How Does a Scroll Saw Work

how does a Scroll Saw work

For most woodworking projects, you can only get as detailed as the size of your blade. For example, if you are carving with a knife, it can be easier to make finer cuts than if you were using a power saw.

However, what if you want the ease of a power saw with the precision of a fine blade? Well, that’s where a scroll saw comes in. This device can enable you to make sophisticated cuts to your wood and create intricate designs that would otherwise be impossible with other methods.

Today, we are going to show you how to operate this piece of machinery so that you can master it and use it to its full potential.

What is a Scroll Saw?

The way that this device works is that the machine is stationary and uses a fine saw blade that moves up and down rapidly. This movement allows you to cut through wood quickly, and the minimal blade width means that you can make more intricate cuts. The setup is very similar to a bandsaw, but this device is designed for pieces that are more delicate.

Ultimately, a scroll saw is about as fine as you can get regarding the blade size, making it more ideal than a band or jigsaw for some applications.On the flip side, however, having such a small blade means that it is prone to bending or breaking much more easily. As such, it’s imperative that you practice proper safety procedures at all times.

What You’ll Need

While the saw itself comes with everything you need to start making cuts, if you want to work on a project you will have to have some peripheral materials to make sure that you can do it right the first time and that you won’t risk injury. Regardless of the type of project you’re working on, these are the basics.

  • Saw
  • Piece of Wood
  • Template
  • Finger Protectors
  • Eye Protection
  • Sandpaper

When we are referring to a template, that can be as simple as a drawing on the wood or something that is mounted to the wood as a guide for your cuts. What we also need to mention is that some scroll saws can work on other materials such as plastic or metal.

Finger protectors can be gloves or PPE nails, which look like acrylic fingernails. These will ensure that your fingers are out of harm’s way and that you don’t accidentally slice into them while you cut.

Step by Step Instructions - How Does a Scroll Saw Work

Once you have your safety gear in place and your piece ready to go, then it’s time to start cutting. A few tips before we get started:

  • Never put the wood against the saw before you turn it on
  • Hold the wood firmly, but not too hard
  • Gently push the wood as it cuts, but don’t move it into the blade. Let the blade do most of the work

We’ll have a few more tips and tricks at the end to help you further master this machinery, but for now, let’s start with the basics.

Step One: Place Your Wood

Put the piece onto the table next to the saw. It should be a few inches away from the blade, and you should always have both hands on it at all times. Most scroll saws come with a foot pedal to turn it on and off, so utilize that to your advantage.

Step Two: Turn the Saw On/Adjust Speed

Once you have secured the wood, then turn the unit on. You should also change the speed settings if possible before you start cutting so that it doesn’t damage the internal mechanisms. As a rule, you want slower speeds for hard woods and faster speeds for soft wood.

The reason for this is that a quicker operating saw will not risk splitting a softer wood or leaving gouge marks. Conversely, if the blade is going too fast with hardwood, it could get dull or break entirely.

Step Three: Start Cutting

Depending on the type of project you’re doing, you may be able to make all of your exterior cuts in a single pass, or you might have to pull the blade out and come at it from different angles. If your piece uses straight lines and corners only, then you should be able to cut the whole thing without stopping. However, if you have curves or circular shapes, it will require more time and refined movements.

Step Four: Rotate Wood as Needed

When cutting a 90-degree corner, you want to pull the wood towards the next line you’re about to cut. Also, you want to go a little past the line to ensure that you have a cleaner cut. If you are cutting rounded edges, then you have to make a series of cuts that form a circular shape. This will require you to pull the blade out and come at it from another angle. It can take a long time to master such shapes, so we suggest starting with squares and right angles first.

Step Five: Finish Cutting Outside Lines

In some cases, you may have a project that has only exterior cuts. Once you’ve finished, the piece should come out easily from the central piece of wood. Always make sure to pull the blade out first before doing anything else.

Step Six: Drill Hole for Interior Cuts

If you have to make internal cuts to your project, you first have to drill a hole so that you can thread the saw blade through. Once the hole is created, pull the blade out of the machine and place the wood over the clip. Then reinsert the blade so that it goes through the drilled hole. Once it’s locked into place, you can start making your cuts. Again, never hold the wood against the blade before you turn it on.

Step Seven: Cut Middle Section(s) Out

Once you’ve finished cutting out the inside section, turn the device off and pull the blade out. You want to do this before pulling the cut section out of your piece so that you don’t risk cutting yourself by accident. In the end, make sure that the saw is completely off when you remove your piece.

Step Nine: Sand the Finished Pieces

Once your project is finished, it will have rough edges that need to be polished. Make sure that you have sandpaper that is designed for that kind of wood; otherwise, you may have to work harder than is necessary. To get the best results, smooth out the corners of the wood first and then work on the sides.

Once the corners are well rounded, then the whole thing will be much softer and easier to handle. Depending on the size of your piece, you may be able to use a power sander, but make sure that it won’t damage or break the wood.

Tips and Tricks for Using a Scroll Saw

While we’ve outlined the basic operation of this device, that doesn’t mean that that’s all there is to operating it. To make sure that you can get the most out of your saw, as well as stay safe with each project, here are some advanced tips to get you going.

  • Guide the piece through your cuts, rather than forcing it. You want a steady hand, but don’t put too much pressure on the wood or the blade.
  • Never put your fingers in line with the blade, always have them on the side.
  • Make sure that you can see well while you’re cutting. Some units will have a LED light to make sure that you’re on the line.
  • Most blades curve to the right, so be sure to watch out for that and compensate.
  • Keep dirt and debris out of your cuts. Many scroll saws have a blower or dust port to collect it, so use them to your advantage.
  • Always wear safety goggles. Even after you’ve mastered the saw, you never know what could come flying out and hit you. It could be a tiny piece of wood that gets in your eye or something worse.
  • Due to the size of the blade, don’t worry if you’re not exactly straight. Usually, you won’t be able to tell the difference as long as you’re close.
  • Keep your clothes and jewelry away from the blade. No long sleeves, bracelets, or necklaces while working.
  • When setting the blade, you should hear a ping as it locks in place. Don’t put too much or too little tension on it as it will break.
  • If a blade does break on you, make sure to clean up any pieces and debris before changing or resetting. This will happen to you from time to time, so try not to freak out when it does.
  • When inserting blades, make sure that the teeth are facing toward you and down. If they are facing up, then it could result in a dangerous situation and will create a lot more debris.
  • Work from a comfortable position. Most people stand as they cut, but if you get tired or your feet start hurting, use a stool or something else. Don’t risk cramping up while cutting as that can lead to bad results or broken blades.

Conclusion

​In the end, using a scroll saw can be a lot of fun as it can help you to create many different intricate pieces that would otherwise be impossible. The best thing to do is practice as much as you can until you can do it without any mistakes. Be sure to have plenty of scrap wood handy to work on your skills. Thanks for joining us and we hope that you enjoyed this tutorial. See you next time.

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Garry Harris
 

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