Learning to Use your Scroll Saw: Scroll Saw Use and Safety

Learning to Use your Scroll Saw: Scroll Saw Use and Safety

When it comes to scroll saw safety when I work on my scroll saw projects, I came up with some tips on safety that I had to think about when I started working with my scroll saw.

Scroll Saw Safety begins with your awareness.  You need to protect your fingers, eyes, and lungs.  Installing blades properly, removing jewelry, not wearing loose clothing, and having lots of lighting are also key to safety.  When scrolling make sure your scroll saw is level, you take it slow and steady, and you use both hands while cutting.

I want to make sure it is understood that you are responsible for the safety measures you take with your tools.  I am informing you of the safety measures I take when I use my scroll saw which could help you out with the safety measures you want to take.  These are safety measures that I could not ignore when I started doing scroll saw work.  So, please read on.


Protecting My Fingers

It would seem that protecting your fingers is a pretty common thought when it comes to all tools.  Protection of your fingers does not seem to only apply to saws as I am sure many might remember that one time they may have slammed their finger with the hammer…

For a scroll saw, protecting my fingers is an important item in safety.  I will admit that the scroll saw in, my opinion, is not the most dangerous of the saws and it would take some major neglect to take a finger completely off like some of the other saws out there.

One item that could be looked into when purchasing a scroll saw is some sort of feature to protect your fingers.  My Dewalt scroll saw came with a bar clamp that not only helps to keep your project better secured to the table, but helps keep your fingers away from the blade.

I saw this YouTube where a guy was cutting out these tiny reindeer.  The project was so small that as he was holding it, his fingers were very close to the blade as he was cutting.  I could not help but think how dangerous that was and wondered if he had ever cut himself.

If I have a project that is small, one trick I have learned is to have some extra wood available on the project to hold onto.  This means some added wood on the outside of my project where the cuts can be further away from my fingers.  An additional tip here is the use of clamps.  I have used clamps to help hold onto my project to keep my fingers away from the blade as I hold onto the clamps to move my project through the cut.


Careful With My Eyes

Of all things, my eyes are one of the items that should be at the top of the list to protect.  I have to admit that I fail at this sometimes and forget to do anything for eye protection as I cut out my scroll saw projects.

The scroll saw does not do a lot to throw pieces of wood around to where the eyes could be in harms way I have experienced.  But I have read that it can happen even if it has not happened to me yet.  I used to think it silly when my neighbor went out to mow his lawn with safety glasses on, when in fact one day after years of me mowing lawns, something flew up into my eye.  It really hurt!  Unfortunately with the rarity of the occasion, I still don’t wear safety glasses when I mow my lawn.  I suppose I did not learn my lesson.

I have read that people are worried that the blade may break and a piece of that blade may be sent flying into the air.   I have not witnessed that yet, or read that it happened to anyone for that matter, and once again the possibility may be slim.  However, I can bet that it is possible to happen.

Wearing eye protection will be entirely up to ones discretion.  Most bigger saws I use, even routers, I will always put on my eye protection.  I just need to be a little more diligent when I use the lighter tools and saws.


Protecting My Lungs

Keeping saw dust and particles out of my lungs is something important to me.  Typically I will put that dust mask on for any tool that really throws dust into the air such as my sanders, router, and table saw.

The nice thing I have noted is the scroll saw does not seem to throw around a lot of saw dust.  Does this mean that one should not wear a mask for doing their scroll saw projects?

That would be entirely up to the one on the scroll saw.  People react differently than others to different particles going into their lungs.  I know that I tend to cough pretty good if I get too much saw dust floating around in the air.  Though luckily, I have not experienced and allergic reactions to saw dust.  Yet.

Along with the dust mask, I found that creating some open ventilation into my workshop by opening up my doors and windows will help reduce concentration of dust flying around in the air.


Proper Blade Installation

I have found that installing the scroll saw blade correctly is a good safety measure.  Even though I don’t worry too much about the scroll saw blade launching pieces of metal anywhere, it is a little alarming when a blade breaks or comes off the clamp.

I like to pay close attention to when I tighten the blade down on the clamp.  For me it can start to bend the blade at the ends if I just set and clamp too quickly.  I do careful clamping and make sure the blade is fully clamped, as opposed to partially clamped on half the blade.20181019_211003

I have put my blades in upside down, teeth facing upward, and also put the blade in with a twist in it.  I usually catch that there is a twist in the blade before I start cutting, however, I have almost completed full projects before I noticed that the blade was upside down.

I have not experienced any major harm from poorly clamped, twisted, or upside down scroll saw blades.  But I do see the potential for harm.  Blades breaking and coming un-clamped can cause me to push the wood quickly when the tension is lost.  Kind of like pulling on rope and the rope comes undone from its attached end, you pull back quickly when the tension is gone.

