How to Round Wood Edges?

Rounding wood edges not only add to the safety but also adds a touch of class and elegance to wood. From shelving to furniture and more, rounded edges provide the proper appearance and safety that makes wood pieces complete.

However, to create the proper rounded edges, you will need the right tools. And while you have a myriad of tools to choose from, the one generally considered the best is the router.

Router: The Most Common Technique

The router is a precision cutting tool designed to create curves in materials such as wood. This makes it the perfect choice for rounding corners. You simply draw the rounded edge you prefer using a pencil, then follow the drawing around with the router.

Rounding wood edges with router

All you need to do is set the proper depth so the router cuts through the wood. You can easily guide the router from above and round many edges quickly and efficiently. Depending on the type of wood, you may need to do a little sanding to smooth out any bumps or imperfections. But for the most part, the router is the best tool available.

8 Ways to Round Wood Edges without a Router

But what if you do not have a router? It certainly will be more difficult, but there are at least seven ways to round wood edges without using a router.

Man rounding edges of a wood table

1. Hand Sanding

Sanding is the most common method of rounding wood edges when you do not have a router or other power tools available. It is true that rounding edges with sandpaper takes considerable effort and time. However, you get an accuracy to the rounded edge that is not achievable with many other manual methods.

To speed up the process, start with a low-grade sheet of sandpaper; the rougher, the better. This will take off the wood quickly. Then, work your way up to using a fine-grain sandpaper to get that sharp edge. The fine grain allows for better control and creating a clean, rounded shape.

Use Sanding Block: You can attach sandpaper to a sanding block to round wood edges. The block provides a solid, straight support for the sandpaper to evenly remove the material.

Using DIY sanding block to break edges

You can also get sanding blocks with different contours, including curved ones, to round the edges uniformly. If you have a sanding block, this will let you create a smooth, even surface without wearing on your knuckles. However, if you have a larger amount of material to remove, hand sanding is probably not the answer. It will take far too long, and there are other methods available.

2. Using Files or Rasps

  • Rasp: A rasp is a hand tool similar to file, but with large triangular teeth. A rasp will work better as it will take more material away compared to a file. However, you will need to finish by sanding to achieve a neat finish.
  • Man shaping wood with a rasp

  • Wood File: A wood file is used to refine the rough surface created by a rasp, but you get better control. This means that you get a sharper, cleaner edge that takes the round shape that you want. The downside is that a wood file will also take considerable time, depending on how much wood you need to remove.

3. Using Spokeshave

A spokeshave is a larger tool that normally requires both hands. The spokeshave is generally used to smooth and level the wood, but it can be used to round corners if you use the right techniques.

Woodworker using antique Spokeshave to round edges

You will need to sharpen the blade and practice on a scrap piece of wood to get the right technique. Once you feel confident, then you can use the spokeshave to take away a considerable amount of material in a short time.

Like the rasp method, you must do sanding to finish the round edges. Once you have the general shape using the spokeshave, you can switch to using sandpaper to finish the corner. You can think of the spokeshave as the tool to take away most of the material, then refine what is left by using fine-grain sandpaper.

4. Chisels

The main advantage of a chisel is that it will take more material away compared to sandpaper, files, or rasps. The downside is that all it takes is one mistake to ruin a potential rounded corner. You will need some skill and experience in using the chisel correctly.

Rounded wood corners with chisel

If you lack experience, then start working with the chisel on a piece of scrap wood that is like the wood that you will make the rounded edge. Start by removing small pieces so you understand how to control the chisel and minimize potential mistakes.

The key to working with a chisel is to keep it sharp. A dull chisel will result in a slower, less accurate process that is more vulnerable to making mistakes.
Also, a mallet works better than a hammer when chiseling wood.

5. Hand Plane

Arguably the best hand tool to create corners quickly is the hand plane. Every woodworker has this tool with him, and it is relatively easy to use, especially for smoothing edges and leveling wood. Because it fits easily into your hand, the plane is simple to operate.

Man rounding wood edge with an edge plane

A big advantage of the hand plane is that it can remove a lot of wood relatively quickly. You can also achieve a uniform profile across the length as you shave the wood along the length. This means that you can round corners with more accuracy and with fewer mistakes compared to using a chisel.

I suggest you use an edge plane and a palm plane to round the edges.
First, make 4 or 5 passes to shave the material and create a 45° at the corner. Then break the two sharp corners to get a nearly round edge.

Here is a video that explains the technique.

However, it is recommended that you have some fine grain sandpaper to smooth the edges once the rounding of the corner is complete.

6. Rotary Tool

Sometimes called a Dremel, a rotary tool can be used for a wide variety of jobs when shaping wood. Rounding edges may not be the primary purpose of the rotary tool, but it can be done with a little patience and planning.

Sanding Wood with Dremel

While creating curved edges is relatively simple in concept, the big downside of the Dremel is that it is difficult to control, especially if you are rounding the edges of a long tabletop or bench. For a precision curve, it will take considerable pressure to maintain control. However, when there is too much pressure, you may risk the flatness of the finish itself.

To use the rotary tool correctly, draw out the curve using a template. Then use sweeping motions with the rotary tool to remove the sharp corner first. Now follow the line you have drawn until you get close enough to finish the curve using sandpaper.

7. Power Sanders

Power sanders, such as a detail sander, random orbital sander or sheet sander, can be effective tools for rounding wood edges, especially for larger projects or when you need to remove a lot of material to round multiple edges quickly.

Rounding edges with a Random Orbital Sander

However, power tools can be aggressive, and if you are not careful, you will remove too much material from the corners. For this reason, I prefer to use a random orbital sander over a belt sander since the RAS is less aggressive and offers better control.

8. Angle Grinder & Flap Discs

Angle grinder on wood?

Yes. If you have an angle grinder with the right flap discs, then you can create some curved edges rather quickly. But you must not use abrasive discs on wood.

The advantage of sanding with angle grinders is that they are rather simple to use. As power tools, they require less effort. Plus, when you use the different grade flap discs, you can get the results you desire.

The only downside is that you gotta make sure you grab the right kind of flap discs, ’cause there are different ones for metal and wood.