Make Circles Without Jigs
Making perfect circular components in wood is tough. If the piece of wood needs to roll, such as on a child’s toy, you probably need some jigs to keep your circles true.
But what if they only have to look round?
For the August 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine I built a simple plywood lamp that’s shaped like an incandescent lightbulb. All the pieces for the base are round and – in many cases – have beveled edges.
I considered making a simple circle-cutting jig for the band saw and disc sander, which is what I would do if I needed engineer-style results. But these parts just have to look round. So it’s easier and faster to trust your eyes.
The only tricks are to use a sharp pencil and to use some care when cutting to the line on the band saw. The best sawing advice I know is this: Always try to saw right on the line or right next to the line. Don’t try to saw a certain distance away from a line.
The result of this effort is that I had almost no material to remove at the disc sander. I used a light touch while holding the piece against the sander and kept the piece moving as much as possible.
This technique works great for circles or ellipses with straight or beveled edges. I don’t think this technique would pass muster in a machine shop, but here you are trying to satisfy only the eye.
— Christopher Schwarz
Like “Use the Force Luke” Tricks Like This?
• Jim Tolpin’s “The New Traditional Woodworker” is as much about your mindset as it is about your toolset. Both power- and hand-tool woodworkers could learn a lot from the book.
• Glen Huey’s “Cheating at Hand-cut Dovetails” is an entire DVD of clever tricks you can use when cutting dovetails in the shop.