How to Cut Curves and Circles into Wood with a Jigsaw
Built for cutting intricate shapes into wood, jigsaws have gained the reputation for being a must have tool for woodworkers.
But making complex cuts is not the only thing that jigsaws can do. Since some of the most intricate cuts use curved shapes as their baseline, jigsaws are also used for making curves into the wood.
With that, they are also utilized to cut perfect circles into wood. While not specifically designed for that function, jigsaws could be an excellent choice for it if you know how to use them.
To help you use this multi-purpose tool in an effective manner, here are a few tips on how to use a jigsaw to cut curves and circles in wood.
Using these tips, craft your next piece of furniture and work your way through fixture installation with ease.
Using Jigsaws for Making Curves Into Wood
Jigsaws have the curves game down to the point where they are the first tool that comes to mind for this purpose. Keeping this in mind, let’s see how to make curved cuts with a jigsaw tool.
For this purpose, you will need the following:
- Jigsaw tool
- Wood cutter blade
- For cutout shapes, you would also require a drilling machine
Before you start making curves into the wood, make sure to know exactly what kind of shapes you want as a result. This is where you take the following factors into account.
- The measurements of your desired curve.
- The area it covers on the wood.
- The exact shape that you require as an end result.
Once you have found the answers to these questions, make sure to design your curve separately on paper. Then, you can mark the lines on the wood using your pencil, compass and ruler.
In case you are using a cutout, use your pencil to trace the required lines onto the wood surface. You may also need to drill a hole at the starting point. This would help you stay on track with your cutting, and minimize chances for errors.
Make sure that you are using the right kind of blade as well. Usually a jigsaw woodcutting blade is good for cutting woods up to a thickness of one and a half inch.
But this capacity largely depends upon the texture of the wood. Keeping this in mind, make sure to learn about the type of wood you are working with. If possible, cut a small sample first to see how your blade works against it.
After you have completed your preparations, set your piece of project wood on the workstation. Then, perform the following steps.
- Hold your jigsaw firmly and keep an eye on it at all times.
- Set the blade at the edge of the traced line.
- Slowly start the cutting process by pressing into the wood. Have the blade cut through the wood completely before you move it further. When using a drilled hole as a guideline, insert the blade into it and guide it into a wood.
- Once the blade has sunk through the wood, move the jigsaw forward carefully.
- Make sure to adjust the angles as you move forward.
- Be wary of the lines you traced so you could cut the wood according to them.
- Adjust the position of the saw during the cutting so you have a firm hand at all times.
Once you have cut your desired curve into the wood, make sure to examine its finesse. If required, fine-tune the cut further. Afterwards, wrap sandpaper around a cylindrical shape and use it to smooth down the cut. When you are completely satisfied with it, give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it.
Another tip to make precise cuts is by adjusting your piece of wood on rails. But that is used by only a few woodworkers.
Using Jigsaws for Making Circles Into Wood
Once you have some practice with holding jigsaws and guiding them to your desire, you may want to try using them for more adventurous cuts.
That is where circles come in.
Typically, cutting large circles into wood is achieved by a router. Delmer tools are also used for smaller circles. But many woodworkers have started using jigsaws to cut larger circles – mostly because they are a staple tool and can be used easily.
To cut a circle into wood using a jigsaw tool, you will need the following:
- Jigsaw tool
- Wood cutter blade
- Base board
- Drilling machine
- Screws or double-faced tape
Here, preparation takes more time than the actual cutting does.
You will need to follow the same tracing process for marking shapes into the wood.
Make sure to draw a perfect circle into the wood using your pencil and compass, as well as a ruler for measurement.
Then, mark the very center of the circle you drew. This would come in handy later.
In this preparatory step, make use of a base board.
This base board has to be thin, no more than ¼ inch. This is so it can provide ample cutting room for your blade. Its size also has to be larger than your overall circle.
- Set down the edge of your jigsaw’s foot with this base board. It should be right along the very edge of the board.
- Once you have checked that alignment, put down a mark on the baseboard.
- Use a drill on that mark to carve a hole for your jigsaw blade.
- Fix your jigsaw to the base board by using screws or double-faced tape.
- Draw a line from the blade hole that is the same distance as your circle’s radius.
- Align this radius mark on the base board with the center of your circle on your project wood.
