Your table saw is probably much more capable than you give it credit for. We often think of table saws as being capable of ripping lumber and making solid, straight cuts. However, your table saw could probably impress you with some special cuts if you give it the chance to do so.
In fact, did you know that it is possible to cut a circle on your table saw?
In this guide, we will walk you through how to do just that on your own!
Can You Really Cut a Circle?
We get it. Right now, you’re probably questioning our sanity. Or maybe you’ve heard rumors of cutting circles with a table saw and you’re just here to find out HOW. We’ve got you covered!
While most woodworkers will simply use something like a jig saw, band saw, router or even a scroll saw for circular cuts, you can actually just rig your table saw to help you out in the process.
It’s pretty neat and it’s easier than you might think. There is more than one way to get the task done as well.
The easiest and most effective method to follow includes making what some woodworkers refer to as a burner sled. More on that term later. You might also hear it referred to as making a jig. The process is exactly the same, just a different use of terminology.
Cutting a Circle with a Burner Sled/Jig
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This first process will use some materials to create a temporary sled. It’s pretty simple to put together. You need a saw, some wood, and then a few staples, screws, or nails to create the burner sled.
Here’s a walk through the process.
1. Assemble a Jig
The term burner sled really just means you’re creating a product that doesn’t exist and that probably won’t be reusable. Once you use the sled, you are going to toss it out, just like you would a burner phone.
The reason you build a sled you won’t use again is because if you use a real sled, you might ruin it. You have to be able to drill holes in the sled and most people don’t want to do that with their nice sleds.
To assemble the sled, you need to cut a piece of plywood that fits in the sled channel on your saw. You will need to take measurements of the width and the depth to know exactly what to cut here. This is a guide.
Once you cut that, you need to take larger pieces of the same plywood and attach them to the guide piece you cut. You can attach them with staples, screws, or nails. You’re going to need to remove the rip fence on the saw for this process so be sure to do that before you proceed.
2. Prepare to Cut
Now, you need to grab the wood you are going to be cutting and prep it for your cut.
You can use any wood for this so just use what it is you need to turn into a circle. Lay it on top of that sled you just made and push it flush against the blade.
Here’s the trick that really prepares the wood to be turned into a circle. Once you line up the wood, take your drill and attach the top piece of wood loosely to the sled you made. We say it needs to be loose because the idea is that the top piece of wood will need to be able to spin.
Usually, you will attach it in the center but you should know that the radius of the circle is the distance from the blade to the attached screw in the end.
3. Corner First
The first part of this cutting process is to cut the corners of the wood. This is where you begin taking the wood from a square (or whatever it is) and transforming it into a circle.
Turn your wood to make 45-degree cuts on each corner. When you finish the first set of corners, you will likely have an octagon piece of wood.
Now, you will cut corners a second time, effectively taking the wood from 8 sides to 16 sides and getting closer to the circular shape you are after.
4. Finish it Up!
Now, you’re ready to finish creating the circle. Now, you will slowly rotate the piece you are cutting against the blade, shaving off those corners and edges to create the perfect circle.
It’s a slow and steady process but it works really well. It may take a little bit of getting used to since it is something totally new and different to do with your table saw.
Can I Cut Any Circle on My Table Saw?
The good news is that if your table saw is large enough to accommodate the wood, you can cut a circle as big or small as you want to. Your table needs to be big enough to hold the wood and the jig or sled that you create for the process.
This means that your limitations are directly related to the saw that you are using for the process. You can make some pretty sizable circles on most saws, especially since you will remove the fence to make the cut.
The tricky part is making sure you use the right size of wood to get the diameter that you really want or need from the circle. For beginners, it is recommended that you give yourself a couple of extra inches on the wood.
For example, if you want an 8-inch diameter when you finish, try starting with a 10-inch piece of wood. This gives you some room for error and more room for fine tuning and trimming edges.
We will admit that this process might take a bit of practice to get comfortable with but it’s well worth it if you need a simple solution for cutting a circle.
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Cutting a circle on a table saw might not be the first thing you would think to do but it’s certainly a great way to enjoy some added benefits from the table saw. If you don’t have a saw that is designed to cut circles, using this method can really help you out to get the job done.
What you will find is that the task can be pretty easy once you get used to how to properly attach the jig and then rotate it against the blade to create the perfect circle in the process.