Review By Dean Bielanowski  Timbecon Website - http://www.timbecon.com.au


Torquata MJ-823
Circle Cutting Guide

Review

By Dean Bielanowski

As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure where that saying came from or what it was based on. Regardless, the saying remains true in terms of cutting circles in wood; there are many ways to do it. You can either use a hand saw, a jigsaw, a bandsaw, a router or even a table saw, and I am sure there are even more ways too! Naturally, some methods may require further sanding or work to bring the cut piece to a true circular shape.

When trying to cut a circle using a power tool or stationary machine however, often a circle cutting jig is needed. These can be either shop made, or commercially purchased jigs. Having a need to cut a few circles myself recently for a project, I grabbed a Torquata circle cutting guide to help assist with the cutting process.

Torquata Circle Cutting Guide
The Torquata guide is really a simple kit system, based pretty much on the same adjustable pin system you could make yourself as a jig in the workshop, but if you are like me and prefer the commercial made jigs, then this one is ready to use, and quite flexible, as it can be used on several different machines, whereas many shop-made designs might only be made for a specific tool and cannot be readily converted for use on another. This particular guide is designed for use on stationary saws such as the bandsaw, radial arm saw and table saw. I don't own a radial arm saw, so I tested it and based this review on using the jig on my bandsaw and table saw.

The Circle Cutter is designed to cut circles from 3 inches up to 4 feet in diameter. If you want to cut larger circles, you will need to make your own circle cutting jig as this one reaches its limit at the 4 foot mark out of the box.

Assembly is quick and painless, and basically involves tapping a few connector pieces into the steel channel sections, and adding a hex nut into one channel to attach the pivot pin. A base clamp is also included, as are instructions for assembling it, but mine came pre-assembled out of the box, so setup time was only about 5 minutes in total. A bag of assorted screws, double-sided tape and other bits and pieces are included and used for special mounting situations (which I will outline shortly).

How Does It Work?
Long time woodworkers can probably figure out its operation just by looking at the jig assembled. Everything is pretty straight forward actually. I'll start by explaining the process of cutting a circle out using the table saw and the circle cutting jig.

Whoa! Hold your horses! Cutting a circle on a table saw! Are you crazy? Despite some common "myths" (I guess you could call them), cutting circles on a table saw is indeed possible, and can be done safely too with the right procedure and appropriate jig.

To set the jig up on the table saw, you firstly place the base clamp in the miter slot of the saw, and align it with the arbor of the table saw. The base clamp fits into position via a hex head screw which screws outward from the base clamps edge to lock in place against the edge of the miter slot. It is designed to fit standard 3/4" x 3/8" miter slots but there is some tolerance either way for slightly smaller or wider miter slots. The main channel (which is the longer piece of channel) then slides into the groove in the top of the base clamp, and is secured by two screw and washer assemblies on either side of the channel with the support arm channel (the shorter of the channel lengths - which is actually made up of two joined channels) situated close to the blade. Perhaps one of my criticisms of the base clamp is that it can be difficult to lock it firmly enough in place, as the adjustment screw sits under the clamp, and when mounted in the miter slot, the adjustment screw is not really accessible. The best you can get is a solid friction fit, and for most tasks, this should suffice. However, if you have a couple of miter slot stops which can be secured into the miter slot on either side of the base clamp, you can really lock the base clamp and jig into the slot very securely.

Now, depending on what diameter circle you wish to cut the procedure to use with the jig differs. For circles up to 12" in diameter, the pivot pin (located in the main channel) is secured as close to the support arm channel as possible and secured in place. The main channel then slides on the base clamp left or right (closer or further) from the blade to adjust the radius of the circle being cut. For circles larger than 12" in diameter, the support arm is moved and positioned as close to the base clamp as possible (i.e. away from the blade) and secured. The pivot pin is then moved along the main channel to set the desired radius for the jig. There are special support situations for circles less than 6" in diameter (where a special nylon knob is attached to the workpiece to keep fingers away from the blade, and for circles larger than 24" in diameter where a support leg is attached to the end of the main channel so it isn't overhanging the edge of your saw table without support from underneath. Instructions for both of these situations are included in the documentation.

