If you are a woodworker or simply someone who wants to learn how to round wood edges, you are in for a treat with this comprehensive guide that shows you seven different ways how to round wood edges.
Rounding wood edges helps the lumber look its best for a longer period of time, provides for easier handling, and the wood becomes less prone to damage and causing injury. It provides a more elegant look and protects wood handlers from getting splinters.
There are two main methods for rounding wood edges:
- Round wood edges using power tools
- Round wood edges using hand tools
Power tools such as routers or table saws allow for quick and precise edge rounding, but they require a bit of skill, knowledge, and practice to use effectively. On the other hand, hand tools like files, sanding blocks, and surforms offer more control but can be slower and require more effort.
Both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, and the best method for any given project will depend on factors such as the size and complexity of the project, the desired finish, and the tools and materials available.
In this article, I will be discussing how to round wood edges using a router and six alternative methods that can be used to achieve the same result without the use of a router. These methods are rounding wood edges using sandpaper, hand plane, chisel, surform, orbital Sander, and Dremel. I will be sharing the pros and cons of each of the methods, as well as providing helpful tips and techniques to achieve the best results.
Table of Contents
- General Questions to Rounding Wood Edges
- What are the benefits of rounded wood edges?
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of rounding wood edges using a router compared to hand tools?
- What to Consider When Rounding Wood Edges
- What are the Tools to Round Wood Edges?
- How To Round Wood Edges with a Router
- How To Round Wood Edges without a Router
- Final Thoughts
What are the benefits of rounded wood edges?
Rounding wood edges offer several benefits, ranging from enhanced safety to improved durability. Here are four key advantages of rounding wood edges:
- Improved safety: Sharp edges and corners can cause injury, especially in households with children or pets. Rounded edges are safer and less likely to cause harm.
- Greater durability: Rounded edges can help to prevent splintering and chipping, making the material less likely to break.
- Enhanced aesthetics: Rounded edges are visually appealing, and they give wood pieces a softer, and more elegant look.
- Easier operability: Rounded edges make pieces easier to handle and enhance their usability and comfort to use. This is especially the case of items that are often touched, such as furniture, handles, cutting boards, wooden boxes and other wood items.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of rounding wood edges using a router compared to hand tools?
When considering the best approach for rounding wood edges, it is important for you to understand the benefits and drawbacks of using a trim router versus hand tools. While both methods can achieve similar results, they each have their own unique advantages and limitations.
1. Rounding wood edges using a router
- Routers can quickly, precisely, and effectively round edges
- They can create a consistent edge profile across many workpieces
- They are ideal for larger or more complex projects, where the efficiency and accuracy of a powered tool can save time and effort
- Routers can be costly and require a certain level of skill and knowledge to use effectively
- If used incorrectly or with the wrong bit, routers can cause wood to splinter or burn
- They may not be suitable for smaller or more delicate projects, where hand tools may offer greater control
2. Rounding wood edges using hand tools
- Hand tools provide greater control and precision over the rounding process
- They are more affordable than power tools, making them a good option for beginners or those on a budget
- They can be used for a wider range of projects, including more delicate or intricate projects
- Hand tools can be slower and require more effort, particularly for larger or more complex projects
- Achieving consistent results across many pieces can be more difficult
- It can be more challenging to achieve a uniform edge profile with hand tools
What to Consider When Rounding Edges of Wood
When rounding wood edges, it’s essential to consider the width of the edge, the thickness of the wood, the type of material, and the desired finish of the rounded edge. Based on these considerations, you should choose the right tools and techniques to get the perfect curve.
- Width of the edge: Rounding broader edges can often be easier than narrower ones, as it provides more surface area to work with.
- Thickness of the wood: Rounding edges on thinner wood pieces may require more delicate tools and techniques compared to thicker pieces.
- Type of material: Hardwoods like oak or beech may demand more care and sharper tools than softwoods like pine or cedar when rounding edges.
