Time-tested methods might not be sexy in the social-media world, but they will keep your limbs intact.
By Vic Tesolin Apr 19, 2023
Ah, the internet. A never ending abundance of information—some of it good and a lot of it bad. Recently I’ve seen a lot of power tools and machines being used inappropriately and it’s quite concerning. Many “influencers” do things on their pages to garner likes and subs (that’s the way the cool kids say “subscribers”), and in many cases in order to do this, they have to come up with something new to show people.
Don’t do it for the views
An example that I saw recently was a video demonstrating how to cut a circle using a table saw. Yes, a table saw. The technique involves making a sled with a pin to “hold” the work. You are meant to make a cut, then rotate the piece, repeating these steps over and over until the waste is removed and you can spin the wood freely against the spinning sawblade. In this particular video, the blade grabbed the board and spun it, dragging the user’s hand into the spinning blade. Had the influencer not had a SawStop, this would have turned their hand into a pack of hamburger and they would have been just another table saw safety statistic. And for what? Views? Notoriety?
I personally don’t have a table saw in my shop, but I’ve got nothing against them. It’s just that there are many safer ways to create a circle using woodworking tools—ways that are safer but alas, not new, so they may not get the external affirmation that the user was looking for.
Trust the tried and true
So let’s talk wood circles for a moment. Now, to be fair, I don’t often have to make a circle in woodworking. In fact, other than a couple of round tabletops I’ve not needed to cut a circle. Arcs and curves yes, but not a circle. That being said, if I needed a circle I would complete the job in a much more practical and safe way. As a woodworker with both hand and power tools, I would immediately head to the bandsaw and cut it out freehand or with a circle-cutting jig. I could then refine the cut with a hand plane or a disc sander. I could use a router bit and trammel to create the circle, or I could use the router to create a template. I could then cut out the circle oversized with a jigsaw then use the template with a bearing-guided straight bit to clean it up.
If you are a dedicated hand-tool user, you could mark your circle and cut it out with a bow saw, then refine the shape using a block plane or a flat spokeshave. You could also use a wide chisel, bevel down, to transform a square into a circle.
Better safe than sorry
Without thinking too hard, I have just provided five methods to create a circle that are safer, more efficient, and less terrifying than nibbling away at a bit of wood with a table saw. Many readers find woodworking an enjoyable hobby, so why would you risk serious injury for something that is a pastime? Nor would a professional who makes a living with woodworking risk their livelihood by working in an unsafe manner.
The truth is, all woodworking can be unsafe, but if you’re about to do something that makes you feel funny in the pit of your stomach, please pause and reconsider what you are doing. Work using tried and tested techniques and you’ll be at it for years to come.
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