How to Cut a Perfect Circle with a Jigsaw

Man cuts a circle

For many woodworkers, a jigsaw is a favorite tool. The jigsaw is a tool you can rely on time and time again for many of your woodworking projects and it’s a tool that can do so much more than cut curved angles. If you have the right type of blade, you can even learn how to use a jigsaw to cut a straight line, or how to cut a perfect circle with a jigsaw.  Here, I’ll go over the latter. There are some great tricks to getting more use out of your jigsaw and this is one of them.

How to cut a perfect circle with a jigsaw can be done by following a few simple steps:

  • Practice makes perfect. Use scrap wood to practice making circles with your saw.
  • Use a compass to draw a circle
  • Grab a wire nail
  • Drill a hole in the scrap wood. Make sure it’s the same thickness as the nail.
  • Make a crosshair mark
  • Drill out the center
  • Use a jig to make an additional crosshair mark
  • Drill out a starter hole in the wood
  • The outside circumference of the drill bit and the arc of the circle should line up.
  • Ensure the workpiece is secured to your work surface with the jig placed on top
  • Insert the blade into the starter hole
  • Attach the saw to a jig for a cleaner cut
  • Turn the saw up to the highest speed setting, and you’re ready to make the cut
  • And that’s it.

It may seem like there are several steps in this process, which can be overwhelming for some. However, once you’ve made your first circle, you’ll find that you can make expert cuts and perfect circles in no time flat.

Learning How to Control Your Saw

Learning How to Control Your Saw

Sawing can be intimidating for any beginner, however, some saws are easier to use than others. The jigsaw is a very flexible tool, but this can also be a big liability. This saw is able to go in any direction and can cut all types of materials. But making a perfect circle with this saw can be a serious challenge and not something a beginner should try. If you’re going to attempt to make a circle, first, you’re going to need to practice.

Start off by finding the right type of material to practice on. Check out your scrap pile and choose a thin piece of MDF or plywood. The material will only need to be as long as the radius of the circle plus a couple of inches. Next, find a strong, thin nail. Typically, for this task, a wire nail will work the best. However, you can also use a rivet or a thin bolt.

Drafting Compass

Next, you’ll use a compass to draw a circle. Drill a hole the same thickness as the nail you’re using, placing the hole in the center of the circle. For a guide, use the divot left by the compass.

Now, pick up the thin piece of plywood and make a large crosshair mark on the top right corner, drilling out the center using the same thin drill bit you use for the nail hole. The marks should remain after you’ve made the hole. Make another large crosshair mark on the jig to set the distance at the same radius of the circle. Keep in mind, the radius is just half of the circle’s diameter, starting from the center and going to one side. Drill a hole here so you can insert the jigsaw blade. Begin drilling a starter hole in the board to insert the circle. The goal is to line up the arc of the circle and the outside circumference of the drill bit. You can start by drilling closely, then slowly move in bit by bit with the blade until it meets your line.

Now you can assemble the whole thing. The workpiece should be securely clamped to a sturdy surface, with the jig placed on top. The nail should go through both of the holes. Next, you’ll line up the starter holes. Ideally, you should be able to see through the jig all the way to the circle outline located at the bottom.

Jig Use

Next, you’ll need to attach the saw to the jig, which will guide it properly through the cut. Using double-sided sticky tape is an old pro trick that will make this step much easier. After you’ve placed the tape on the jig you can then insert the blade into the hole. Once you’ve lined it up with the circle, press hard on it for a few seconds to ensure it’s secure.

You’re finally ready to make the cut. Make sure you keep the blade running at top speed the whole time, pulling it out and pushing down using a medium amount of pressure. This will ensure you keep enough tension on the jig. You won’t have to worry about the tape coming off, most of the double-sided sticky tape you find at hardware stores is incredibly strong.

Once this step is complete, you can sand off any tool marks by using a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a cylindrical object, such as a dowel. This will help you to sand down the inside curve. You can also use mineral spirits to get rid of any residual adhesive that’s stuck on the base of your saw.

Related Questions

Sawing wood

How Can I Protect My Work Surface?

When you’re using your saw, you need to use a firm amount of pressure to keep the blade from chattering, however, it may still vibrate even if you do. The combination of vibration and downward force can be incredibly tough on the work surface. You can apply a layer or two of masking tape at the base of the saw in order to reduce marring. When you’re done, to prevent sticky residue on the base of the saw, remove the tape as soon as you’re finished.

How Do I Choose the Right Saw?

The saw you choose should have adequate power and some special features. Toolless blade change is one of the most popular, in addition to oscillating control, and toolless blade plate bevels. Other bonus features to look for that will add to a saw’s usability include a blower used to keep your workspace clean, an LED light, and a speed control dial. If you’d like to learn more about the right features to look for in your next saw, click here to read my buyer’s guide.

What Type of Saw Can Handle a Variety of Materials?

While all jigsaws are considered versatile, not all models are created equal. The Festool 561593 Carvex PS 420 EBQ Jigsaw is a popular model for all the right reasons. It will allow you to cut materials that are one inch or thicker, features a high amp rating, and allows you to expertly control the saw for cleaner cuts. This saw is also budget-friendly and beginner-friendly, so you’ll have no problem learning how to quickly adjust the settings and begin your new woodworking project.

How Do You Get a Square Edge Cut?

In order to achieve a square edge cut, the blade must be perfectly perpendicular to the base of the saw. Before you make a cut, inspect the blade to ensure it’s not bent or chipped. If it’s damaged, you can still use it for jobs where a square, clean cut isn’t important, or you can toss it. With a new, straight blade, square it up. A smaller square is much easier to work with since there’s not a lot of surface area at the base.

What are Reverse Blades for?

Most blades will cut on the upstroke, so splinters and chips will usually occur on the top of the wood. If you prefer one side of the board over the other, be sure you keep the right side face down. You can buy down cut blades that will cut on the downstroke. These blades can be used when you want to minimize tear out on the top surface.

What’s Oscillation Action?

Most saws come equipped with oscillating action, which involves the blade moving up and down and lunging forward with every stroke. Usually, you can turn off this feature or choose from three different levels of oscillation. Each time you choose a higher setting, you’ll enjoy a faster cut however, faster isn’t better in some cases. It will also equal less accurate, rougher cuts. If you want a precise or clean cut, then turn the oscillation down. It should also be shut off if you’re working with metal.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to cut a perfect circle with a jigsaw, you can add more detail and complex designs on your next woodworking project. Just remember, practice several times in the beginning, until you’re able to make a circle easily and cleanly. Never practice with a project you’re currently working on since cutting a circle cleanly can be difficult in the beginning.