Using the Scroll Saw: 6 Things I Learned in my Beginning

Using the Scroll Saw: 6 Things I Learned in my Beginning

When I first got my scroll saw there was definitely the thought of how I was going to go about using it efficiently and effectively.  Getting a new tool can be a bit of a learning curve for some people so I thought I would write about 6 things I learned when using the scroll saw I bought.

Using the scroll saw will entail placement of the scroll saw, using lighting, managing the blower, attaching the blade properly, preventing twisting and bending blades, setting blade tension correctly, and being cautious with pushing the wood while being cut.

I am a big fan of the Dewalt scroll saw.  I know there are other scroll saws out there that have some good ratings like the Wen, of which are cheaper, but I happened to make the choice for Dewalt.  I do like my Dewalt products.  I got my Dewalt and in using the scroll saw, I had to think about several things before I started.  Let me get into those items in detail.

 

Placement of the Scroll Saw, It’s About Ease and Comfort

I have a fairly nice workshop/shed to work in.  I built the shed several years ago with the intent of storing some items in it as well as making it a bit of a workshop to satisfy my wood working hobbies.  The shed is starting to get a little crowed and I wanted to find a spot where I had access to a nearby table top.  Luckily, the shed is about 200 square feet and I still had some room for a new tool.

I had to put some wood under one of the legs of the scroll saw stand to get it level.  I can’t imagine scroll sawing and having everything shift in the middle of your cuts.  So a level scroll saw for me is an important thing to consider.

I have a table to my right and a table to my left of the scroll saw.  On the table to the right I have a 6 inch 2 x 4 along with room to set down pieces of wood I cut out to discard later.  The 2 x 4 is used to prop up the throat of the scroll saw.  This allows me more room to thread the blade through the holes on my project I am scrolling.  I would also say I bend less blades as I thread them through those holes by propping up my throat arm, it gives me more room.

The table to my right has my blades.  I can easily access them when needed, as you do end up breaking a blade every so often.  The last thing I want to do is go hunting for a new blade when one breaks.  I like them close by.

Getting your scroll saw environment set up will be an important thing to think about when you start scrolling.  I wrote an article 10 Things I Needed to Set up my Scroll Saw Workshop, which details how to set up a good environment for the best scrolling experience.

 

The Blower and Lighting Give you Focus

So when I was buying my scroll saw, I found that there are accessories to think about.  Accessories that might add to my scroll sawing experience

The Dewalt came with a blower on there but I was not sure how helpful this odd looking thing hanging off my scroll saw was going to be.  As I have used the blower on my scroll saw projects, I found that the blower can easily get knocked out of alignment from time to time.  It can be hard to notice this sometimes but as a habit, that I am still hoping to solidify, I should re-adjust the blower anytime I fiddle around with moving the throat and attaching blades. 20181019_210536

The blower has been very helpful in my scroll saw projects.  If I point it right at my blade it works great to keep the dust from obscuring my path when I cut.

Lighting was something I thought I might not need to worry about when buying a scroll saw.  The Dewalt did not come with a light source and I was not sure if I was going to need one.  I took a little time to think about it before I bought my scroll saw and as I thought about the lighting in my workshop, I decided I would give it a go and buy the Dewalt light attachment at Amazon.

I will tell you right now, I cannot imagine scrolling without the light.  It just lights up everything I need to see very well.  The only issue I have with the light is you have to be careful not to burn the top of your head, or forehead.  At least that is a worry for me based on where I have my light placed (Maybe I should tick it back a little).  At times you are cutting and you don’t realize how close your head is to the very hot light source.  I have not burned myself yet, but I have bumped my head into it a few times.

 

Attaching the Blade Correctly to Your Scroll Saw

When you attach your first scroll saw blade, there is a direction that it needs to be attached.  I did not know this before I started scroll sawing and I can imagine that information is not always present for someone when they first start scroll sawing.

Just remember the blade needs to be attached where the teeth are facing down.  This can be a bit confusing if you use a reverse tooth blade for the first time.  Reverse tooth blades have some teeth in the opposite direction.  Typically, a reverse tooth blade does not have as many teeth in the opposite direction, this is how you would determine which way to put the blade in.

A blade attached while upside down can cause you some issues as I have experienced.  One issue I would like to mention is wood jumping.  Wood jumping is when the wood you are cutting bounces, or jumps, with the blade as you are cutting.  This effect is more prominent when the blade is in upside down.  Another issue is when you don’t see a very smooth cut as you are pushing your blade along your project lines.  If you cut with the blade upside down you will likely have to do some additional sanding to smooth out the poor looking cuts.

