Best Way to Cut Circles in Wood – Which Tool to Use? – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

circle cutting on wood

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!

Comparison of our Favorite Picks for 2019

RankModelOur Favorite Product
#1A Circle Cutting Jig
Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig(Our Favorite and #1 Pick)
Rockler Circle Cutting Router Jig

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#2A Plunge Router
Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit

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#3A Dremel Plunge Base Attachment
Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment
Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment

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#4A Jigsaw
BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jigsaw
BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jigsaw:

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#5A Jigsaw and Quality Circle Cutting Jig
Festool 490118 Circle Cutter Attachment for PS 300 And PSB 300 Jigsaws
Festool 490118 Circle Cutter Attachment for PS 300 And PSB 300 Jigsaws

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The 5 Best Tools for Cutting Wood Circles

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.

1. Circle Cutting Jig – Our Favorite and #1 Pick

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:

CIRCLE CUTTING ROUTER JIG
44 Customer Reviews
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
Pros
  • Top quality
  • Cut circles 10 – 52” in diameter
  • Adapts to nearly any router
Cons
  • Wooden construction can be damaged

2. Plunge Router – Our Recommended Companion to the 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:

Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
510 Customer Reviews
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
Pros
  • Makita quality
  • Powerful 1.25 hp motor
  • Plunge base converts it to plunge router
Cons
  • Router bits extra

3. Dremel Plunge Base Attachment – Our Third-Place finisher

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:

Sale
Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment
586 Customer Reviews
Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment
  • Fits model 275, 285, 395, 398; 100, 200, 300 and 400 Series; 3000, 4000, 4200, 8200 and 8220
  • Quickly converts rotary tool to plunge router; plunge lock-in handle; 2 depth stops for rapid depth...
  • Plastic and metal construction
Pros
  • Very affordable
  • Makes use of your existing tool
  • Clear base provide excellent work area visibility
Cons
  • May not be powerful enough for harder stock

4. A Jigsaw – Fourth Choice

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:

BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jig Saw,...
882 Customer Reviews
BLACK+DECKER BDEJS600C Smart Select Jig Saw,...
  • 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
Pros
  • Curve Control adjusts orbit to your material
  • Tool-less blade changes
  • Dust blower keeps cutting line visible
Cons
  • Bare tool – no accessories

5. A Jigsaw and Quality Circle Cutting Jig – When Money is Not an Issue

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:

Festool 490118 Circle Cutter Attachment For PS 300...
9 Customer Reviews
Festool 490118 Circle Cutter Attachment For PS 300...
  • Cut precise circles ranging in diameter from 4 23/32 inches to 28 11/32 inches (120 - 720 mm)
  • For use with both the Festool PS 300 and PSB Jigsaws
  • Toolless attachment to Festool Jigsaws for fast and efficient setup
Pros
  • Solid, quality build
  • Designed to work with the jigsaw
  • Easy adjustment
Cons
  • A maximum diameter of 28-11/32 inches

For the jigsaw, we recommend the Festool 561443 PS 300 EQ Jigsaw:

Festool 561443 PS 300 EQ Jigsaw
36 Customer Reviews
Festool 561443 PS 300 EQ Jigsaw
  • Carbide guidance system keeps the blade perpendicular to the shoe for improved cut results, even in...
  • Zero clearance splinterguard are solid one-piece inserts that are cut with the blade mounted in the...
  • Dust extraction channels integrated in the base plate coupled with a clear chip deflector a rear...
Pros
  • Festool quality
  • Tool-less blade changes
  • Carbide blade guide for greater precision
Cons
  • Expensive

Buyer’s Guide

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.

Conclusion

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.

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