I was searching for a table saw the other day when I stumbled across a scroll saw. Not that I didn’t know the tool, but I never gave it a thought. But that day, while looking at it, I was thinking, “Hmm, that looks cute, but what is a scroll saw used for?”
Even though it wasn’t relevant for what I was looking for, my curiosity got the best of me, and I searched about the scroll saw. What I found out made me really interested.
At first look, a scroll saw like some of these types seems kind of odd with a blade like a thread. For the most part, the blade gives the idea of the saw being nice and cute. Oh boy, does the blade make a scroll saw special!
A scroll saw is a highly specialized specialty tool. It is designed to do some very specific tasks. It is not your jack of all trades, but it is the master of what it does.
Even after knowing about the capability of the tool, a scroll saw is still weird to me in the sense that it is just as useful and user friendly to a newcomer as to a veteran with decades of experience. So-
In this post we'll cover:
- What Is A Scroll Saw?
- How to Use a Scroll Saw
- Popular Uses Of A Scroll Saw
- The Specialty Of A Scroll Saw
- To Sum Things Up
What Is A Scroll Saw?
A Scroll saw is a small electric power saw used especially for sensitive and delicate cuts. It has a very thin and fine-toothed blade. The blade is not circular, like other popular saws. It is long instead. The kerf of the blade is negligible, and so is the width.
Besides that, the common feature of the tool is that the blade can be freed on one end, allowing you to insert the blade through a pre-drilled hole right at the center of the piece.
This is big because this way, you can access the center of the piece without cutting any of the edges. As the name may suggest, this type of saw was very popular for making scrolls and similar intricate arts.
This tool was popularized because of the level of accuracy and intricacy it can deliver, which was compulsory for the type of work it was used for.
Scrolls are a topic of history books nowadays, but the tool lives still making fine arts with wood.
How to Use a Scroll Saw
It takes a lot of being a craftsperson, the designs, the brainwork and of course the tools. Out of the many tools you’ll need to achieve your dream project, the scroll saw is one of the “must-haves”.
A scroll saw is a power tool (just like all of these) used to cut intricate designs on wood, metal, plastic and other materials. This tool brings out the true aesthetics of your project with different blade sizes that take note of every detail needed.
It feels great using a scroll saw, especially when you do it the right way. Bear in mind that a scroll saw requires safety measures that shouldn’t be ignored to avoid accidents that might possibly occur.
Here are a few steps to follow if you want to use a scroll saw without ruining your project: before learn what is the best scroll saw
Step 1: Be Safe
There are so many accidents that can occur when using a scroll saw, it’s just like every other saw with a sharp blade, so you need to protect yourself. Always remember to;
- wear your safety goggles
- use a dust mask (like one of these) to cover your mouth and nose
- make sure your hair is properly packed or more preferably, wear a hat
- Roll up your sleeves or anything that can get caught up in the blade’s motion
- Make sure the scroll blade is properly mounted on your workspace and all bolts and nuts are tight.
Step 2: Set Up Your Wood
This isn’t so hard, all you have to do is cut your wood to the perfect size and dimension you need for your design, use a sander (these are the different types) to smoothen out the surface of your wood, draw the design on your wood as guidelines with a pencil (make sure all pencil marks are visible enough).
Step 3: Set Up Your Scroll Saw
To ensure that your project doesn’t go bad, you need to make sure the scroll saw is set the right way. Each project has a different scroll blade set up and here are a few you should know:
- Using the right blade for the right size: smaller blades are more suitable for thinner woods and more delicate designs while bigger blades are used for thicker wood pieces. Basically, the thicker the wood, the bigger the blade used.
- Choosing the right speed: for less intricate designs, you can turn the speed up. Reduce the speed if you need to move slowly for designs that are more intricate.
Step 4: Check the Bade Tension to Make Sure it Stays Firm
Be sure that the blade is firm and will cut through accurately by pushing the blade a little bit, if this completely displaces the blade, it is not firm enough. You can also try something more fun by plucking it like a string if it makes a pretty sharp sound – it is firm enough.
Step 5: Take a Quick Test
Before you begin to saw and design your actual project, use a sample wood of the same thickness and height to see if your scroll saw set up is accurate. This is also an opportunity to confirm that you picked the right blade for the project you’re about to begin.
Be sure that the blower is working quite alright and the torch is bright enough for you to see your pencil marks on the wood, just in case your scroll saw doesn’t come with its own torch, get yourself a bright lamp.
Step 6: Work on Your Actual Project
Use both hands to carefully bring your wood closer to the blade, holding it firmly and follow your pencil markings carefully so you don’t saw out of place. Be careful not to put your hands anywhere close to the blade, it cuts the wood with ease, it can cut your fingers too.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Don’t rush or force your wood in, move it slowly, it’ll make it easier to achieve your desired design.
