Cutting Circles in Wood — 11 Methods Using Different Tools

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If you intend to work on different woodworking projects, one of the techniques you must learn is cutting circles in wood materials. However, making a perfect circle isn’t easy and could result in disaster when not executed properly. 

Rather than relying on luck, let our woodworking experts discuss the different ways to cut circles with tips and tricks to ease your hands-on experience. 

Method #1: Using a Table Saw

You may not know, but table saws can cut circles well. Most woodworkers opt for the table saw method because this power tool can handle thick wood materials. It’s also safer than other power tools, making it suitable for newbie users. 

cutting circle with a table saw

Method #2: Using a Router

Using a router table or plunge router is your best shot to make large circles on wood. This one will provide the cleanest and most accurate result among all the circle-cutting methods. You can also count on it to cut small circles. 

cutting circle with a router

Cutting in a Router Table

Method #3: Using a Bandsaw

Since bandsaws have narrow blades, experienced woodworkers should have no problem creating circles without a circle jig. However, a circle-cutting jig should be on your tool list if you want to cut circles in wood faster with little to no risk of inaccuracies.

You can create a jig by cutting a runner out of a wooden material to match the size of the bandsaw’s miter slot. 

cutting circle with a Bandsaw

And then, put the runner underneath the plywood to help it stick out on the bandsaw’s table. Mount the sled forward, straight into the bandsaw. Cut through the kerf, and halt when the blade is halfway through the cutting depth. 

Create a mark perpendicular to the kerf line tip, and get your handheld drill to make a small pilot hole to match the circle radius you intend to make. We recommend using a finish nail to make a perfect pivot hole. 

After drilling the pilot holes, place the square blank into the jig’s pin. If you can, use a ¼-inch blade for best results. Cut the material until you cannot push the jig forward any longer. Continue spinning the blank clockwise up till you get a perfectly round circle.

For a more accurate cutting result, don’t forget to check if the blade tension, guiding blocks, and bearings are set properly.  

Method #4: Using a Circular Cutting Jig

As we discussed in previous methods, a circle-cutting jig can assist your chosen tool in cutting a circle according to your size requirement. The jig creation will depend on which cutting machine you’ll use because it has to match the tool’s components, like a miter slot. 

cutting circle with a jig

Method #5: Using a Jigsaw

It doesn’t matter if you intend to cut smaller or larger circles because jigsaws can cut straight lines and tight curves. Here are some of the methods you can try using this tool. 

Measure and Draw the Circle

For this method, you must mark the measurements in the wood blank. Utilizing a beam compass [1] is the best way to do this. It’s a tool to secure the circle’s radius measurement. 

Alternatively, you can cut a circle using a string with a pencil and a finish nail. Although it’s cheaper, getting a perfect result will be difficult with this method. Our resident woodworkers only recommend it for making smaller circles.   

Do the Freehand Cut

Cutting a circle without any assistive tools or strict measurements can make anyone a bit nervous, but you can opt for this process if you don’t need a perfect result. You can start at the material’s cutting edge until the blade reaches the marked lines. 

cutting circle with a jigsaw

Continue the multiple passes of cutting and sanding till you get the right diameter according to your woodworking needs. 

If you’re making a circular hole in the wood material, we recommend drilling smaller holes for the blade and using the drill bit to cut the inside edge of the circle. 

Interesting read

Using a Cutting Jig

If you seek accuracy, there’s no better option than using a cutting jig. While you can buy one, remember that it’s only a thin ½-inch wood strip with 4 to 5 inches of width. Because of this, they’re easy to create. 

To use it, you can place the jigsaw at the jig’s edge aligned with the center point of the material at the other end. 

Method #6: Using the Router Circle Cutting Jig

Since these tools are adjustable, you can count on them to deliver the best results no matter what circle sizes you’re trying to achieve. You can use it along with plunge routers, and here’s how you do it.

cutting circle with a router Circle Cutting Jig

Method #7: Using a Jigsaw, Router Jig, and Flush Trim Bit

While this method also includes the usage of jigsaws and router jigs, it differs because you’ll have to utilize a flush trim bit for this process. 

cutting circle with a Flush Trim Bit

Method #8: Using a Bandsaw Circle Cutting Jig

Another method you can consider is using a circle-cutting jig with bandsaw tools. Besides the cutting machine, you only need a ¼-inch blade, ¾-inch plywood, stop blocks, and a runner. 

Bandsaw Circle Cutting Jig

Method #9: Using a Flexible Drill Bit for Circle Cutting

The possible alternative method you can consider if you don’t have the right hole saw size is using an adjustable drill bit. At first glance, it looks like a compass, but cutting a circle in wood is possible due to its sharp blade tip.

adjustable circle cutter for drills

Instead of a drill, these tools are used in a drill press. However, don’t forget to set it around 500 RPM or less for extra safety.  

Method #10: Cutting with No Centerpoint Circles With a Hole Saw

If your project requires no center points, hole saws should fulfill your needs. All you need to do for this method is lock the location and chuck the area you want to drill. 

Supplies Needed

Besides the hole saw, you must buy an arbor and pilot bit in your nearest home improvement stores. These materials connect pieces and guide the tool during the process. 

Read Your Hole Saw and its Attachments

Check the hole saw’s interior diameter if you need the circle cut out. You can consult the fine print for its interior size and the attachment installations for more efficiency and accuracy.  

Position the Wood Securely

These tools carry massive torque, so it’s crucial to clamp the material before the cutting process. Don’t forget to leave a space below the material to prevent unintentional cutting or accidents. 

cutting circle with hole saw

Put the Pilot Bit at Circle’s Center

Draw a visual of the circle and find its center. It’s the spot where you’ll drill the pilot bit for the next step.

Start Drilling the Wood

The bit will lead the hole saw into the wood’s surface during the drilling. Hold the tool as firmly as possible to achieve stability and better results.  

Halt and Restart if the Hole Saw Sticks to the Wood

Stop the operation immediately if you notice the drill binding to the material. Work through the board slowly and as lightly as possible when you restart the tool.   

Flip the Wood Midway to Prevent Blow Out

You may not know, but continuous cutting can cause the hole saw to blow out. If you don’t want this to happen, flip the material over before sawing again.

Take Out the Circle from the Wood

As long as you’re careful, you can use your fingers to pull out the circle inside the hole saw. You can also get a flat-blade screwdriver and push it out. 

removing circular piece of wood on a hole saw

Disadvantages of Using This Tool

Can Overheat

If you can, don’t put too much pressure on the tool. Remove sawdust from it every chance you get, or it’ll have a higher chance of overheating.

Shallow Cut

Hole saws have limited depth, so handling thicker materials is not where they shine best. However, you can assist this tool with a drill to ease your cutting experience.  

Back Splinters

The back side of the hole saw cut isn’t the cleanest. You can remedy that by placing scrap wood underneath the material to avoid a blowout. 

Method #11: Using a Belt or Disc Sander

The last method you can do is to sand the material into your desired circular shape. However, you’ll need to cut the wood first to get the perfect outcome. 

Cutting circle with Belt or Disc Sander

Cutting a Wooden Circle vs. Cutting a Circular Hole

Cutting a circular hole and needing circular wood as a material are different outputs that require varying methods. Remember that not all tools can do both, so it’s best to think your choices through.

(For other wooden projects, here’s how you can cut square holes in wood!) 

Conclusion

As intimidating as it seems, cutting circles in wood is a woodworking technique you can’t skip to learn. 

Trust our woodworking experts when we say these methods will come in handy in the long run, especially if you intend on taking on different projects. After all, doing these techniques will introduce you to a wide range of tools and materials. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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