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Scroll Sawing for Beginners – Techniques to Use Scroll Saw Perfectly

Let’s start with what is a scroll saw! It is a type of saw that is electrically operated or pedal-operated. It is a tool used to cut out intricate designs from pieces of wood, metal, or other materials. Generally, a scroll saw has a tiny and thin blade that can easily carve out different designs, curves, shapes, and angles. Read on to grab some knowledge on its types, uses, and how to use a scroll saw correctly.

What is a Scroll Saw Used For?

Most common usages of scroll saw are as follow,

  • The main purpose of a scroll saw is to create unique angled curves on wood and metal surfaces to support intricate patterns and curves.
  • Scroll saws also find great use in the wood and craft industry. Artisans generally use it to shape and carve various designer cuts.
  • It is way more versatile than a band saw and easily handled and worked upon.
  • Wood carvings, art pieces, marquetry, wooden templates, intarsia, etc., are often designed with the help of scroll saws.
  • It is also used in making wooden toys and jewelry pieces, alphabets, jigsaw puzzles, and intricate furniture designs on wood.
  • Carpentry primarily requires the use of a scroll saw to create interlocking dovetailed joints in furniture, cabinets, woodworking joinery, etc.

How to Use a Scroll Saw?

Before beginning with the proceedings of a scroll saw, one must be well versed with the terminology of a scroll saw.

Scroll Saw Parts Basic Guide

Table Adjustment

The saw table is the stationary part of the scroll saw that can be adjusted to the desired angle. A bevel scale is situated underneath the table to get the most appropriate angle for adjusting the table before proceeding to cut. You can take trials and practice cutting on scrap material to get a suitable work angle and adjust the table accordingly.

Tip or Drop Foot

The tip or drop foot of the scroll saw also needs to be adjusted alongside the work table. The drop foot is adjusted to be at a parallel angle with the table that falls flat along with your work material. Loosen the Phillip screw and tilt the tip at the required angle to adjust the tip. When you get the perfect angle of the tip, tighten the screw to confirm the position of the drop foot.

Blade Tension Knob

A knob is given to add tension to the blade. This usually requires a lot of precision and practice for understanding the exact amount of tension required on the blade. To check for the required tension, analyze the sound of the blade when plucked like a guitar string. However, the sound made by plucking the blade can vary depending upon a particular type of scroll saw. Also, make sure to adjust the tip just as perfectly as possible by applying the necessary tension. Too much tension can make the blade extremely tight, causing it to break while in use. Whereas, too little tension can make the blade lose, resulting in which it can bend and even break.

Speed Adjustment Knob

A knob is provided to adjust the speed of the blade. Rotating the knob increases and decreases the strokes per minute of the blade. However, the speed of the blade also depends on the type, hardness, and thickness of the material and blade used for cutting.

Workpiece Drop Foot

The front part of the drop foot prevents accidental encounters with the blade by acting as a blade guard.

Workpiece Foot Lock

It is used to tighten the drop foot every time some adjustments are made. It is adjusted to rest on the workpiece and not drag away after every change made in adjustments.

Ultimate Guide for Using a Scroll Saw

Step 1: Draw the Pattern on your Workpiece

Using a marker, draw the pattern you want to cut out of the workpiece. Use a marker that is more clearly visible on your work material. Make sure to draw your pattern on the positive space of the wood or any other material that you are using. Generally, positive space refers to that portion of the piece that is intact and ready to be worked upon.

Step 2: Wear Safety Equipment

Do not forget to put on safety goggles and other safety equipment before working over the machine. Ensure to wear the same throughout the procedure to avoid any accident. Goggles will protect your eyes from sawdust. Also, do not wear baggy and loose clothes and long jewelry pieces as these might get stuck in the machine or get caught with the scroll saw’s blade.

Step 3: Check out the Manual

Ensure that the scroll saw is perfectly secured on a stationary platform to avoid inconvenience. In addition, to your work platform, you can also refer to the user manual of that particular saw to secure its bolts, screws, clamps, etc.