You shouldn’t experience any functional issue when working on your actual project if you did a proper scroll saw the test.
Step 7: Making a Perfect 90-degree Turn
When it’s time to make a 90-degree cut, you don’t necessarily have to turn off the scroll saw. All you have to do is draw your wood back, in such a way that the blade freely passes through the already-cut path and turn the wood so that the blade is facing the adjacent line and continue cutting.
Step 8: Finishing Up
After all cuttings have been done and your desired design has been achieved, sand the rough edges and turn off the scroll saw and keep it in a container.
Popular Uses Of A Scroll Saw
Due to the extraordinary power of turning as you please, no wastage for the kerf, and getting right at the center of a piece without cutting an edge, a scroll saw is exceptionally good at-
- To make intricate patterns, joints, and profiles. You will usually not leave dead spaces between two pieces as long as your calculations and markings are perfect.
- Jigsaw puzzles, 3D puzzles, wooden rubik’s cubes, and similar puzzle pieces, which consist of many small and moving parts. The finer your cuts are, the better of a quality the toy will be, and in the long run, the longer it’ll last.
- To make sculptures, statues, scrolls, carvings, or similar artworks where you simply need ‘the perfect edges and corners. No other saw will let you reach those corners as easily as a scroll saw. Not to mention the piercing cuts.
- Intarsia, template, lettered signs are a few of the items, where even if you miss or overcut a corner, that will effectively ruin the whole piece. There is nothing more reliable than a scroll saw for such sensitive and awkward shaped pieces.
- A scroll saw is an excellent starting tool for newcomers and even kids. You can hardly go wrong with a tool that’s so slow and spacious. And even if you mistakenly put a finger at the face of the blade, It’ll just make a small graze with fine edges. :D It will bleed, but it will not blow your finger away.
The Specialty Of A Scroll Saw
A scroll saw is different from jig saw, band saw (great to use as well), miter saw, or any other power saw in many ways. For the most part, you can replace one of your saws with another and get by with it.
For saying, A radial arm saw is nearly as good as a circular saw, and a circular saw can replace your miter saw. But a scroll saw is a thing of a separate universe. Let’s see why it is so different, and if it is a good or bad thing.
A scroll saw is relatively on the smaller side amidst other tools of one’s garage. It usually does not need a dedicated workbench/table attached. The base it comes with will suffice for the most part because the tool is seldom used on big boards.
The pieces it works on are no more than a few inches in size. As a plus, you can either tilt the upper part of the saw or the base part of the saw to one side to make angled cuts.
Lower RPM And Torque
The motor used in the majority of the scroll saw is On the weaker edge as well. The reason being the tool is supposed to be used for sensitive and delicate cuts. You will surely be taking your sweet time and never be chewing through wood with it. You are never going to tap the full potential even if a powerful motor were used.
Nearly Non-Existent Blade
The blade used in this machine is so thin, you actually do not need to account for the kerf of the blade. The blade is also ultra-thin along its width. You can even take a 90-degree turn on the spot without having to worry about damaging either of the piece or the blade.
The blade of the saw is thin and long. It is connected with the jaws on either side. But it is very easy to detach one end. This is crucial for reaching the core of the piece, with the edges intact.
All you need to do is just to drill a hole in the middle, loosen the blade and insert it through the hole. Just like that, you are ready to curve the middle part out without making your way from one side as traditional saws must.
The Perfect Finishing
The finishing of a scroll saw is nearly perfect. Thanks to the tiny teeth of the mini blade. While cutting, edges are oftentimes so fine that you will not need a sanding to make it shiny. This is a bonus point for a scroll saw.
Slow Cut Speed
Yes, I will give you this; even a tortoise moves faster than a scroll saw’s cut speed. But as I mentioned before, this machine is not used for fast cuts.
If you hope to cut fast with a scroll saw, you are weird. I bet you are one of the people who complain about not being able to go off-roading with their Lamborghini.
Okay, that’s the lame joke of the day. However, the idea is the same as off-roading with a fine car. They are simply not meant for it.
To Sum Things Up
A scroll saw is a tool that’s been around for centuries. It is a tool tested by time, and it has proven its value for generations. Very few other tools can offer you the level of detail and reach as a scroll saw can.
A scroll saw is one of the best tools to start woodworking with. It will teach you patience and control, which will serve you down the road.
Whenever you have a complex task in hand, you can rely on the good old scroll saw. It may take some time, but surely it will get you out of the situation. In my opinion, a scroll saw is a must to have in all hobbyist’s garage.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.