- Desired finish: If the rounded edge is for decorative purposes, achieving a smooth and even curve is vital, while edges for utility purposes might be more forgiving.
What are the Tools to Round Wood Edges?
There are many ways how to round wood edges. It can be done either with power tools or hand tools. Both options can provide great results, but remember, the best approach varies depending on the situation.
Power tools for rounding wood edges:
- Trim Router
- Random Orbital Sander
- Disc Sander
- Table Saw
- Oscillating Spindle Sander
- Belt Sander
- Handheld Rotary Tools
Hand tools for rounding wood edges:
- Sandpaper / Sanding Block
- Handheld File
- Block Plane
I am sharing further details below on various tools and techniques that can be used for rounding wood edges, with a particular focus on methods that do not require a router. Note that using these tools together with woodworking jigs can streamline your work process and give you greater control and precision over the final outcome.
How To Round Wood Edges With a Router
Using a router is the best way how to round wood edges. It is the quickest method to achieve your goal, and it provides a polished and professional appearance.
When it comes to routers, there are two primary types: plunge and fixed base. Though both can shape edges, I find the fixed base router more suitable for rounding wood edges because of its user-friendliness and maneuverability.
Pros and Cons of Using a Router
- Allows for quicker rounding of edges compared to other methods.
- Provides a consistent and smooth edge throughout.
- Once mastered, routers can offer a high level of precision in shaping edges.
- Routers can be quite expensive.
- There’s a learning curve; achieving a perfect result can be challenging for beginners.
- Routers can be noisy and produce more dust compared to hand tools
Before You Begin
Here are a few tips when using a router.
Firstly, choose your router type. Depending on the size of your project, you may use a plunge router or a fixed base router. Secondly, select the right router bits to use with your chosen router. Router bits are fun to work with! They come in different shapes and sizes, serve different purposes, and have different decorative designs to choose from.
The most commonly used router bits for rounding wood edges:
- Roundover bit – creates a rounded edge with a quarter-circle profile
- Beading bit – creates a rounded edge with a concave profile
- Cove bit – creates a rounded edge with a concave profile that is larger than that of a beading bit
- Bullnose bit – creates a fully rounded edge with a half-circle profile
- Chamfer bit – creates a beveled edge with an angled profile
Finally, make sure that your workpiece is clean and has smooth and straight edges. Keep in mind, that any imperfections will show in the cut.
Round Over an Edge with a Router
Once you have gathered the proper tools for your project, you may set up the router, begin routing and then check your work for a smooth finish. When working with a router be patient, don’t rush, and let the router do the work. Let’s go over each step.
Step 1: Fit the Router bit
First, set up your router and router bit. Generally, a more delicate project requires a smaller diameter bit and a thicker material requires a larger diameter. Entry-level units take only 1/4-inch diameter bits. The more powerful the router the larger the bit in diameter that it can take.
Step 2: Set the Cut Depth
Fasten the router bit and set the desired cut depth. Adjust the bit so that it is slightly above the edge of the wood. Make a test cut and readjust as needed. This will prevent the bit from cutting too deeply and damaging the wood.
Step 3: Round the Edges
Once the desired depth is set, make the cut. Move the router along the edge slowly and steadily. Do not rush and let the router do the work. After completing the cut, sand the edges with sandpaper or a sanding block to achieve a smooth finish.
NOTE: Keep in mind, when working over the outside of a workpiece, you must move in the counterclockwise direction. When you route the inside of a workpiece, move in a clockwise direction.
Now let’s look at some other ways to round wood edges that require different types of tools and skills.
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How To Round Wood Edges Without a Router
If you don’t have a router and would prefer working with hand tools, these methods may be for you. You may choose to round wood edges using sandpaper, hand plane, chisel, rasp or surform, sander, or Dremel.
These methods will be particularly useful when you need to round the edges of very small workpieces or in delicate areas that are difficult to access. Using a router for such tasks would be nearly impossible.
