I have a circular piece and wood and want to carve a circular 'inset' in the middle - roughly 1-2cm deep (so that there are 'raised' edges all around a 'depressed' middle). What tool would I use to accomplish this? Am I looking at using a dremel? Novice woodworker, so forgive a probably-obvious question.

very crude illustration of what I mean

In the above, the black section represents the area I would want to cut out.

  • If I am correctly visualising what you want you could do this with a plug cutter, which will drill a circular hole and leave a standing cylinder of wood in the centre that you can snap off using leverage from a screwdriver. Normally you'd be using this for the plug itself, but in this case you just use it to drill a flat-bottomed recess inexpensively (low-end plug cutters can be quite inexpensive). But you do also need a power drill for this, and ideally a drill stand or bench drill so you'll probably need to do this in the community workshop you mention in a Comment blow. [contd] – Graphus Aug 7 at 19:23
  • But if the community workshop has some drill bits that you can use see if they have some Forstner bits, if they do and there's one of the right diameter you don't need to buy anything, you can just use the suitable Forstner bit to drill the hole directly. – Graphus Aug 7 at 19:25
  • I added a (very crude) image of what I mean. – CGriffin Aug 7 at 19:34
up vote 10 down vote accepted

I would do this with a router and straight bit. Of course you would need a router. You don't mention the overall diameter so I am assuming larger than a reasonable drill bit size. You could also dish out the material with hammer and chisel or carving gouges. Depending on size, mounting in a lathe is also an option. Important information is the size of the piece and what tools do you have available.

  • Size of the piece is hypothetical for now, though will probably wind up being roughly a foot in diameter. Tools is... none, haha. I'm looking into whether I can do it simply or relatively cheaply (buying my own tool), or whether I'll need to bring it to the community woodshop. – CGriffin Aug 7 at 15:31
  • Hmm... how would a router work here, though? Since I don't want to cut all the way through to the other side. – CGriffin Aug 7 at 18:39
  • 1
    @CGriffin a router is a motor with the axis held perpendicular to a base plate that rides on the work piece. The motor is attached to any of a variety of cutting bits. The bits will cut only as deep as they project past the base plate. This "depth of cut" can be adjusted from nothing up to a few inches depending on the bit. In this case, you'd use a jig where the router is held a fixed distance from the center point and rotated around it to make a circular channel. You'd have to make several passes at increasing distances to make the void you need. – SaSSafraS1232 Aug 7 at 20:10
  • youtube.com/watch?v=6f_OOV4WCss&ab_channel=Smugwood see here for an example of routing a pocket (not a through-hole). You make a guide jig and set the router cutter to the depth you want. – WhatEvil Aug 9 at 13:55

You could use a router and a template or pattern bit. This video from the Wood Whisperer shows a similar technique for making bowls using a router, although you would want a straight (pattern) bit rather than the round-nose bit. He hogs out most of the waste in the center with a Forstner bit on the drill press, although you could do the whole thing with a router.

For this method, you would need to buy or build a circular template of the correct size (the inside diameter of the template would be the same as the diameter of the black area in your sketch). Circular templates are readily available for purchase in smaller sizes, but you may need to make one for your ~12" piece. A sheet of 1/4" plywood / MDF would be perfect, and you can use the router to cut out the circle here as well. Circle-cutting jigs are available for purchase, or you can make one yourself (lots of videos online, here is an example from April Wilkerson)

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.