- Drill a hole at the very end of the radius mark on the baseboard.
- Fix the boards together with a nail so it creates a rotating device.
Once the rotating device is made by fixing the two boards together with the nail, the cutting process becomes quite easy.
Just make sure to keep your eyes on your jigsaw, its blade, as well as the rotating boards at all times. Use ample pressure and adjust the jigsaw backwards and forwards as needed until you are sure you have cut through the wood.
Once the circle is cut out, use sandpaper wrapped around a circular object to smooth off the edges.
Practice Will Make You Perfect
As with anything, practicing these skills is the most effective way to make sure you have mastered them.
Whether it’s preparation or the actual cutting, it may take some time to get familiarized with these processes when you first start. But by performing the activities on a consistent basis, you will be able to cut down the process time by a large margin.
Types of Saw for Cutting Shapes Out of Wood
At first glance, there are so many different saws that their purposes may seem unclear. However, if you are interested in cutting shapes out of wood, there are certain types of saws that you will need to use. What follows are the best motorized saws and hand saws used for carving out the shapes you want in your woodworking projects.
Best Saw for Cutting Shapes
The truth is that you can use a wide range of saws to cut different shapes. Even the basic table and circular saw can be used to create certain shapes in wood. However, the following three saws are generally considered the best in terms of their shaping abilities. This makes them a must-have for your woodworking area if you need to cut complex profiles.
The scroll saw is arguably the best motorized or electric saw used to cut a wide variety of shapes out of wood. The design itself allows for precision cutting with maximum control. The scroll saw consists of a table where you place the wood, a thin, reciprocating blade, and a long arm that holds the blade while allowing larger pieces of wood to be cut.
The advantages of a scroll saw start with its ability to move the workpiece freely on the table that allows for precision shapes to be created when pushing the wood into the blade. Furthermore, for cuts to be made inside the wood, the blade can be removed and replaced so that it sits inside the circumference of the hole. The long arm allows for larger pieces of wood to be cut.
The scroll saw is not very portable, although it is small enough to be carted and set up in different locations. And it cannot carve shapes into wood that is too large to pass under or inside the arm. But these are small disadvantages to an otherwise superb machine. You can find more about scroll saw and its uses here.
This is the portable, handheld power tool that works on similar principle of a scroll saw. An electric jigsaw is a small device that uses a reciprocating blade. Instead of feeding the wood into the blade, you push the jigsaw into the wood itself. Jigsaws are quite popular thanks to their low price, small size, and precision cuts that it can perform.
Unlike a scroll saw, only one end of the jig saw blade is mounted on the tool and other end is free. You can find a detailed comparison between these tools on our Jigsaw vs scroll saw article.
Because the blade is free on one end and you are pushing the jigsaw into the wood, it will not be quite as precise as a scroll saw. But this is the only significant downside. Otherwise, the jigsaw is the perfect portable electric saw to take to any job site. Removing and replacing the blade is simple and it is reasonably priced to fit most budgets.
Vertical Band Saw
The Band saw is a large device that consists of a long, thin blade that moves continuously over two or more wheels. On top of the bottom wheel is a table where the wood can be placed for cutting. It may not be quite as well suited for cutting accurate shapes into wood such as the scroll saw, but it can do the job fairly well. The one downside is that the bandsaw is not a portable device. In fact, it is a fairly large shop floor tool even compared to a scroll saw.
The blade circulates at a much slower speed. And there is a danger if the blade should come apart while spinning on the wheels, but with proper safety precautions it should not be an issue. Changing out the blades is time-consuming, but for many it is worth it given the versatility and precision of the Band saw.
The advantage of Band saw lies in its ability to cut much larger and thicker workpiece. While cutting internal shape is possible, you will need a Band saw blade welder to do it. With the help of a fence and wide blade you can also get accurate straight cuts. This why a vertical Band saw is used for resawing wood.
Hand Saw for Cutting Shapes
If you do not have an electric saw to cut the shapes that you want, there are hand saws that can do the job as well. While it does take more time, and in some circumstances may not be as precise as the electric versions, the following hand saws can do the job.
The coping saw resembles a hacksaw in its general shape. A long, thin blade with a wooden handle that uses a square, C-shaped metal frame for support. It was invented some time in the 16 th century thanks to new innovations in metal technology. The frame allows the blade to be easily attached and detached when needed.