Before you begin working with any of the tools, make sure to think of safety. Use a pair of proper gloves, safety glasses, and perhaps some ear protection. Keep these essentials within arm’s reach and ready to use.
Now let’s dive into each approach and learn their advantages and disadvantages.
Method 1: Use Sandpaper to Round Wood Edges
The first method I will discuss is likely the easiest and perhaps the most popular. There are many types of sandpaper and almost anyone can use it with ease to round wood edges.
First, purchase the correct type of sandpaper for your project. Cut a piece of it, and begin rubbing it on the rough edges with your fingers and the palm of your hand. To achieve the best result, begin by using sandpaper with a low grade and gradually progress to finer grit sandpaper.
This method is very inexpensive. It is effective for smoothing rough edges and very helpful when sanding and smoothing areas that are difficult to access. You can shape sandpaper very easily, providing you with numerous options for its usage.
Sandpaper might not work for larger workpieces though. Rounding edges with sandpaper takes time, and sanding unevenly across the material may result in a surface with multiple levels.
This can be partially eliminated by using a sanding block. A sanding block provides a larger sanding surface which ensures uniform pressure distribution. Additionally, it safeguards your hands and fingers from potential scratches and splinters.
Method 2: Use a Hand Plane to Round Wood Edges
Before you begin, inspect your workpiece. Does it have any uneven and sharp edges? If it does, you can use a hand plane to level, smooth, and round the edges of the wood.
A hand plane is also an easy tool to use. Rub the hand plane on the wood with both palms of your hands. Continue to do so until the edges of the wood gradually become smooth.
- Adjust the plane to form a 45-degree angle with the wood edge
- Glide the plane across the entire length of the wood
- Alter the angle of the plane to create a curved edge
- Finish the edge with sandpaper
You can smooth and level most of the wood edges with a hand planer without needing any training. If you have a hand planer in the shop, use it. If not, don’t buy one for this purpose.
Rounding wood edges with a hand plane is not a difficult task, on the other hand, planes are not the cheapest. While they’re suitable for straight edges and surfaces, hand planes aren’t ideal for irregular ones, such as the live edges of slabs. Some types of wood might also pose challenges when trying to round their edges with a hand plane.
Here are some types of wood that may be difficult to plane by hand:
- Plywood and other engineered wood products
- Softwoods – pine or cedar
- Wood with high resin content – rosewood or teak
- Wood with irregular grain patterns – exotic woods, burls
- Live Edges of wood
Method 3: Use a Chisel to Round Wood Edges
Another way to round wood edges without a router is to use a chisel. You must make sure that you purchase a good quality chisel and that it is sharp. A good-quality chisel will make it easier to round the sharp edges of the wood. I have been using Narex chisels and they are fantastic – strong, durable, and precise.
First, make sure the chisel is sharp. Start by gently hitting the chisel’s head with a mallet or a hammer. You can also round the wood by pressing the chisel with your hands. Both methods work fine.
- Hold the chisel at a slight angle with the edge of the wood
- Tap it gently with a hammer or press it with your hands and make an initial shallow cut
- Gradually deepen your cuts as you work your way along the edge
- Once you have created the desired shape, use sandpaper to smooth it
It is important to work slowly and carefully when using a chisel.
NOTE: Working with a chisel requires skill and experience. It takes time to learn how to use a chisel properly, apply the right amount of pressure and achieve the desired results. If a chisel is not used correctly, it can easily cause irreversible damage to the material or cause injury to the user.
A chisel is an effective tool if you know how to use it properly. Nevertheless, it is not a tool for beginners who don’t have the necessary skill or experience. The downside of using a chisel is that it can cause serious injuries, and can easily damage the material if not used correctly. Chisels are great for carving tasks, but they may not be the most ideal tool for shaping.
Method 4: Use a Surform to Round Wood Edges
A surform is a combination of a hand slicer and a grater. It is mainly used for shaping and smoothing surfaces, such as wood, metal, and plastic, and can be used as an alternative to a rasp.
