A scroll saw is an excellent tool for people who loves wood art and craft. All those beautiful wooden articles and miniatures you see in the market are possible with a good quality scroll saw. You can easily spot a scroll saw in any wooden shop that makes tiny wooden gifts.
Using a scroll saw you can turn a boring small block of wood into a beautiful piece of art. And once you get a good grasp on the tool you can turn your hobby into professional work. And needless to say, people who love wooden art will defiantly invest money in small yet valuable pieces. Besides, using the right scroll saw blade you cut/carve soft metal also.
If you’re thinking of buying one for your workshop, you might be interested in knowing all about scrolls saw. Then here’s the good news: below is the ultimate beginner’s guide for scroll saw that will help you pick the best tool and help understand the working and use of the tool better.
What is a Scroll Saw?
In short and simple words, a scroll saw is a stationary tool with a blade in the middle useful for fine woodworking.
The tool comprises a flat metal table where you keep the workpiece. This thin blade inserts from the bottom of the table and reaches to the arm. Once it reaches the arm, you need to set the blade tension by adjusting the knobs on the arm. The arm is then responsible for moving the blade up and down for cutting/carving.
Such an easy setup is ideal for both beginners and professionals. It hardly takes 2 minutes to set everything up, press the foot pedal to start the blade motion and begin cutting.
Anatomy of Scroll Saw
To get a better idea of the working of any tool is to understand what each of its parts does. And below listed scroll saw anatomy will give you a better understanding of the tool and uses of individual parts.
- Table: The table is where you keep the workpiece. It is a flat metal surface that is spacious enough to hold mid-sized pieces. You can conveniently cut freehand designs, follow a sharp intricate cut, and much more on the flat table surface.
- Blade: You can say the blade is the heart of the scroll saw. You need to pay special attention while inserting the right scroll saw blade. While they all have a slim profile, there are variations in teeth arrangements and quality.
- Clamps: Blade clamp can be either on the upper arm or lower arm or on both arms. The main purpose of blade clamps is to hold the blade to the arm for detailed woodworking. Clamps are very helpful while doing fretwork.
- Tension Lever: Usually located on the top of the upper arm, a tension lever is used to release blade tension in a single operation.
- Tension Knob: Adjust blade tension with the help of tension knob(s). They are generally present on the upper and lower arm of the tool and let you adjust the blade tension without using any tools.
- Arm: The main arm of the scroll saw(upper) goes from the back to the middle of the table. This arm comprises several other features like a blade tension knob, work light, etc, as well as moves the blade up and down.
- Sawdust Blower: A small extended pipe coming from the upper arm blows air to the workpiece or as you set to clear off dust and debris.
- Work Drop Foot/Hold Down Shoe: A metal show on the top of the blade comes all the way down to the table to hold small pieces of wood. It is helpful while making wooden miniatures or fretwork.
- Tilt Lock Knob: This feature is common with a scroll with a tilting table. This knob adjusts the worktable to different bevel angles for bevel and miter cuts on wooden pieces.
How does it work?
The working principle of a scroll saw is extremely easy if you know all its basics. And with the scroll saw parts explained above now it’s time to move towards working of a scroll saw. How does a scroll saw work? Read below to find out a detailed guide on the working of a scroll saw.
1. Setting up the tool
The first step is to connect the scroll saw to a reliable power source, connect the dust port to the vacuum, and check for power and auxiliary cables. Make sure the worktable is clean and flat. Adjust the tilt tension knob for making bevel cuts. Insert the right blade and set the blade tension with the help of the tension knob(s).
2. Cutting speed
Now, this is one feature you’ll not find in old scroll saws. But thankfully, the majority of new scroll saw offers an adjustable cutting speed. Such machines are equipped with a speed dial that changes blade speed instantly. Normally, blade speed between 400-1600 rpm is good to do wood crafting, carving, and cutting. But you’ll need to set it to a slower speed while cutting hardwoods.
3. Throat size
Distance between blade and rear of the saw is called depth of the throat or throat capacity of a scroll saw. This determines how big of a wooden piece you can cut. Small scroll saws have a smaller throat capacity, around 12 inches, while large professional scroll saws offer impressive throat depth of up to 30 inches.
4. Blade Adjustment
Adjusting the correct blade tension is a crucial step for flawless cutting of the material. To set blade tension, simply rotate the knob(s) on the upper and lower arm of the tool. You also need to check for the type of scroll saw blade, that is, pinned or plain end blade, and set the tension accordingly.