Coping saws are mostly used to cut moldings and to made coped instead of miter joints. It is a good, all-around saw for creating shapes, but it is not as precise in some circumstances compared to the fret saw. Because the teeth are pointed towards the handle, it is the pull stroke that makes the cut in the wood. This provides a level of precision that is superior compared to a push stroke.
In addition to wood, the coping saw can be used to cut metal with the right type of blade. It is often used to cut aluminum tubing, although the hacksaw is generally superior when it comes to cutting metal.
At first glance, the fret saw seems quite similar to the coping saw. It has the same, basic construction of a thin blade that is supported by a metal frame with a wooden handle at one end. However, the blade itself is much shorter, usually around five inches and the metal frame is smaller and stretches out more compared to the C-shape of the coping saw.
The blade attaches to the frame using a pair of wingnuts. The clearance of the frame allows for deep shapes to be cut, such as a V-shape groove for example. Because the wingnuts are easy to adjust, additional torque can be applied to the saw for deeper cutting or carving shapes into harder woods.
The fret saw is designed for more intricate cutting. It can cut shapes at a tighter radius compared to a coping saw. In some ways, the fret saw is the handheld version of the scroll saw. The downsides being that the blade is quite small and delicate. It is not made for general cutting but has the specialized job of creating tight shapes into the wood.
There are other saws that can be used to cut intricate and curved shapes, but the five mentioned here are the best suited for the job. The coping and fret saws are perfect for small, delicate work that the electric saws may not be best suited to perform. While the electric saws are well-suited for more general work that must be repeated over the course of the day.
Tips for Cutting Shapes and Curves with a Bandsaw
It’s never too early or too late to get involved with woodworking and age does not have a direct correlation to skill, as we have recently seen with one of the youngest members of the Forest 2 Home community.
Annalee is only 14 years old, but has already become a seasoned maker with significant skills in building tables, cutting boards, benches, and more. Check out her projects here. Pretty impressive, right?
Annalee dedicates much of her free time to woodworking and has picked up several tricks in the workshop. One of her favorite tools being a bandsaw. She loves to create funky curves and unique shapes to add flare to her projects.
Interested in using a bandsaw with your next project? Here are 6 tips for you to test out curves and shapes with your bandsaw for your next project.
Set Up Your Bandsaw
In order to get a clean and smooth cut with your bandsaw, you need to be able to change and set up the blade properly, as well as know how to tune the blade. Also, to create curves and smaller shapes, you should have a thin blade. If you are unsure about setting up your bandsaw, watch this how to video.
Transfer Your Funky Cut Lines to Your Material
If you are making up the shapes and curves as you go, you can just draw right on your material with a pencil. If you are a woodworker who plans in advance, there are several transfer options, but our favorite is the Pencil / Graphite Transfer.
It can be very challenging to maneuver a large bandsaw as well as bigger pieces of hardwood, so we advise taking your big sheets and cutting them into smaller manageable sections.
Tight Curve Relief Cuts
Make a straight cut up to the line in the waste part of your material, and back the bandsaw straight out. Do this everywhere that looks like it could make the blade bind. Doing this will keep the waste material out of the way and your blade won’t be forced to drift off line.
Cut on the Outside of Your Line
You can always clean up your edges, but you can never get the product you already cut off back!
As You Turn the Material, Always Move the Cut Forward
When cutting curves, don’t turn the material unless you are also pushing forward as you make the cut. If your cut is drifting off the line, turn the saw off, back your material out (after the blade has stopped moving) and start the cut over.
Do you have any tips to share with our woodworkers on using a bandsaw or another favorite tool? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social @ShopF2H.
Perfect Cuts With Coping Fret Saws
You don’t always need to turn on a power tool like a jig saw or Band saw to cut curved workpieces. If the pieces are small, a coping saw, or its cousin the fret saw, might be the better choice. Though it’s often dismissed as just a rough carpentry tool, a coping saw can be extremely useful in the woodshop. And fine-cutting fret saws have been a mainstay of high-quality furniture making shops for a very long time.
Chances are you already have a coping saw around the shop. For many woodworkers, this was the first saw we ever picked up. Its short blade and fine teeth make it safe enough for a young person to try their hand at woodworking.