The blades on a surform are durable, typically made from carbide or steel, and can be easily removed or replaced when needed. There is a variety of different blades that can be used, ranging from flat blades to curved blades.
The blade is mounted onto a handle, which the user holds with both hands, providing perfect control over the tool when sanding surfaces or rounding wood edges.
- Place the surform on the sharp edge/corner of a workpiece and start sweeping.
- Make sure to move the surform from left to right to achieve the desired curve.
- Work the straight edges by tilting the surform as you get to the bend.
- Repeat the process on the opposite straight edges until you are satisfied with the natural curve.
One advantage of using a surform is that it is an affordable and user-friendly tool, making it a great option for beginners. Although it may require a bit of practice to get used to, it is still a nice alternative to a rasp and can produce great results.
Method 5: Round Wood Edges with Sander
A sander is the faster version of sandpaper. If you need to sand large areas of wood, work on multiple pieces, or just don’t have the time to work with sandpaper, using a power sander might be a good option.
A sander can remove a lot of material quickly, which is a huge advantage when you need to do a lot of sanding at once. Nonetheless, it may not offer the same level of accuracy and control as some other tools.
To achieve optimal results, begin by using a sander to sand larger surfaces and edges, and then refine the details by hand using sandpaper. This approach is commonly used in the production of kitchen cutting boards.
- Draw a curved template on the side of your wood to round the edges. It will guide you to create an even curve along the entire edge
- Turn on the sander and wait until it reaches its full speed
- Begin by using sandpaper with a low grade and gradually progress to a finer grit sandpaper
- Start rounding the edges by sanding back and forth along the sides
- Sand the edges until you reach the desired curve
The benefit of using a sander is that its sole helps keep the rounding of the wood nice and flat. However, it may require a bit more skill and practice compared to using sandpaper. Also, keep in mind that sanding with a sander can be fast, so adjust your work accordingly.
A disc sander operates similarly to an orbital sander. However, with a disc sander, the sanding disc remains stationary while you move the workpiece against it.
Method 6: Use a Dremel to Round the Wood Edges
Using a Dremel is probably one of the most difficult methods. In this sense, it is very similar to using a jigsaw. Although both tools can be used to round the edges, they may not be the best tools for the job.
A Dremel is not suited for larger woodworking projects, that’s where you should use one of the above-mentioned tools, but certainly can be used for smaller projects or for more detailed work where precision is needed. When working with a Dremel be sure to use the right attachments.
- Choose the right bit. Select a sanding bit that is suitable for wood and has a rounded edge. The most common bit for rounding edges is the sanding drum
- Set the Dremel to a low speed to avoid burning the wood. Adjust the speed as necessary
- Hold the Dremel at a slight angle and move it back and forth against the edge. Do not apply too much pressure as this can damage both wood and the bit
- Use finer sanding bits to create a smooth finish
The benefits of using a Dremel are the speed and quality of work you can achieve if you know how to use it. The downside is the risk of damaging the material, breaking the bits, or getting injured. If the tool is used incorrectly, it can cause serious injuries.
In conclusion, rounding wood edges is an important technique that can add both aesthetic and functional benefits to woodworking projects. Whether you are crafting furniture, decorative trim, or other wooden items, rounded edges can create a safer, more comfortable experience for users, prevent splinters, and improve the overall visual appeal of your finished product.
For my part, I’ve always leaned towards the trim router among power tools. Its versatility with different bits really stands out, and if used correctly a router will give you excellent results. When it comes to hand tools, sanding blocks and chisels are my preferred option. And while I love using a router, I get that they can be a bit pricey and not everyone has one just lying around in their workshop.
But there are plenty of ways to achieve that perfect rounded edge. You can also use a hand plane, a surform, a sander, a sanding disc, or a Dremel.
All the methods can produce great results. But regardless of the method used, take your time, and pay attention to detail.