How to Cut an Oval in Wood with an Ellipse Jig

The best way to cut an oval in wood is with the help of an ellipse router jig. An adjustable ellipse jig is used mainly in creating table tops, trays, bowls, or coasters. Learn how to cut an oval with this step-by-step guide.

You can use a circle-cutting jig to cut a circle in wood. It is easy to use and you will get great results. But how would you cut an oval in wood? Cutting an oval in wood is not that different than cutting a circle. To cut an oval you will need an ellipse jig, which usually consists of a base and a circle-cutting jig.

Being able to cut an oval finds application mainly in the creation of table tops, kitchen trays, bowls, or cabinets. The best way to cut a perfect oval is to use an ellipse jig, a trim router, and a suitable router bit (a double-edge spiral bit would be the best choice).

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Ellipse Jig

The ellipse jig consists of a base and a circle-cutting jig. The base can be attached to the workpiece either with screws or double-sided tape. The base has 2 perpendicular t-tracks that allow the movement of two specially modified t-track sliders. Each of the sliders moves in its own track.

The circle-cutting jig is attached to both sliders, whose set distance defines the minor and major radius of the oval. The base of the ellipse jig is smaller in size (20x20cm), which allows the cutting of small ovals. The ability to cut large ovals depends on the length of the circle-cutting jig.

All the material is easily available in a local store – plywood, HDF, few screws and bolts.

In this article, I will show you how to make a router ellipse jig, how to set it up, and how to cut an oval in wood.

Let’s get right into it.

DIY Ellipse Jig Video

If you want to know how to cut an oval in wood then watch the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to make an ellipse jig.

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Table of Contents

  1. The Material you will need
  2. General Questions
    1. How do you cut a perfect oval in wood with a router?
    2. What tool do you use to make ovals in wood?
    3. What is the best router bit for cutting an oval?
  3. How to Cut an Oval in Wood with an Ellipse Jig
    1. Step 1: Cut the Ellipse Jig Baseplate
    2. Step 2: Cut the T-track Runners
    3. Step 3: Assemble the Baseplate Parts
    4. Step 4: Make the T-tracks
    5. Step 5: Finish the T-track Runners
    6. Step 6: Make T-track Bolts for the Router Circle Jig
    7. Step 7: Add a Leveling Support
  4. How to Cut an Oval in Wood
  5. Jigs Used for the Project

*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!

Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.

What you'll need to make an Ellipse Router Jig

Ellipse Jig Base
HDF Board – 20cm x 20cm x 0,4cm
Plywood boards – 4x (9cm x 9cm x 1,2cm)

DIY T-tracks
HDF Strips – 8x (9,5m x 1,5cm x 0,3cm)

DIY Bolts
Plywood Strips – 2x (4cm x 2cm x 0,9cm)
HDF Strips – 2x (4cm x 0,8cm x 0,3cm)
Plywood Strips – 2x (3cm x 1,5cm x 0,9cm)
Brass rod – ⌀4mm

Other:
Wood Screws, 6mm bolts
Wing Nuts, Washers
Wood Glue, Epoxy
Straight router bit
Double-Sided tape

Tools:
Makita Circular Saw
Proxxon Mini Table Saw
Dewalt Trim Router
Bosch Hand Drill
Narex Chisels

How do you cut a perfect oval in wood with a router?

To cut a perfect oval in wood, you need a trim router, an oval cutting jig, and a suitable router cutting bit. Place the base of the oval cutting jig on the workpiece and secure it either with double-sided tape or screws. Attach the trim router to the swivel arm of the oval jig, set the minor and major radius, and start cutting. Use the appropriate router bit to ensure the best result.

What tool do you use to make ovals in wood?

The best and preferred way of cutting an oval in wood is to use a router and an ellipse jig. You can buy an ellipse router jig in a nearby store that would fit the type of your router, or you can build one yourself. An ellipse jig is a combination of a base platform and a circle-cutting jig. Both can be easily made with tools you already have in the workshop.

What is the best router bit for cutting an oval?

The best router bits for cutting and oval in wood are a straight router bit and a double edge spiral bit. They both provide excellent results. The cuts are clean, and precise and they leave a smooth finish.

The main difference between a straight router bit and a spiral router bit is in the way the wood is cut. A spiral router bit cuts away piece by piece the sheets of wood, unlike a straight router bit which rather chops off the wood.

Read the following article for more information regarding these router bits:

Let's start building!

The ellipse jig consists of 2 main parts – the base which is attached to the workpiece and the adjustable arm that cuts the oval. The base is made of plywood and HDF and contains homemade t-tracks. The adjustable arm (a circle-cutting jig) is made from plywood and HDF.