Attaching your scroll saw blades requires some careful consideration.  I have written an article called Some Easy Steps to Follow When Changing a Scroll Saw Blade in which I get into some detail about all aspects of changing scroll saw blades.

 

Ruining your Blades by Bending and Twisting

It is possible to put your blade in twisted.  Those blades can be quite thin and you may not notice that you put a twist in the blade when you clamped it down.  So far, I have noticed when I put a blade in twisted before I started cutting.  I can only imagine that when you start to cut, it will not cut very well.

It is also possible to bend those pin ends on your blade as you clamp them down.  I don’t imagine that having a slight bend in them is too harmful but if you really bend those blades, you start to damaged the integrity of the blade.  I do a series of clamp, “oh its twisting”, un-clamp and re-clamp, until I don’t get much of a bend at all on my final clamp.

I don’t clamp down on the blade with all my might, but clamp it firmly.  Doing this I have rarely had the clamp let go of the blade.  One can simply adjust clamp tightness if they keep having the clamps let go of the blade.

Unfortunately, when a clamp lets go of the blade this can result in possible damage to the blade.  Maybe a bend in the center of the blade might happen.  I have experienced this and had to bend the blade back as strait as I can and then re-attached it to the scroll saw.  I may get some more life out of the blade, but I think once it gets a bend in it you can expect it might break a little sooner.

 

How Tight Should a Scroll Saw Blade Be?

How tight a scroll saw blade should be will depend on factors such as thickness of the wood you are cutting, size of the installed blade, and if you are breaking scroll saw blades frequently.

Blade tension is an important factor in a scroll saw.  As I have experienced, to much is very bad and too little is not good either.

sawtensionWith my Dewalt scroll saw I have a variable tension on there I can adjust after I attach the blade to it.  I  have found with the Dewalt, a tension of 2 seems to work fairly well for me. If I get too tight I start breaking blades more often.  I do cut a lot of pine wood and I think I would adjust that number a little when using different types of wood

There are people that mention that you should tighten up the tension and pick at the blade with your finger to make a sound.  This sound is supposed to be some kind of middle ‘C’ note.  I am no musician, so this advice I have found does not do much for me.  I do pick the blade to make sure it is tight, then I start cutting.  When I start cutting, I try to visually note if there is a slight bit of play in the blade when I push the wood through it.  Does the wood give a little bit as I cut.  If blades keep breaking, start reduce the tension as you may have it too high.

Another tip I have read is to push on the blade, not while running obviously, and see if a not too hard push but a firm one, will give you an 1/8″ play in the blade. It turns out this is fairly good advice.  I did this for my scroll saw and found it is fairly accurate for a tension of 2 on my Dewalt.

 

Feeding the wood through Steadily Will Help Prevent Mistakes

When I was all set up and ready for scrolling, I turned on my scroll saw and started to make my first cuts.

Making an accurate cut was a little tricky as at times if feels like the scroll saw might have a mind of its own.  Slow and steady seemed to work best.  If I went to fast I found myself off track of where I wanted the cut to be.

When I pushed the wood through the blade I realized I had to be conscious of my rotation at all times.  As you work along, you start to get a good feel for this as you push and rotate.

Speaking of rotating.  If you don’t have a spiral blade you have to rotate your project quite a bit.  My fingers at times do get quite fatigued and I was worried I might start to make some bad cuts.  You will need some good control over you project when you rotate it while keeping the scroll saw running.  I am guessing there may be many out there that make a cut, turn the scroll saw off, rotate the project in the direction the want, and then turn the scroll saw back on.  I don’t like doing it that way, but maybe that is just me.

If you decide to try out a spiral scroll saw blade you can greatly reduce the amount of rotation of your project when scrolling.  Using a spiral scroll saw blade does have the trade off of you needing a little more control and exercising some of that “slow and steady” when you are scrolling.

I admit, I use a spiral blade most of the time.  For larger projects it makes life easier not to rotate this large piece of wood on the table.  I got my spiral scroll saw blades from Amazon.  They are called Flying Dutchman, a little odd of a name but hey they work great.  They have 5 dozen blades which means they will last me for some time.

 

Conclusion

When using the scroll saw, there can be a good handful of things to thing about.  I have gone into some detail on placement of the scroll saw, using lighting, managing the blower, attaching the blade properly, preventing twisting and bending blades, setting blade tension correctly, and being cautious with pushing the wood while being cut.

Hey, thanks for reading about my experiences with my scroll saw.  I hope those experiences give you some help with using your scroll saw.