Square Panel, Round Hole: Cutting a Circular Window.


Cutting a window into a case can be a stumbler for many folks. There are a few different ways to it – all with their own pro’s and con’s. I like using a rotary tool with a cutting wheel. Of course, cutting a window is only part of getting it done. First, you have to design the window. I want to eventually do a “window in window” side panel mod. To start, I want a 12” or so round opening in my side panel. Thus my first problem – I’m no good with perfect circles! How do I get this round hole in my square side panel?

I could use a fancy compass. In fact, I have a few and one is large enough to do 12”. However, I have had bad luck with compasses slipping. So, I figure a large dinner plate is just about perfect. Unfortunately, there is a directive straight from the Queen that kitchen materials not be used in the shop.

This called for activation of special operation "Cat's Cradle ". I’m just the one for it.

“The name is Base: Manta_Base.”

I pulled out a $20 and dropped my line, “Honey, there’s a yard sale down the street. I’m going to be running the air compressor and it’s a bit loud – even in the house. Why don’t you see if they have anything good?”

With my subterfuge in operation, I hurried my work. The pattern on the plate is Marisol (Sea and Sun). They were made in Italy for Williams-Sonoma. I don’t know who the Williams-Sonoma family is, or how we got their dishes, but they are pretty nice ones.

Using the plate to help me, I put tape around where the cut will eventually be. This is for a number of reasons. First, it acts as a non-skid for the plate. Second, it takes writing better than the painted metal. Last, during cutting, it will offer some protection for my occasional slips.

With the pattern in place, it’s on to the cutting (after returning the plate to the kitchen). As, I said, I’m using a rotary tool with a fiberglass reinforced cutting wheel. Some tips are in order:

- Always wear eye protection – seriously.
- Ear protection is strongly advised.
- Let the tool do the work – that’s what it is for. Pushing on it to make it cut faster will actually break the wheel (and possibly the tool).
- Always cut in the direction opposite of rotation. Otherwise, you are asking for the tool to jump out of your hand (well, try to anyway).

And, of course, the standard disclaimer:

Any safety reminders given herein are not to be taken as a substitute for proper training and, if required, supervision. You (the reader) are solely responsible for any outcome, positive or negative, resulting from the use of this information.

With that, we begin...

Patience is the key. It will take five or so passes to make this cut. On your first pass you are simply getting through the tape and scoring the metal. On my second pass I typically change out the cutting wheel for a new one. The tape has a tendency to undress (“plug up”) the wheel . Try for perfect, and then settle for not having it – that’s the way of the Dremel, and we will shape up the finished cut. Work in short intervals (5-10 minutes). Most rotary tool are not designed to run for extended periods of time, so take many breaks. Speed wise, I set my Stylus to 6 or 7. I think that’s about 15,000 RPM.

This will take a while. I have five passes to make and I’m out of room. We'll pick this little project up next week and I'll complete the hole and dress up the edges. Until next time…

Happy Moddin’

Click here for Cutting a Circular Window: Part Deux

Today’s bling was dug up by Maximum PC forum Moderator Flytrap7. It’s the contest gallery at another place referred to as MPC. Atomic MPC’s Monthly Showcases

Edited 10/13/07 - Reason: to address the comment of vaemor.

Edited 10/20/07 - Reason: to add link to continuation.

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