Ellipse router jig properties:

  • Material: Plywood, HDF, brass rod
  • Total dimensions: 20m x 20cm x 1,6cm
  • The smallest possible cut ellipse – semi-minor axis = 10,5cm
  • The largest possible cut ellipse – depends on the possibilities of the circle-cutting jig
  • DIY T-tracks

NOTE: The ellipse jig baseboard is made of a narrower HDF board (0,4cm) with custom t-tracks so that the maximum router bit length can be used. Nevertheless, the base can be also made from a 9mm or 12mm plywood board with a standard miter track.

How to Cut an Oval in Wood with an Ellipse Jig

Step 1: Cut the Ellipse Jig Baseplate

Cut a square baseplate (20cm x 20cm) from HDF. To make the cuts I am using a straight-edge circular saw guide.

TIP: Use a sacrificial board while making the cuts.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Ellipse Jig

Step 2: Cut the T-track Runners

Cut several plywood strips (4cm x 2cm x 0,9cm) for the runners. I used a circular saw guide and a mini crosscut sled to achieve the exact dimensions.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Ellipse Jig

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Step 3: Assemble the Baseplate Parts

Cut 4 plywood squares (9cm x 9cm x 1,2cm) and align them with the corners of the bottom plate. Use the cut runners as separators. Once finished, glue all the squares to the baseplate.

NOTE: Make sure the glue does not get in the slots.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Ellipse Jig

Step 4: Make the T-tracks

Mark the t-tracks on the base plate and cut the slots using an exact-width dado cutting jig. The depth of the cut is equal to the thickness of the HDF strips (3mm).

TIP: Make shallow passes until you get the depth right. The strips need to be level with the surface.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Ellipse Jig
How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Ellipse Jig

At this point test how the runners slide in the slots. They might get stuck a bit at the intersection of the tracks. It is very important the runners slide perfectly at all times.

Sand the corners a bit at the intersection with sandpaper. Also, round the edges of the runners. Test and try how much is necessary to sand off.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Oval Jig

Cut the HDF Strips (9,5m x 1,5cm x 0,3cm) and miter the corners. Then, glue the strips on the base. Make sure the glue does not get in the tracks. Additionally, secure the strips with screws.

How to cut an oval in wood with Ellipse Jig
How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Oval Jig

Cut the corners of the ellipse jig to make it lighter and make space for cutting.

Step 5: Finish the T-track Runners

Insert the runners in the tracks and glue narrow HDF strips on top of them. Drill a 4mm hole for the pivoting pins in the center of the runner.

NOTE: The strips will increase the height of the runner increasing the depth for the pivoting pins.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Oval Jig

Step 6: Make T-track Bolts for the Router Circle Jig

Cut 2 wooden strips (3cm x 1,5cm x 0,9cm) and drill a 4mm and a 6mm hole in them. Cut a hexagon around the 6mm hole and use epoxy to glue a bolt in it. Also, use epoxy to glue a brass pivoting pin in the 4mm hole.

NOTE: The brass pin and the bolt must be pointing in the opposite direction.

How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Oval Jig
How to cut an oval hole in wood with Router Oval Jig

Mount the t-track bolts on the circle cutting jig and fix them with washers and wing nuts.

How to cut an oval with a router

Step 7: Add a Leveling Support

Cut a wooden piece of the same height as the oval jig and attach it under the router of the circle jig. You can either use screws to attach it directly to the router or you can attach it to the circle jig base.

How to cut an oval with a router

Below is a picture of a finished router oval cutting jig. Together with a circle-cutting jig you will be able to cut clean ovals. The maximum size of the oval cut depends on the maximum settings of the circle jig.

How to cut an oval in wood with Ellipse Jig
Finished Router Ellipse Jig

How to Cut an Oval in Wood

The steps provided below describe how to set up an ellipse jig and how to cut an oval/ellipse in wood using a trim router. Use the right router bit for the job. For a better understanding of how to set it up and how to use it, refer to the video included.

How to setup and use an ellipse cutting jig

  1. Attach the ellipse jig to the workpiece either with double-sided tape or with screws.
  2. Set the track runners in position to set the minor and major axis of the ellipse.
  3. Set the pivoting pins on the circle-cutting jig to set the ellipse size.
  4. Attach the circle-cutting jig to the ellipse jig base.
  5. Use the right router bit.
  6. Set the depth of the cut.
  7. Slowly make the cut.
  8. Use the necessary protective equipment.

TIP: Support the front of the circle-cutting jig so that it is level with the oval-cutting jig base. Add a few additional supports if you want to cut larger ovals. 

How to cut an oval in wood with Ellipse Jig
How to cut an oval in wood with Ellipse Jig
Cutting an oval in wood with an ellipse jig

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