How to Use a Scroll Saw

What is a Scroll Saw used for?

A scroll saw is typically used for small intricate designs. It’s a small machine with a fine blade, so it’s easier to get all those nooks and crannies. Scroll saws are usually either parallel arm or C-arm, types.  Scroll saws are used to freehand cut intricate wood patterns, also called fretwork. Common scroll saw projects are name tags, miniature furniture, clocks, and many other designs.

Ever wanted to make a intricate design in wood? Today we're going to show how to use a scroll saw and accomplish those detailed cuts!

Scroll Saw Tips and Techniques

Step One. Set up Your Scroll Saw.

Reduce tension before setting up a new blade.

Slide the blade through the throat plate and the table lock knob below will keep it in place. The blade will come up through the throat plate and lock into the drop foot lock knob.

Scroll Saw Table Lock Knob

When setting up you saw, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Blade Tension

Before starting any project, you need to get the right tension on the blade.

With nearly all scroll saws, 5 inch plain end blades are most often used. Blades are more often to break from low-tension, which causes an arch and causes a break. Rough material handling will also snap blades.

Increase the tension until you hear a high-pitched ping when it’s plucked. The blade will hit a certain note as heard in the video, when it’s has the right tension. Each blade has a slightly different note when plucked. You can also see feel some resistance on the back of the blade. Practice and analysis over time will help you perfect it.

Square the Blade

For most scroll saws,  just move the table to adapt to 90 degrees or any other angle. Make sure the insert needs to square with the table. On the older saws, where the inserts are chewed up this is difficult. You can make your own using the original as a template.   The strongest requirement here is the need to have a piece of material exactly as thick as the original insert so that the top is absolutely level with the table top.

There are many options for inserts, such as phenolic, softer aluminum alloys, tempered hardboard, solid wood, plywood, or even clear (or colored if you like that) acrylic and polycarbonate plastics work well.

Extras

Scroll saws are all about the smooth cuts. Using the hold-down and the sawdust blower are essential for that.  Hold-downs are lightweight and if set correctly to barely touch the work surface, they shouldn’t impede the progress of the wood. It helps keep the work piece from catching a tooth on some quirky grain and jumping off line as you cut. The sawdust blower keeps a clean line for you to follow.

The sawdust blower keeps a clean line for you to follow.

As you go on, it’s important to check belt tight tightness, lubrication and other needs.

And that about takes care of standard scroll saw preparation. You can, over time, get into checking belt tightness, lubrication and other needs, but right now, let’s go cut something.

Step Two. Cut Your Wood Down to Size.

Because the scroll saw is for more intricate work, so having a bunch of extra wood is hard to work with. Start your scroll saw projects with a piece of wood the right size for the project. Cut the wood down to size with another saw or with your scroll saw.

Step Three. Find the Right Speed.

Find the right speed for your scroll saw projects. For hard wood, you’ll want to use a slower speed. For soft woods, you can use faster speeds. If you use a variable-speed model, adjust the speed of the blade to get the best results.

Adjust speed depending on your skill and type of wood.

Step Four. Pre-drilling.

If you have super small spaces that you need to cut in, use a drill bit the size of your saw and drill holes in those spots inaccessible through a continuous cut. Drill a hole right on the line, so you can start cutting from that point. This will give you access to those other areas. We’ll go over this more in the scroll saw projects below.

Step Four. Pre-drilling. If you have super small spaces that you need to cut in, use a drill bit the size of your saw and drill holes in those spots inaccessible through a continuous cut.

Step Four. Start Scrolling!

Once you’ve made all the proper adjustments it’s time to start the cutting. If you have a bit of extra trim, then aim toward the link you need to cut on.

Gently guide the wood onto the blade, using both hands. As you start to cut the wood, press it down firmly with your forefingers of both hands and thumb letting the saw do the work. You’ll want to start with a larger piece, so you have plenty of room for your hands to hold the wood properly. If you piece is jumping around or you have jagged cuts, you need to press down more firmly.

Gently guide the wood onto the blade, using both hands. As you start to cut the wood, press it down firmly with your forefingers of both hands and thumb letting the saw do the work.

Remove the excess wood as you move along. Keep turning the wood, so the next line is in front of the scroll blade. If you need to start over in a new part, gently back the blade out of the cut and turn the piece again for the next line.

Step Five. Cut the Inside.

Once you have the outside cut out, use the drill holes to start drilling the inner cut lines.Step Five. Cut the Inside. Once you have the outside cut out, use the drill holes to start drilling the inner cut lines.

To cut the inside lines, untighten the blade and thread it through one of the holes you drilled. Tighten the blade as you did before.

Thread the blade through the pre-drilled holes.

Step Six. Sand.

Once you have your scroll saw projects completed, sand down the edges. Then paint it or decorate it however you want.

Scroll Saw Projects

Christmas is coming up, so we decided we’d give a couple of scroll saw projects that would make great Christmas gifts. These scroll saw projects are great ways to practice and also give unique, handmade Christmas gifts. If you subscribe to our blog, you will get free access to our full scroll saw project videos about how to make a puzzle and Christmas ornaments.

Click here to subscribe.

How to Use a Scroll Saw Video

 

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Ever wanted to make a intricate design in wood? Today we're going to show how to use a scroll saw and accomplish those detailed cuts!

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