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Intro

I only have a table saw, no band saw. I do have a jig saw, though. I have a 2' x 2' square of glued white oak that I wish to make into a circular table top.

I've seen articles and posts about getting a near circle with a sled/jig. I believe this is by rough cutting and then making many passes tangent to the blade. I'm fine with it not being perfectly smooth, but just dimensioned correctly enough that I can sand it with a belt sander.

It seems to me this is a feasible idea. I'm comfortable around the table saw even with safety guards removed.

My Question

So what is the best construction for such a sled?

My 10" blade will only come up 3" and my material is 1.5" thick, so the sled cannot exceed 1.5" itself. Being a tabletop, I'm not concerned with any holes within the inner 6" or so of the bottom of the piece.

Here's my table saw:

enter image description here

One thing that concerns me is my slot for the runner is fairly close to the blade. But I guess, a solid cross cut sled runner will hold it tight for several feet out?


I'm not asking any of these questions:

What is a crosscut sled used for?

How does one make a perfect circle on a table saw?

How do I use a cross-cut sled safely?

I'm asking about how to construct a quality and safe sled/jig that will still meet my specific needs. If there is another method on the table saw that is not how I described at the start, I'd love to hear that as well.

  • Interesting video on that here: youtube.com/watch?v=QWBeXiUmxsk. Also some ideas for how to avoid drilling a hole in your table saw top here: youtube.com/watch?v=nrw0YHjSgFc – scanny Feb 4 '17 at 22:33
  • If you search for 'cutting circle on table saw', you will find tons of answers and videos on youtube. Pretty straight forward process once you decide how you want to mount the pivot point. – Jacob Edmond Feb 6 '17 at 16:45
  • @JacobEdmond yes but the point of SE is to be an independent collection of resource info, in our case specifically about woodworking. So we should have an answer on this topic ON WWSE, not just links to youtube. – Joshua Feb 6 '17 at 17:22
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    That's why I didn't want to post any links to YT, where this topic has been thoroughly documented. Just trying to help, not posting an answer looking for votes. – Jacob Edmond Feb 6 '17 at 19:49
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Just say no to non-linear cuts on a table saw. A much better answer if you don't have a band saw would to use a router jig with a compass base. You can get an excellent cut by either:

Plunge the circle in small depth increments with a downcut bit- you may only do 1/4 inch a pass. Cut the last 1/16 of an inch by hand to avoid tear out on the bottom. Small increments should avoid problems even in oak. I've had good results with this.

or

bandsaw/jigsaw close to the line and use tiny increments to advance to the line with a compression bit (upcut and downcut together that cuts toward the middle of the thickness of the board- no tear out).

In any technique, you want the router to only take a bit with each pass. The last pass is only taking off the fuzz from the the next to last one.

  • Ok, but none of this applies to my question. My question isn't asking you how I should do it. My question is asking for how to build a sled to do it in this way (with a table saw) I get the safety concerns, but I don't have a band-saw (which I said). And I have valid reasons for not using a router bit due to the material and the resulting quality of the cut and/or cost of bits. So this answer is quite frankly entirely NAA. – Joshua Feb 7 '17 at 23:03
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    @Joshua Sometimes the Answers you get are the ones people think you need, not the ones you expected. Many times (as here) I've answered giving a completely different approach to what was asked about, but in all cases it's because I think it's better in some way. When it comes to machine processes safer (as here), faster (any method involving a router, possibly sanding too), giving a better surface (ditto) or in a combination of these ways, occasionally making an alternative a hands-down winner. – Graphus supports Monica Feb 8 '17 at 8:55
  • @Graphus that's not how SE is supposed to work. If I asked on Christianity what the proper method of baptism is in the Episcopal Church you don't get to answer with the method for the Catholic church and say "this is better anyway." This question is about how to make a sled to do a circle on a table saw. The introduction is not part of the question it's explaining my objectives and giving context. I know things are a bit different here on the woodworking but my question was not how to or the best way to, it was how to build a sled for a radius on my table saw. – Joshua Feb 8 '17 at 10:34
  • @Joshua I take your point but the two SEs can't be directly compared as here queries hinge on real-world material issues such as quality of surface and speed/efficiency. And of course safety has to come into it where necessary. [contd] – Graphus supports Monica Feb 8 '17 at 21:48
  • @Joshua As another example from here, if someone asks a question purely about how to sand something 50-75% of the time I'm going to recommend they look into scraping because it is demonstrably better in a couple of ways. Sometimes sanding is the way to do something, but it's often the default way to smooth today because people don't know better. And educating them that there is an alternative is what this place should be about IMO. – Graphus supports Monica Feb 8 '17 at 21:50
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If a hole on one side of the completed circular piece is acceptable this is a simple matter of mounting the roughed-out shape on to a pin of some kind (bit of dowel, a nail with the head clipped off as well as other options) and then rotating it against something that will cut or abrade the edge, forming a perfect circle centred on that pin.

Since you have a belt sander you can use the sander to do almost the whole job, rather than risk working with the table saw with the guard raised or removed.

Most methods are broadly similar, such as One way to make a perfect circle, "Disc-sand the workpiece with this quick-and-easy jig" on Wood Magazine.

If you don't want a hole left in the completed piece it can easily be filled or plugged, which if done in a contrasting colour can provide a nice decorative accent but obviously YMMV. Where you don't want to make a hole in the workpiece you can attach a temporary pivot block to one side by sticking in on using a paper joint, using two pieces of tape and superglue, or a strong double-sided tape (but beware of creep if using this type of tape).

