Everything You Need to Know about Scroll Saws
If you are a DIY enthusiast, you need a wide range of tools as each has its own specific uses. You will need hammers, drills, screwdrivers, and saws. For cutting different materials, saws are the tools that you will use the most, and there are different types of saw that you can use for different jobs. One type of saw that you may need to include in your tool collection is a scroll saw. Here is everything you need to know about choosing and using a scroll saw.
What is a Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw is a type of stationery saw that is either electric or pedal operated. They have fine blades that you can use to cut intricate curves in a variety of materials, including metal and wood.
When Would You Use a Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw is a versatile tool that you can use for a variety of projects using different materials. Some of the tasks for which you can use a scroll saw include:
- Cutting 90-degree angles
- Cutting zigzags and circles
- Dovetail joints
- Mitered edges
- Awkward angles
- Intarsia projects, such as interior cuts
- Household projects, such as making toys or decorations
What is the Difference Between a Scroll Saw and a Jigsaw?
Scroll saws and jigsaws are used for completing similar tasks as they can both create detailed cuts and are useful for intricate work. However, a scroll saw has finer blades that create a smoother finish, while jigsaws have thicker blades that can sometimes leave ragged edges, says Tools First. Another difference is that a scroll saw is a table saw and a jigsaw is a handheld tool.
The Parts of a Scroll Saw
Before using a scroll saw, it is important to understand the different parts of this tool. According to Scroll Saw Hero, the main parts of a scroll saw include:
- Table- This is the surface on which you will lie your material during cutting.
- Blade guard- The blade guard protects your fingers from sliding onto the blade.
- Tilt lock knob- It adjusts the table so that you can do miter cuts in tiny pieces of wood.
- Blade tension knob- For adjusting the tension of the blade. This is something you will need to do every time you use the saw.
- Throat- This is the space between the blade and the back of the scroll saw.
- Blade clamps- These lock the blade in place. There is one at the top of the table that is connected to the arm, and another at the bottom of the table.
- Dust blower- Sometimes sawdust builds up on your pattern. The dust blower is a handy feature that allows you to blow dust away from your work surface.
Things to Consider When Buying a Scroll Saw
There are many different scroll saws available on the market. To decide which one is the best for you, it is important to consider various features.
- Speed – There are two points to consider that relate to speed. The first is the revolutions per minute (RPM). Although this doesn’t necessarily matter, some experts say that you should look for a scroll saw with an RPM of between 400 and 1600. More important is the second consideration, which is that the speed is adjustable. Single speed scroll saws are not a good option. It is better to buy a scroll saw that you can change the speed.
- Arm Type – Generally, there are three types of scroll saw arm from which you can choose, and each of these has its own pros and cons. The most common type of arm is a parallel arm. This has two arms running parallel to each other with the blade attached to the ends of the arms. If the blade breaks, the top arm swings out of the way and the saw stops immediately. This means it is the safest type of saw to use. A C-arm type is in the shape of the letter ‘C’. It has a single pivot point at the end of the arm, and it has a more aggressive cut. If the blade breaks, the top will continue to move up and down until you kill the power. The double parallel-link arm is the newest type of scroll saw arm. There are two parallel arms that move at the tips instead of the whole unit. This means that there is less vibration. You will usually find this type of arm on the mid-range and expensive scroll saws.
- The Type of Blades It Accepts – It is important to check the type of blades that the scroll saw accepts before you buy it. The two types of blades are pin-end blades and plain end blades. There are some scroll saws that will support both types of blades, and this is the better option. If the scroll saw says that it only accepts pin-end blades, then you cannot use it for any interior cuts as these blades are not intended for that purpose. This will limit the type of projects you can undertake using your scroll saw.
- Blade-Changing Feature – It is best if you can change the blades quickly and easily, so a blade changing feature is one of the most important features to look for when choosing your scroll saw. Avoid tolled blade scroll saws as you will need to use a tool every time you need to change the blade. A quick-change release is the best option. It is also worth noting that you should look for a blade-changing feature that supports both pin-end blades and plain end blades.
- Throat Length – The throat length is important because it dictates the size of the projects you can work on. The larger the throat length, the bigger the projects you can complete using your scroll saw. Therefore, you need to think about what you intend to use the scroll saw for before you choose which one to buy. Typically, a decent scroll saw will have a throat that measures between 16-inches and 20-inches.
