How to Cut a Circle Out of Cardboard

If you have the right tools, cutting a circle from thick or thin cardboard is simple. Always trace your circle onto the cardboard first to ensure a perfect cut. Then, using scissors or a craft knife, cut it out, scoring as necessary.

Method 1 Tracing Your Circle

1. Trace your circle with a pencil or marker. To properly cut your circle, you must first trace it on the cardboard. If you don’t want the lines to show as much, use a pencil. Otherwise, a marker will draw a nice, clear line for you to cut along.

2. Draw any size circle you want with a compass. To move the arms, unscrew the hinge at the top of the compass; the distance between the two points will be the radius of your circle, which means it will be half the size of the final circle. Tighten the hinge once you’ve achieved the desired size. Set the sharp point in the centre of your circle, compass straight up, so the pencil also hits the cardboard. Push down on the needle part of the compass and twist the top to form a circle, which will be marked with the pencil.

You can unscrew the small screw on the pencil’s side if it isn’t close enough to the paper. Pull the pencil down a little. It should strike the cardboard while the compass’s sharp point is straight up and down. Tighten the screw again after you’ve adjusted it.

A compass is a two-armed hinged instrument. One arm is holding a sharp point, while the other is holding a pencil.

The size of the circle you can draw is limited by the length of the compass’s arms.

3. For a large circle, use a thumbtack and a piece of string. To make a larger circle, make a loop of yarn and stretch it taut. The radius (halfway across) the circle will be the length. Insert a thumbtack into the cardboard where you want the circle’s centre to be and loop the yarn around it. Then, insert the pencil into the yarn loop’s outer edge. Stretch the string taut, then move the pencil around the thumbtack, pressing down to make a mark.

This circle isn’t as precise as a compass, but it’ll suffice for most projects.

4. For a quick fix, trace around a circular object. If your circle does not need to be a precise size, this is a simple fix. Find a circular jar lid or a plastic food container lid in the size you require. Trace around it with a pencil or marker while holding it down on the paper.

For larger circles, use coffee can lids or bucket lids.

Method 2 Using Scissors to Cut the Circle Out

1. Choose a sharp, low-cost pair of scissors. Cardboard tends to dull scissors quickly, so choose a pair that isn’t too pricey. If you plan on cutting cardboard frequently, you should invest in a pair of cardboard-specific scissors.

A low-cost pair is a good choice because it will not be too expensive to replace them when they become dull.

2. Remove any extra cardboard from around the circle. It will be more difficult to guide your scissors around the circle if there is a lot of cardboard around it. Cut a larger circle or square around the circle you want to cut out with your scissors.

If you want a negative space circle (a piece of cardboard with a perfectly circular hole cut in it), carefully stab one side of the scissors through the centre of the circle to begin your cut.

3. Cut the extra cardboard into sections by cutting from the outside of the circle toward the circle. Cut a line from the cardboard’s edge inward toward the circle. When you reach the circle, come to a complete stop. Make another cut 0.75 to 1 inch (1.9 to 2.5 cm) to the right or left. Go all the way around the circle in this manner, so that the cardboard is all cut into finger-like sections.

This procedure aids in the cutting of the circle’s curve. Otherwise, as you move around the circle, the cardboard may bend.

If you want to cut out the inside but keep the outside, cut the sections from the centre of the circle out to the edge.

4. Cut all the way around the circle. Start moving your scissors around the circle between two of the sections you cut. As you move, the sections will fall off. Cut all the way around to make a circle.

Method 3 Working with a Craft Knife

1. Choose a razor-sharp craft or box cutter. Thick cardboard can be cut with a box cutter or a contractor’s knife. For thinner cuts, a craft knife or scalpel-type knife is preferable. In either case, the blade must be extremely sharp in order to cut through the cardboard.

Work on a surface that you don’t mind cutting, such as a self-healing cutting mat.

2. Small strokes are used to cut around the circle. Move around the circle in small strokes, rather than one long stroke. Also, don’t try to cut all the way through the cardboard. It will not cut cleanly, and you may injure yourself by applying too much pressure.

Always point the knife away from your body, not toward it.

3. Cut all the way through the cardboard by going over the circle again. Run the craft knife around the circle again, tracing the previous cut. Repeat the process a third time if necessary to get all the way through the cardboard.

Because it’s curved, instead of one big slice, continue to make small cuts as you move around.

4. Maintain a safe distance between your fingers and the cutting path. Always keep an eye on the path of the blade and make sure your fingers aren’t in it. If you’re not careful, the blade may slip, resulting in a nasty cut.

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