How to cut a 1 1/2" circle for inlay

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Forum topic by GJak posted 12-31-2015 07:27 PM 1029 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 906 days

12-31-2015 07:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’ve read the forums here and there for insights on various projects but this will be my first post looking for help. I apologize in advance if I am posting this in the wrong sections.

I consider myself a novice woodworker with a very modest set of tools and I am trying to cut a perfect circle out of a 3/16 sheet of walnut. The circle needs to be 1 1/2” in diameter and will act as an inlay in a solid cube made out of beach. The first thing that came to mind was a hole saw on the drill press but I wouldn’t know what size to use when accounting for the width of the teeth to achieve a perfect 1 1/2” (or if that is even possible). Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

The finished project is meant to be a engagement ring box for my girlfriend, here is a little background.

The cube was cut from a beach limb that i trimmed and dried a few months ago. I cut a round slab and turned it into a 2 1/2 inch cube that is 2 inches tall. The sides were sanded down with the end grain on the top and bottom of the cube. I then drilled a 1 1/2 inch diameter hole into the top center of the box to a depth slightly less than that of the 3/16 walnut sheet. In the center of that shallow hole I drilled a 1 inch diameter hole to a depth of 1 1/2 inches that will hold the ring. The goal is to cut a circle out of the walnut that will sit in the shallow drill hole above the ring giving it the appearance of a solid block with a flush circular inlay. A magnet will then be placed on the underside of the walnut round and the box will be opened by touching a steel skeleton key to the lid and lifting up to reveal the ring.

8 replies so far

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 1364 days

#1 posted 12-31-2015 07:53 PM

1 5/8” holesaw good quality like a lenox on a drill press with the bit removed may get you a 1.5” circle although it may burnish the sides a bit. Measure the set of the teeth. Or 2” sanded to fit? Yeah, my original post was dumb as a 1.5” holesaw will get you a 1.5” hole not a 1.5” plug. Doh!

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View jbay's profile


2348 posts in 927 days

#2 posted 12-31-2015 08:04 PM

An 1 1/2” hole saw won’t produce an 1 1/2” plug!

If it were me I would cut the circle a little oversized on my bandsaw, then take it to my edge sander, set at about a 1 or 2 degree angle, and sand it to my line, again being a hair oversized. The angled sides will let it drop down into the recess until the sides hit, and then you can glue and clamp it in place and it will have a tight seam. It’s all about getting the right tolerances for a good fit.

View Ger21's profile


1075 posts in 3159 days

#3 posted 12-31-2015 08:08 PM

I’d cut the hole with a forstner bit, and the plud with a circle cutter.
Both would require a drill press.

-- Gerry,

View TheFridge's profile


9608 posts in 1514 days

#4 posted 12-31-2015 08:15 PM

Circle cutting sled on the table saw

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View GJak's profile


3 posts in 906 days

#5 posted 01-01-2016 12:54 AM

Thank you for the replies. I ended up going with a softer wood for the plug instead of the walnut because I was having trouble sanding the round to fit the hole while keeping the shape.

The 1 5/8 hole saw did the trick. I took it to the drum sander afterward to get closer to my 1.5 goal and hand sanded with 220 from there to finish it off. Drilling into the end grain of a solid block of beach wasn’t easy but I ended up with a nice fit when it was all said and done. I will post a finished picture of the project once I have the time.

Do you guys think a few coats of waterlox scuffed up in between coats would be a nice finish on a beach cube or should I go with a thicker urethane finish that will add a bit more color?

View sawdustdad's profile


364 posts in 913 days

#6 posted 01-01-2016 02:37 AM

I see you’ve finished the work, but I thought I’d add a comment for others attempting a similar task. The easiest way to do this is with an inlay router bit set:

Make a template (use a hole saw to cut the template). then use the template to route both the insert and the hole. The kit has a sleeve that fits over the router guide busing that increases the radius of the guide bushing the same distance as the diameter of the router bit. You route the hole with the sleeve on and the insert without it. So the hole and insert are an exact match. Works with most any shape template, not just circles.

-- Murphy's Carpentry Corollary #3: Half of all boards cut to a specific length will be too short.

View jacquesr's profile


342 posts in 1451 days

#7 posted 01-01-2016 06:06 PM


Thanks for the info. Do you know a similar kit that would work with the good old Bosch 1617 routers?

View GJak's profile


3 posts in 906 days

#8 posted 01-07-2016 11:33 PM

Still need to insert the magnets, do the copper inlay on the lid and seal the project with a few coats of waterlox but this is the progress so far. I filled in the small cracks that opened up during the quick drying process with super glue that i tinted with copper colored modeling paint. The insert to hold the ring was made from closed cell foam that I melted down the middle to create a slot and then wrapped in brown ultrasuede fabric that I cut from an old shirt.

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