A coping saw is simply a C-shaped, steel frame with pivoting blade holders that capture pins on the ends of the blade. A few twists of the handle tighten the blade. This puts the blade under tension and allows it to cut fast, tight curves in just about any material. You can install the blade to cut either on the push or pull stroke, although for most work I find that a pull cut is easier to control.
Of course, the saw gets its name from the coping cut used to fit molding together in place of a miter joint. That use has kept the saw in every finish carpenter’s tool box for over a hundred years. The availability of blades to cut wood, plastic, and even ceramic tile also make it an indispensable handyman’s tool.
In the woodshop, a coping saw also excels at cutting curved parts for furniture and is especially useful for making interior cuts. All you need to do is drill a hole in the workpiece and thread the blade through it. Then mount the blade in the saw to make the cut. And by rotating the blade in the frame, you can angle it to reach into inside corners.
Unlike most other hand tools, there are few “high-end” expensive coping saws. For about 15, you can buy a well-made saw that will probably last a lifetime. And high-quality blades will only set you back about 5 for a dozen. You can learn more about the blades in the box at the bottom of the page.
A close cousin of the coping saw, the fret saw is the tool of choice for intricate work. At first glance, the deep-throated fret saw shown in the photo looks a lot like a stretched-out coping saw. But closer examination shows an important distinction. The method for attaching the blade is quite different. Fret saw blades do not have pins. Instead, clamps on the saw hold the ends tight. An added benefit of this clamping method is that you can use commonly available scroll saw blades.
The smaller fret saws are sometimes called jeweler’s saws because of their frequent use in cutting precious metals. In addition to the blade clamping mechanism, these saws also feature an adjustable frame. This enables them to accommodate different blade lengths.
USING A FRET SAW. You wouldn’t want to use a fret saw for the heavy work of a coping saw. The thinner blades aren’t designed for heavy cutting. But it’s capable of much greater precision. The saw gets its name from the delicate patterns characteristic of classic fretwork designs. Even if you don’t intend to do this kind of work, there are some common woodworking tasks that a fret saw will make easier.
DOVETAILS. When it comes to hand-cut dovetails, a fret saw is the fastest way to remove the waste between the pins and tails. After laying out and cutting the shapes, a few quick strokes with the fret saw completes the dovetails. The extremely fine blade fits easily in the kerf of the dovetail saw cut and even has plenty of room to turn the blade to make the cut. All you need to do is cut along the scribed baseline. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll hardly need to do any clean up with a chisel.
INLAY WORK. Another application where the fret saw really shines is cutting small, intricate pieces for inlay or marquetry work. Here again, the blade can follow even the tightest curves of your patterns. Since these workpieces are often very thin, a method of support is crucial to making a successful cut.
A fretwork cutting table, sometimes called bird’smouth or V-board, is often used to hold a workpiece. You can see this in action in the photo at left. The V-shaped cutout on the table gives you plenty of room to move the saw while supporting both ends of the workpiece.
BREAKING BLADES. On the downside, the thin blades that make the fret saw a great tool for intricate work, also make for frequent blade breakages. But you’ll quickly learn how to get the most life out of each one. Usually, this means avoiding binding it in a cut.
If you don’t already have a coping saw and fret saw in your shop, you should consider spending a little bit of money to add them to your tool collection. After a few cuts, you’ll be a believer.
Coping Fret Saw Blades
While the saws get all the credit, it’s really the range of blades for coping and fret saws that makes them such handy tools. Specialized coping saw blades can be purchased to cut plastic, metal, and even ceramic tile. And a fret saw equipped with a metal-cutting blade can come in handy for cutting soft metals.
COPING SAW BLADES. Woodworking blades are commonly available in 10, 15, 20, and 24 teeth per inch (tpi). The 20- and 24-tpi blades leave an extremely smooth finish, while the 10- and 15-tpi blades are great for an aggressive, fast cut.
FRET SAW BLADES. Fret saw blades are sold by gauge rather than teeth per inch. The gauge indicates the thickness of the blade. For example, a 2/0 blade is.011″ and the 3/0 is.009″. These are the most common sizes used by woodworkers. For a more aggressive cut or when working with thicker stock, you can install a scroll saw blade on a fret saw. The wide variety of scroll saw blades means you’ll find one suited for almost any task.