many ways you can cut a circle with a jigsaw. You can attempt to do it by hand, though this probably won’t get you a perfect circle. If you’ve used a jigsaw extensively, you may be able to get away with just doing it by hand. However, most people are going to need some DIY set up to cut something that looks vaguely like a circle.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to do this. Some are easy, and some are significantly more complicated. None are quite as suitable as the other ways we have mentioned in this article. But, if you’re on a budget or already have a jigsaw, this is still a valid way to make a circle.
We recommend the BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jigsaw
- Curve Control technology which allows you to adjust the saw's orbit in 1 of 4 customized settings
- 5 Amp variable-speed motor; up to 3,000 SPM of cutting power
- Can make 45 degree bevel cuts; with adjustable shoe for stability
As you can see, there are many methods you could choose to cut out a perfect circle. Many of these are valid ways to make circles. However, choosing exactly which method to use can be difficult, which is why we wrote this quick buyer’s guide. In this section, we’ll review some of the factors you should consider when choosing a method to use.
Most of these methods cost a little bit of money. You can save money by using tools you already have lying around. If you already have a jigsaw, you might as well use the jigsaw instead of purchasing another tool. This is especially true if you’re on a budget.
If money is not a problem at all, we recommend buying the circle rig we mentioned as the first option. This is the easiest way to make decently sized circles. It will cost you a bit of money to purchase the rig and the router if you don’t have one. But this is by far the easiest and best option.
Some people are going to be able to hand cut circles with a jigsaw. Most aren’t going to be able to. If you’ve never used a table saw before, you probably should not try to use one to cut a circle. Use the machine you’re most experienced with, and you’ll get the best results.
If you have little experience in any of these machines, we recommend purchasing the circle jig we mentioned as the first method. This is easy to use with practically no experience, which is one reason why we rated it so high.
The Circle Size
Most of these methods are only suitable for cutting circles that are of a particular size. If you need a small circle, you don’t want to use a circle cutting jig. Instead, you probably want a hole saw, which is specifically designed to cut perfect circles.
The method you choose will rely on the size circle you’re going to cut.
There are multitudes of methods and tools out there to help you cut circles out of wood. Some are better than others, as you have seen in this article. We hope we helped guide you in choosing the correct method for your situation.
In general, we recommend using a circle cutting jig for larger circles. This method is simple and great for those of all experience levels. It will create a perfect circle every time if you do it correctly. If you need to make smaller circles, you should invest in a hole saw. That’s precisely what they are for. They also aren’t inexpensive.