Also, many old saws will not have blade tension knobs. Instead, you will have to use tools to adjust the tension.
5. Table Adjustment/Tilt
Scroll saws have a spacious table that is flat and smooth for convenient cutting. But you can also tilt the table to 45 degrees(if supported by your model) for bevel and miter cuts. Such tools are equipped with a tilt adjustment knob that helps you set and lock the table to an angle for even bevel cuts.
6. Dust Extraction
The last step for proper scroll saw operation is to connect the dust port to a reliable ShopVac. In addition to that, you’ll find a flexible dust blower hose on the upper arm of the tool. This mini blower is extremely helpful while doing fretwork or carving mini wooden structures as it keeps the dust out of the way.
Types of Scroll Saw Blades
There are different varieties of scroll saw blades but there are two main types, pinned and plain-end. Nowadays, high-end scroll saw accepts both types of the blade but some models only accept a particular blade. A brief explanation will help you understand the differences and uses of scroll saw blades better.
1. Pinned Blade
Easy and quick to change, pinned blades are the easiest to install and use. A set of pins hold the blade in position and thus, it gets the name pinned blade. This set of scroll saw blades are ideal for cutting large, thick wooden boards. You can follow a sharp curve using a pinned saw blade.
2. Plain End/Flat/Unpinned Blade
Instead of pins, a plain-end blade is held by clamps. However, the blade changing process is not as convenient as a pinned blade. But on the good side, a plain-end or unpinned blade is an excellent choice for intricate works. The sleek flat blade is ideal for making small dovetail joints, fretwork, and detailed carving.
What are the uses of scroll saw?
Although it may sound like you can only use a scroll saw to cut or shape a wooden board. But in reality, the scroll saw is used in a wide number of applications. And this versatility makes the tool one of the must-buy tools for woodworkers, hobbyists, and DIYers.
- The main use of the scroll saw is to shape wood. Round, semi-circle, spiral, and all such patterns are easily possible with the tool.
- Good for woodworkers, craftsmen, and artisans.
- Excellent tool for intricate cuts, cutting round shapes, and wavy patterns.
- You can do dovetail joints, jigsaw puzzles, marquetry, carved boards, wooden calligraphy, miniature making, etc.
- It is also possible to make cut little wooden toys with a good quality scroll saw.
How thick can a scroll saw cut?
The cutting depth of scroll saws isn’t too deep which is quite obvious as this a tool for shaping and crafting wood. But do not worry as the cutting depth is not too shallow to pass through the workpiece. The cutting thickness of a scroll saw depends on its depth.
16 to 18 inches is the normal capacity for home and small workshops. With a tool of such capacity, you can cut material between 1¾ to 2¼ inches thick. This cutting depth works perfectly for almost all projects of scroll saw whether it be wood or other soft metals.
What is the easiest wood to cut with a scroll saw?
One common question that pops into the mind of beginners is, which wood to begin with or which is the easiest wood to cut using a scroll saw. It is good to start with hardwood as they are strong and more resilient. Cutting hardwood with a scroll saw first will give you a better idea of the cutting speed and working of the tool.
On the other hand, softwoods aren’t the first choice of professionals when it comes to carving them with a scroll saw. The main reason behind not choosing them is their soft texture. Softwoods tend to bend easily and are too brittle for delicate fretwork.
But that does not mean all softwoods are useless or only hardwoods are good for scroll saw. Out of all woods, Oak is the best hardwood and easiest wood to cut with a scroll saw. This is because oak is highly resistant to wear and tear. Also, it polishes well which makes it an ideal choice for crafting and shaping.
Other than oak, there are several other hardwoods and softwoods that can be cut using a scroll saw.
Is it safe to cut material other than wood on a scroll saw?
Scroll saws are known for their ability to cut wood. But you can also use them for cutting materials other than wood. These materials include plastic, Plexiglass, cold-rolled steel, acrylic, and other soft metals like aluminum, copper, and brass. However, you need to use a compatible blade while cutting material of different thicknesses for safe cuts.
A scroll saw is a perfect workshop tool, especially for woodworking jobs. It has a smaller footprint than a bandsaw and is perfect for fretwork, inlay cut, marquetry, etc. The spacious flat metal table makes it easy to fit workpieces of different shapes and sizes. And thanks to the slim yet sharp blade in the center that glides through wood like butter and cuts smooth in one go.
Apart from wood, you can also use a scroll saw to cut plastic, soft metals, and other materials using the right blade. Our team has tried its best to cover all about scroll saw. Do let us know if you have any further questions in the comment section below.