Adam Savage’s Favorite Tools: Making Circles and Holes!

Making circles. Every maker has to make circles or holes, and Adam highly recommends that every maker have a compass set they can use to draw cricles of various sizes. But in addition to that trusty tool, there are also templates and adjustable ring rulers that can help draw curves. And one of Adam’s recent favorite tools are cookie cutters for marking and cutting circles out of soft materials. This set of cookie cutters are a terrific and cheap option to have at your disposal. Great for epoxy putty, bake-able clay, and super sculpey, as well as simply drawing templates!

Comments (9)

9 thoughts on “Adam Savage’s Favorite Tools: Making Circles and Holes!

  1. This isn’t a tool for drawing circles, and it’s not something everyone needs in their kit, but it’s one of those tools worth knowing about, because it can do a specific thing very very well. The Knockout Punch.

    It is an elegant tool for making clean circular cuts through sheet metal. With the notable distinction that since it “punches” through the metal, instead of relying on saws or abrasives, it leaves a fairly clean edge, which generally doesn’t require filing clean after. So, if you need to make a large number of tidy circular cuts through sheet metal, it can do that job more quickly than a hole saw when you account for time spent cleaning up the edges.

    I learned about this via the PC case modder Bill Owen, who frequently had to cut holes into computer cases for additional fan mounts. Using a large knockout punch for the main hole, and a small hole punch for the screw holes, he was able to do the job mostly with hand tools (you still need to drill a pilot hole for the knockout punch), and without having to clean up the edges afterwards.

  2. I use this Olfa rotary circle cutter all the time: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001CEAMCY/

    It’s meant for fabric, but I work with carbon fiber, and it works great for that, and even thin metal. Note that if you do use it for things like carbon fiber or metal, be sure to get some spare blades.

  3. A beam compass is a handy tool for drawing a circle or arc with a radius using a beam, typically wood sometimes lightweight metal, and two trammels that fit on the beam and slide and lock in place. The nice thing is that once you have a pair of trammels (here is an example https://taytools.com/collections/tools-marking-layout-tools-trammel-heads/products/trammel-points-beam-compass-fine-adjustment-pencil-holder) you can make a beam that is as long as needed for your circle. Typically one of the trammels also has a fine adjustment mechanism so that you can get an accurate radius. Our office has several antique beam compasses with wooden beams 5-6 feet long. They were used in the construction of nautical charts in pre-computer days. A slightly less accurate but similar approach is the nail, string, and pencil that you can use in a pinch for drawing up a large diameter circle, say on a sheet of plywood.

  4. Someone get Adam a set of trammel points! The Veritas ones from Lee Valley are nice, but they sell the lead points separately; the old Stanley ones if you can find them have a clip for the pencil included in the set.

  5. Oh, I forgot that Rockler has a kit for woodturners that makes a really nice set of trammel points. That would be a great One Day Build for Adam that would actually only take one day.

  6. Having worked in a drapery shop, making structural treatments I often had to make large circles and arcs, either for the treatment itself or to match an architectural feature. I used an 8ft. furring strip, or a 1″ by 2″ board. I secured a small screw at one end with the point all the way through, and drilled holes at the appropriate radius, at the other end, to insert a pencil. Any time I needed a new radius, drilled a new hole. I used this one board to great effect for years. *Don’t use a freshly sharpened pencil, the weight of the board will break the tip almost immediately*

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