Step 4: Choose the Blade Size

Use the right-sized blade for the workpiece. For instance, a blade 3.2 mm thick can be used for cutting thin wood, whereas a 19 mm thick blade is preferred for thicker wood surfaces. The more the number on the blade, the thicker it can cut through.

Step 5: Adjust the Scroll Saw Blade Direction & Tension

Once the right-sized blade is fitted, adjust the tension accordingly. You can check the applied tension by plucking the blade, and if it makes a sharp sound, this suggests it has achieved the perfect tension. You can also analyze the tension by exerting some pressure on your finger. For example, the blade with accurate tension would mostly remain still and only move by at most 3 mm.

Generally, tension is directly proportional to the length of the blade, which means that the more the length of the blade, the higher the tension will be required to adjust it correctly. Coming to the direction, the blade should be right side up. Simply, ensure the teeth direction is pointing down and they are front of the scroll saw.

Step 6: Power Supply

Now, plug in the saw to a power supply. If your scroll saw also has a light source, it is good to turn it on. This would provide a sufficient amount of light to help you observe your design and work more closely and precisely. If your saw has one, you can also turn on the dust blower to help remove the dust side by side while working over the material.

Step 7: Test on a Scrap Piece

Before taking on to the actual material piece, test the working of the entire arrangement and the blade on a scrap piece to get assured of the adjustments.

Step 8: Speed Adjustment

Set the speed of the scroll saw to slow as it will require you to take some time, in the beginning, to adjust with the overall speed. If the workpiece is thin and dense, turn the speed very slow, whereas if the material is thick and soft, you can switch to a faster speed to get desired results.

Step 9: Start the Scroll Saw Work

Direct the design through the scroll saw blade to get the required outcomes. Using both your hands, tend the material towards the blade to start cutting from a particular line. Then move your workpiece along with the design drawn on it while guiding it to the blade with your hands. Do not lift your hands from the workpiece until the carving is done, as this would cause the material piece to slip into the blade to form jagged cuts wrongly. Also, make sure to lift the workpiece only when the adjustments need to be changed.

Step 10: Turn Off the Unit

Once you are done with the cutting, turn off the saw and remove the plug from the power supply. Also, remove the blade and detach the entire setup after use.

Types of Scroll Saw Blades

Typically, scroll saw blades are 130mm in length. Some major types of blades are:

  • Skip tooth or single skip tooth blade: It has a pattern following a gap between every two teeth.
  • Double skip tooth blade: It has a pattern having a gap between every two pairs of teeth.
  • Crown or two-way blade: It has teeth facing both up and down, ensuring upstroke and downstroke cuts on all kinds of materials.
  • A spiral blade is a regular blade with a spiral pattern on it.
  • The metal cutting blade is a specially designed blade for cutting hard metals like steel.
  • Diamond blade: It is used for cutting glass.
  • Pin end blades are generally used in older design machines that only allow pin end blades.

Tips and Tricks for Scroll Saw Cutting

  • Always remember to take safety precautions such as wearing safety goggles, face masks, etc., to avoid accidental injuries.
  • Check for the most suited type of blade for your scroll saw.
  • Do not forget to check the tension on the blade, as this would greatly affect the working of the saw.
  • Make sure to adjust the work table at a suitable angle for the convenient working of the scroll saw.
  • Start by cutting the workpiece at a slow speed. This would help you adapt to the speed and also help you confirm if the adjustments are perfect.
  • Make use of dry material only avoid using wet workpiece. If your workpiece is wet, clean it with a cloth and let it dry before working on it.
  • Be patient and take as much time as you need. Rushing into the process can not only damage the tool but can also cause physical injuries while working.
  • When you cut a 90-degree angle, lift the workpiece and turn it to make the desired curves further.

Conclusion

A scroll saw might seem a bit tricky to handle. But with the help of the techniques mentioned above and usage tips, one can easily master the skill of using it. Of course, this might require practice and a lot of analysis before jumping into using this tool. However, frequent sessions of practice and different tips can surely level up your skillset and work quality.