- Blade Tensioning Knob – The location of the blade tensioning knob is something else to look out for when making your decision. The best location of the blade tensioning knob is at the front. Cheaper scroll saws often have them at the back, and this is something you should avoid as they are hard to access and difficult to tighten.
What You Need to Know About Scroll Saw Blades
According to Woodcraft, the two main types of blades for a scroll saw are pin-end blades and plain end blades. The better choice is plain end blades as these give you more options for the projects you can complete. Other than the type of scroll blade you use, you also need to know about the various blades that have different teeth types and spacings. Each of these is used for different types of projects. The main varieties include the following:
- Standard tooth blades – These are the most commonly used blades and they have teeth that are all the same size and distance apart. There are different standard blades for working with metal and wood. The standard wood blades have larger teeth that are set further apart.
- Skip-tooth blades – Every other tooth is missing on these blades, so the spacing between the teeth is larger. These are a good option for beginners and the blade stays cool.
- Double-tooth blades – These are similar to the skip-tooth blade but with larger spaces between the teeth. They leave a smooth cut but cut slower.
- Reverse skip-tooth blades – These blades are the same as skip-tooth blades, but the last few teeth at the bottom of the blade point in the opposite direction. This prevents splintering at the bottom of the cut. These blades are particularly good for cutting plywood.
- Precision-ground blades – They are exactly the same as skip-tooth blades, but the teeth are ground to shape and not files. This means that the blades are sharper, leave a smoother surface, and cut in a very straight line. However, they are not the best blades for beginners to use as they cut quite aggressively.
- Crown-tooth blades – A new type of scroll saw blade is the crown-tooth blade. As the name suggests, they have teeth in the shape of crowns with a space between each tooth. They are a good choice if you are cutting plastic.
- Spiral blades – These blades are created by twisting several blades together so that they have teeth all the way around. This allows you to cut in any direction without the need to turn the wood. Although there are many applications for these blades, it is important to note that they leave very rough edges.
How to Use a Scroll Saw
Woodworking Fuel gives the following 12 steps to using a scroll saw:
- Set up the scroll saw. This includes choosing a flat surface with good light, fitting the correct blade, and setting the tension of the blades. You should also put on any safety gear, such as glasses and a mask.
- Turn on the scroll saw and roughly cut around the outline of the shape you intend to cut.
- Regulate the blade speed if you have a scroll saw with adjustable speed.
- Aim the scroll blade towards the point where you need to make the first cut.
- Use both hands to lead the wood or metal towards the blade.
- Move the wood smoothly through the blade using the forefingers and thumb of one hand. You should push the wood down and forward.
- Decide what feels comfortable to you and change the rate of the feed accordingly taking care to keep your fingers out of the way.
- Remove the wood or metal from the saw by going back through the cut line.
- Move the material back in front of the saw with the blade positioned for the next cut.
- Slowly turn the material so that the cut follows the shape of what you are cutting as appropriate.
- Work around the piece until you have cut all the outer lines.
- Use sandpaper to remove any rough edges from your work.
Safety Tips for Using Scroll Saws
Using a scroll saw is a potentially dangerous activity. Therefore, safety is paramount when using this piece of equipment. According to Do-It-Yourself, you should use the following safety tips when you are using a scroll saw.
- Always wear safety glasses to prevent debris and sawdust getting into your eyes.
- You should also wear a dust mask so that you do not breathe in the dust.
- Only use a scroll saw in an area with good lighting.
- Try not to move the scroll saw when it is turned on.
- When moving the scroll saw, hold it by the legs and base, not the arm.
- Before turning on the scroll saw, check that it is on an even and stable surface.
- Check that the blades are not dull. If they are, change them for sharp blades.
- To prevent the blades from rusting and becoming dangerous, spray them with a light coat of oil after each use.
- Consider using a magnifying glass that you can mount on the scroll saw.
- Do not cut wet wood with a scroll saw.
- Use a V-block when cutting rounded wood to stop it rolling away.
- Keep your finger away from the blades and make sure the blade guard is fitted in place.
Scroll Saws – The Final Verdict
Scroll saws are a useful tool to have in your tool collection, especially if you undertake projects that involve precision cutting or cutting unusual shapes. It is important to consider all the different features when buying a scroll saw to make sure that you get the one that best suits the types of projects you will undertake using this tool. It is also vital that you always take the necessary precautions when using your scroll saw.