This quick motion when the tension is gone can end up being a motion that moves you into the detached blade as I see it.  One of the very important reasons to keep your fingers as far away from the blade as possible.

Tension of the blade can contribute to breaking blades.  I keep this in mind as I scroll not only for safety, but also to keep from purchasing blades more often.

The biggest safety tip I can think of with scroll saw blades and installation is the power switch.  Some people have a pedal on their scroll saw, some do not.  If you are installing your scroll saw blade and accidentally tap your pedal while doing so…   That can’t end well.

Be cautious of the power when installing blades.  I have read that people will go the extent of unplugging or turning off the power at the power strip before changing a blade.


Remove Jewelry

I don’t wear any jewelry myself but it seems like it might be a good idea to put away the necklaces and bracelets when at the scroll saw.

If you are working at the scroll saw and your jewelry gets caught, I can image that one could have the potential to get harmed.  Your jewelry at least could likely be toast and possibly some damage could come to your scroll saw.


Loose Clothing Long Hair

I saw a YouTube awhile back where this nice young lady was doing some wood work over one of her tools.  She had some very long hair and I could imagine what would happen had she got her long hair caught in her tools.

The same caution, seems to me, would be needed when doing your scroll saw projects.  An oscillating blade with teeth on it has the potential to grab your hair and pull.  Those with long hair would do good to tie it back.

Long sleeves on your shirt can get caught as well.  I would think only if the long sleeve shirt is fairly loose a bad outcome may come into play.  At times I do go out to my shop with a jacket on if I am doing something in the colder months of the year.  Some of those jackets have pull strings on them that hang down which I feel is something to be cautious of.


Level Scroll Saw

I like my scroll saw as level as I can get it.  Additionally, I don’t want that scroll saw moving at all when I am scrolling.

The last thing I want is to be scrolling and trying to catch my scroll saw as it starts falling to the ground due to horrible placement of my scroll saw.20181019_210620

I think most people have a handle on this one and would want the same thing, but some people…  You never know.

A well placed scroll saw and a good chair to sit on at the right height, is good for my back.  As we get older, we do need to consider our backs more in our activities, I know I do.  The last thing I want is a sore back because my scroll saw is not set up for best comfort.


Lots of Lighting

I ended up buying a light attachment for my Dewalt scroll saw.  I wanted to be able to see very clearly every line on my project I was cutting.  My workshop has some good lighting, but there is something about having a nice direct light on the project I am cutting that I just need to have.

The lighting I now have allows me to see my project clearly as well as protecting myself from getting cut.


Use Both Hands

I have found that not using both hands on your project can result in your project jumping with the blade, bad cuts, and pieces breaking off unexpectedly.  I like to have both my hands on my project at opposite ends.  In all, this just keeps my projects stable as I cut.

What if you find that you can’t use both hands?  Typically this can happen to me if using my other hand would put it too close to the blade.   For this, I get a piece of wood that I can hang onto, while at the other end of this piece of wood it holds down the project where I don’t dare put my fingers.  Doing this still have some difficulty when pushing the project, you may want to consider attaching some sort of rubbery surface to the end of the stick.  Like a piece of bicycle tubing.protectfingerz

I do like to use other things like clamps to help me hold onto projects as well.

Holding my projects securely to the table is very important to me.  The last thing one would want is a piece of the project breaking off and hitting you in the face or eye.  I can only hope I remembered to put my eye protection on that day.


Slow and Steady

To me, scroll saw projects are about creating works of art with wood.  Being patient comes with the hobby in my opinion.  I do have a tendency at times to rush things and my life has been a constant battle to quell this undesirable trait.

I know that when I take things at a good pace, it gives me time to think ahead and keep from making multiple mistakes.

If I scroll nice and slow and keep my project steady, I for the most part have very good results.  One can rush art if they desire, but unfortunately after the piece of art is done, you will always be able to see the flaws in the work even if others don’t (sometimes they are just being nice and won’t tell you anyway.)



Scroll saw safety is important to me and these tips I have mentioned are to let anyone know the thoughts I had when it comes to safety and the scroll saw in my workshop.

Your scroll saw should have come with some sort of manufactures warning or warning label.  When you start with safety in regards to your scroll saw, that would be the likely place to start.

I hope I have given you some things to think about when it comes to safety and your scroll saw.  If you are interested in some tips on learning to use your scroll saw please read my article How to Use a Scroll Saw: 6 Easy Steps to Get You Started.  Thanks for reading and please have a plan for safety with all your tools including the scroll saw.