Rounding the edges of lumber creates a smooth, finished look for DIY projects. Rounded wood has a natural, organic appearance and is safer than sharp edges. Learning basic techniques for rounding or beveling lumber takes just a little practice. Follow this guide to achieve professional-looking rounded edges on beams, boards, and other wood surfaces.
Benefits of Rounding Lumber
Rounding the corners and edges of lumber pieces provides several advantages:
- Stylish appearance – Rounded wood looks more high-end and refined. It has a smooth, sculpted look.
- Easier handling – Taking the sharpness off lumber helps avoid scrapes and cuts when moving and working with the wood.
- Safer for kids – Rounding lumber eliminates sharp corners and edges, reducing the risk of cuts and splinters for children.
- Distressed look – For a shabby chic or weathered style, rounding just the edges creates a slightly worn appearance.
- Accent lighting effects – Rounded edges catch and reflect light in an attractive manner.
Achieving rounded or beveled edges takes a little extra time but adds beauty and character to your finished wood project.
Tools for Rounding Lumber
Various manual and power tools can be used to round over the edges of lumber:
- Random orbital sander – Attaching a roundover sanding disc helps quickly soften sharp edges.
- Stationary belt sander – Good for larger lumber pieces. Roundover belt sleeves are available.
- Router – A router with a roundover bit cuts uniform rounded edges. Great for edges and ends.
- Rasp or file – For quick touch ups or small pieces. Files with curved faces work well.
- Disc sander – Use a disc sander on a workbench to manually bevel edges.
- Jointer – Passing wood through a jointer with the guard back slightly rounds over edges.
- Hand plane – Set for a very shallow cut, a smoothing plane can create subtle rounded edges.
Matching the tool to the scale of rounding needed ensures efficient material removal and smooth results.
Rounding Lumber by Hand
For those without power tools, it’s still possible to manually round lumber edges using just sandpaper and hand tools. Here is a simple process:
- Start with 120-150 grit sandpaper to rapidly remove material and create a blunt bevel along the edge. Wrap sandpaper around a sanding block for best control.
- Switch to 220-400 grit sandpaper as you get close to the final rounded profile. Higher grits smooth out sanding marks.
- Use a file or rasp for sharper inside corners or profiles that are hard to reach with sandpaper.
- Finish with 400+ grit sandpaper for an ultra-smooth surface. Lubricate the sandpaper with wax or oil for easier sanding.
- Finally, ease over the rounded edge lightly with fine steel wool to further blend and soften the profile.
It takes some elbow grease, but hand sanding allows creating rounded edges without any power tools. Apply a protective finish once smooth to preserve the shape.
Using a Router for Roundover Edges
For uniform rounded edges, a router with a roundover bit makes quick work of profiling lumber edges:
- Select a carbide tipped roundover bit with the desired radius. 1/4″ and 1/2″ are common sizes.
- Set bit depth so it cuts no more than halfway through the wood thickness to avoid weakening edges.
- Run pieces through the router moving left to right. Use a router table or handheld router with edge guide.
- Make multiple light passes rather than removing too much material in one pass. Go slowly.
- Run all edges to ensure a consistent profile around the entire perimeter.
- Sand lightly with 220 grit paper to smooth out any tool marks.
With the right router bit, rounding even large piles of lumber can be done quickly. Always feed wood against the bit rotation direction for a smooth cut.
Rounding Beam Corners
Large rectangular beams often benefit from having the sharp 90 degree corners rounded off for both appearance and safety reasons. This can be achieved by:
- Using a belt sander with roundover sleeve at a 45 degree angle to blunt the corner.
- Carefully cutting the corner on a miter saw with the blade tilted to 45 degrees.
- Marking a radius at the corner and using a jigsaw to cut a rounded curve. File smooth.
- Drilling a 1-2″ radius hole at each corner then connecting the holes with a jigsaw.
- Hand chiseling a bevel or bullnose profile.
Take it slow and sneak up on the final profile. Leaving corners slightly square helps avoid a too-rounded look. Apply protective finish after smoothing.
Finishing Rounded Edges
Proper finishing preserves rounded edges and enhances their appearance:
- Sand rounded profiles to 220+ grit for a smooth surface finish.
- Wipe away sanding dust then apply protective sealer, oil, or varnish.
- Use a foam brush to prevent finish from collecting in corners.
- Allow adequate drying time before handling finished lumber.
- Buff gently with extra fine (0000) steel wool between finish coats for an ultra-smooth surface.
- Consider slightly darkening edges with stain for added definition.
Sealing rounded edges protects the work you put into shaping the lumber while providing extra visual appeal.
Achieving smooth rounded lumber edges takes some practice but is a highly worthwhile skill. With the right tools and techniques, you can add both elegance and character to your woodworking projects by rounding over edges and profiles. Taking the time to properly sand, finish, and seal rounded wood results in refined, eye-catching pieces.
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