Cut circle

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    I’m about 2 years into my woodworking career – just built my first bench! I enjoy the process of using hand tools over machines, but I want to make a project that involves a large circle. How can I accurately cut a (reasonably) perfect circle using only hand tools?

    Thank you!

    Derek Long

    It’s actually not that hard at all with hand tools. Scribe out your lines on both sides of the square you’re working on with a compass, trammel points, or a nail, some string and a pencil, whatever you have at hand to scribe a circle. Keep sawing off the corners with a handsaw until you approximate a circle-ish shape close to your lines. Then you can work on the remaining facets down to your lines with a plane, spokeshave, drawknife, rasp or file, whatever you have at hand. Your eye is actually a pretty good gauge of how true a shape is.

    Good luck!

    Derek Long
    Denver, Colorado


    I thought of a slight modification to a machine method I saw once. I’ve never tried it so I don’t know how it actually works in reality but I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t.

    Cut out your circle roughly and pin the centre of your circle to your bench. Pin it tight enough that it won’t move about but not so tight that it won’t turn.

    Then find some way to hold your plane down on your bench a fixed radius from the centre of the circle. Probably in your vise.

    Then when you keep on rotating your workpiece, the plane will keep shaving off the high points. When you get a complete continuous shaving, you have a perfect circle.

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