A 1/4 hole is drilled in the blank to sit over the pivot pin. A smaller pivot pin is also include so your pivot pin hole doesn't need to be drilled all the way through the workpiece. If you do not want to drill any pivot pin holes at all, the package comes with a plastic mounting plate with a 1/4" hole in the middle of it. This plate is attached to your blank with double-sided tape, and then the mounting plate sits over the smaller pivot pin and allows the blank to be mounted without drilling or marring the blank. This is handy if both sides of the cut circle will be readily visible.

Once the blank is mounted to the pivot pin (by whatever means you choose from the available options) it is time to cut the blank. On the table saw, it is recommended that only 1/16" of an inch is cut with each rotation of the blank, so the blade is set 1/16" of an inch higher with each subsequent rotation. Obviously, it will take a few rotations to cut all the way through thicker blanks, but it does do the job well, and often with little cleanup required afterwards. Where required, and particularly if the blank is sitting up above the saw table by any margin, a filler piece of scrap material the width of the gap between the blank and table surface should be clamped to the table to support the blank underneath so it does not tilt onto the blade and affect cut accuracy or compromise safety. I made several blanks using the jig on the table saw, and each worked out fine. Just be cautious of where your hands are all the way through the cutting process as the blade is hidden under the material for all but the last cutting rotation, and if you take your time, you should be able to make circle cuts safely and cleanly on the table saw using the Torquata Circle Cutter jig.

On the bandsaw, setup is pretty much the same in terms of mounting the blanks and setting up the jig for the different diameter circles as it is on the table saw. For smaller bandsaws, the bandsaw table might not be as wide from the miter slot to the edge, so additional support from the ground up to the jig via an attached support leg (user to make and use) will be required. Cutting a circle on the bandsaw is quicker than with the table saw, as you can cut the circle in one pass. Use a smaller blade (1/4" or 3/8" blade) for best results (as these blades are designed to cut curves). More cleanup work is required after cutting on the bandsaw as the blade leaves much more obvious teeth marks around the edge of the circle. Of course, if you have a decent disk or spindle sander with a 3/4" x 3/8" miter slot, you can use the same circle cutting jig as a sanding jig to give you a constant radius distance from the sanding surface, and by rotating the piece on the jig, you can sand to a perfect circular shape. This method of sanding also makes it possible to rough cut a circle using a jigsaw and refine the shape on the sander.

Concluding Thoughts
While it is possible to cut circles in numerous different ways, I do like using this jig, mostly because it can be readily attached and removed from the saws without much fuss. There is no need to build a large, heavy sub-table for circle cutting tasks on the bandsaw, and no need to continuously punch nail holes into a sub-table for the pivot pin. Plus it is light and easy to store, not taking up too much storage room. Granted, you could make your own jig without too much drama, but if you wanted to make it using metal components, or T-track accessories etc, the cost could add up quite fast, and at just under AUD$44, the adjustable circle cutter is quite cost effective, plus offers the benefits and features to cut circles without drilling or marring your blanks.

Unless you are cutting circles every day in your shop (and would probably require a jig that is more permanently fixed or solid, the Torquata Adjustable Circle Cutter should certainly meet the needs of occasional circle cutting tasks...

Now, I have to get back to circle cutting my third lazy susan!
 

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In Australia




MJ-823 Circle Cutting Guide


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if you cannot find these items locally.

 

Torquata MJ-823 Photos
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T-connector that joins the track sections. The T-end provides workpiece support near the cutting blade.


The base clamp with screw adjuster to provide a friction fit against the side of the miter slot.


The base clamp installed in the table saw miter slot. The large pivot pin used for through-hole drilling of the blank.


Here the smaller pivot pin is installed, along with the plastic mounting plate. The mounting plate is attached to your blank with double-stick tape so no hole needs to be drilled in your blank at all if you do not wish to!


The circle cutting guide installed on the bandsaw.


Cutting a circle on the bandsaw.


A support leg is attached to provide support for the other end of the jig.


Cutting a circle on the table saw. Note no hole in the blank!


A perfect circle cut safely on the table saw... it can be done!


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