Here's another guide on Wood Magazine's site for a no-hole method, Disc Sander Circle Jig, "Make circles without holes".

This previous Q&A may be of some further help:
Best way to make round coasters

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    Circle-cutting jigs are more common for bandsaws, where they can be set up more easily and operated more safely, without risk of kickback. The more common solution these days, for larger circles, is to out a router on a compass base and move the cutting tool rather than the workpiece. ((Table saws can be persuaded to do a great many things and are often considered the most essential bench tool for that reason, but they aren't always the best way to do anything). – keshlam Feb 5 '17 at 15:13
  • @keshlam The router method is simply not an option in my book for my case. First, the thickness, second the density of the white oak. I can't afford any tearing and since the bit would be passing through various directions of grain on the course of the circle, and its also quite hard on the bits from what I've experienced. Whereas a circular blade (admittedly bandsaw even better) will create a clean edge and surface – Joshua Feb 5 '17 at 15:49
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So after some research I thought I'd share how we solved this problem.

First of all, one must understand the safety concerns. Removal of the guard is likely required (we didn't have our on) but its possible it could be left on. The largest concern is with kickback. We'll come back to this.

Objectives

  • Make a sled that can be used for cutting more than one radius, adjustable.
  • Make a sled that can be used for other cross cuts
  • Make it as safe and sturdy as possible

This is a one sided sled. That is, it is not extending to both sides of the blade at the same time. As a cross cut sled we can use it on the right side of the blade with the table to cut square ends on longer pieces where we don't care about the cutoff. This is not intended to be used to cut through the middle of a material, only the ends.

Material for the Sled

We used some nice White Oak we had to make the strip for the runner to insert into the table saw. A hardwood is definitely suggested. If you have something even harder (hickory, heartwood, etc) go for it.

We then cut a 3/4" Birch Plywood into a 26" x 36" rectangle (if you have a harder plywood available use that, this was the best available to us.) Being our prototype, we weren't concerned, but we may get something better for future sleds. We used 3/4" to give us extra beef for the next step.

Adjustable Radius Slot

I took an idea from some sliding adjustable router compass jigs. We cut a 15 degree dovetailed slot into the plywood, perpendicular with the blade.

We used a router table to do this, but to prevent tearing, we first dadoed a 3/4" wide slot 5/16" deep. Then we used the router to cut the dovetail precisely at the edges.

Then, using Oak again, we made a 12" strip to slide into this slot. The dovetail helps secure the strip structurally and then three predrilled countersunk holes with 1/2" screws allow us to move the strip to any distance from the blade.

We then drilled a 1/8 hole and slightly countersunk the backside with a 1/2" forstner to keep the bottom flat. This let us insert a simple roofing nail and keep its head flush with the bottom. This nail is our radius pin. We may modify this in the future, but for now it allows us some customization with its length.

Radius Slot

Assembling the Sled

Now we can attach the runner to the plywood sled.

On our particular table saw, the runner slot to the right of the blade is closer to the left. This works out to our advantage as we will see in a moment. We measured the distance from the blade to the right runner and then added a 1/4" so we can cut the sled for zero clearance after the runner is attached.

After attaching it with screws as close to square with the front and back edges as could, we tested how it moved on the slot with the blade down. Now is the time to sand or scrape any extra off until it rides smoothly.

Next we raised the blade and cut through the sled and checked it to square with the front and back. We were pleased with the results so we moved on.

Next we added a thick two-by board to the top of the front edge (closest to you with the sled in the right runner still.) The saw naturally pushes materials into this edge. Its good to make it tall enough to hold onto safely as well. Ours was 3 1/2" tall x 1 1/2" thick.

Run some scrap pieces through the saw to test it for square. There are a few techniques for doing this, but the 5-cut method is probably the simplest. Once we are happy with the result we move on.

Using the Sled for Radius

We can use our sled as a sled to cut the ends of larger pieces to the right, but we can turn the sled and put it on the left side and now the sled sits securely on the table with the center pin back from the blade.

We were making 2 foot diameter table tops, so we slid the pin rail so the pin was 12" from the blade and then screwed it in. The multiple screws means eventually you may run into holes that interfere with your needed radius setting. But hey! This was a prototype, and new holes could be drilled in the future.

Next we found center on our piece and predrilled a 1/8" hole partially into the bottom side (the depth of our pin). We marked a line at 12 1/4" and used a jig saw to cut away all the extra. This is very important for a number of reasons. First, it saves time, but it will also make the cutting process safer as there will be very little material that can grab onto the blade.

We dropped that hole onto our pin and hammered the piece down until it was (almost) all the way down. (Use a block to protect your piece).

Trimmed

Safely Turning

As you can see in that photo, we still took the piece stationary through the blade to cut off as much extra as possible. Stay to the left side of the blade to avoid any kicking on the small cutoffs. Careful sliding back past a running blade, this is a kickback danger! You can turn off the blade, but that adds a lot of time for a large piece, so I suggest you lift the whole sled up and over the blade once you are past.

Once the circle is trimmed, move it up until it starts to touch the blade. You will want to spin the entire piece 360 degrees at this position, only moving a bit further with each full rotation. You can make this even safer by only raising the blade by these small amounts as well. But we kept the blade up and just spun it freehand. While rotating against the blade, you should never be cutting off more than the kerf of the blade! If you start to, back out, and turn that area, or retrim it stationary. Eventually you will have the blade up to the height of the piece and the piece rotating fully without cutting any more.

You have a perfectly square edged perfect circle now!

finished

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