So you may now have purchased your scroll saw and are ready to go on creating your scroll saw projects. Your thoughts may turn to the big question of how to use my scroll saw.
How to use a scroll saw?
Using a scroll saw will require you to have good environment setup for your scroll saw. You will need to know how to attach the blade, set your blade tension, and set your blade oscillation speed. Additionally, you need to plan your cuts and think about safety.
Your scroll saw should have come with a manual telling you about its operational use, however, if you are asking yourself the question on how to use your scroll saw, you are likely a beginner and are looking for some additional direction beyond the owners manual. I have thought of 6 easy steps to get you started in using your scroll saw. Steps I had to consider when I started out beginning to use my scroll saw.
Your Environment Setup
The first thing that I ran into when I got my scroll saw was, where was I going to put it? For my comfort, I knew I wanted space. Lots of space may not be an option for everyone though. However, if you don’t have some elbow room, you will have a bad scrolling experience.
Getting your scroll saw secured so it won’t move while using it is an important first thing to think about. This can be bolting it to a table, or purchasing a scroll saw stand of which might be secured to the floor. The last thing you want is to be scrolling and for some reason you find your scroll saw and even yourself going to the ground as you attempt to save your scroll saw.
Your chair and the height of the scroll saw will be an important factor for comfort. Many of us are older and our backs are not what they used to be. If you are hunching over your scroll saw too much or your upper shoulders and back are starting to wear out, you may want to adjust your scroll saw height, angle, and even see what you can do with your chair.
You will need to think about how adequate your lighting is. If you do not have enough lighting you can find yourself making incorrect cuts. I like to have strong, direct lighting so as to not cast any major shadows on the wood I am cutting.
Attaching the Scroll Saw Blade
Your user manual should come with some good instructions on how to attach your scroll saw blade to your scroll saw. The manual, however, may not tell you everything you need to know.
When you attach your scroll saw blade, for the most part, there is a direction the teeth are supposed to be facing. That direction is down. With the teeth facing down on your scroll saw blade, the cuts of the blade will be in the downward direction. With the force of the cut pushing down onto the table, you will have less trouble cutting out your scroll saw project, and keeping secure, then if you had the force of the cut coming up toward your hands. Some blades have reverse teeth on them. You will have to look closely at the teeth, or feel with your fingers, to ensure that you keep those few reverse teeth upward, while the majority of the teeth are facing down.
If you have a scroll saw where you will be clamping in the blades, there is some caution to be had so you don’t bend the pin ends too much. I like to clamp down, un-clamp, clamp down again, until I can feel that the blade is fairly tight in the clamp before I make my final tightening twist. If I do this, I have found that I can avoid bending the pin ends of the blade to harshly.
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Scroll Saw Blade Tension
Scroll saw blade tension can be a bit of a tricky thing to get right. Not thinking about blade tension early in a scroll saw project could result in many broken blades. The manual that came with your scroll saw will likely not have any instruction on this, so let me see if I can help out.
A good rule of thumb that I have come across is to apply some firm pressure to the blade, while the scroll saw is off of course, to see if I can get a 1/8″ movement or “play” in the blade. To much play and you will have a harder time cutting out your scroll saw project, maybe even making many mistakes as the blade has to much of a range of movement. Too tight and you can end up breaking blades.
If you keep breaking blades, reducing your tension is not the only thought you should have here. Smaller blades will break more on thicker pieces of wood. You may find yourself having to also adjust your blade size to the size of wood you are cutting.
The Blade Cutting Speed
In general, the speed of your blade cutting should likely be somewhere in the middle of your scroll saws capability. Of course ones preference can vary on this but considerations will need to be taken.
If you cut to slow, your project for sure, will take much longer to cut out. I don’t know that you will experience too much trouble past that, unless you start pushing the wood too quickly into a slow moving blade. That is likely going to hurt your blade and even your project
If you cut to fast, a few things can happen though. Your blade will heat up quicker. A hot blade is more susceptible to breaking. You may get wood burn as the blade will be hot enough to burn your wood on the cuts. Lastly, your scroll saw moving parts will likely heat up more. Though I don’t hear of it happening much, you could experience an overheated scroll saw. Especially on a warmer day.
Making Your Cuts
Any new scroll saw hobbyist out there has the thoughts of how would they cut out their scroll saw projects. Many have developed their own ways and styles when cutting, but the general thought is to make sure you cut on the lines intended to be cut.
A beginner may want to try and line up any cut and push the wood away from themselves for each cut (This is generally how its done). Obviously not all cuts will be strait lines and the wood will need to be rotated with the push away on those cuts.
When you come to a major rotation, a couple of things can be done. Some like to turn off the scroll saw and make the rotation, then turn the scroll saw back on. This can be a bit scary as you also need to make sure you are not pushing on the wood in any direction when you turn the scroll saw back on.
Or, you can make the rotation while the blade is still on. This requires some steady rotation so you don’t make any accidental cuts in the during rotation.
The best advice I can give on making cuts is to do some practice projects. Once you get the feel of cutting with the scroll saw, that will be far better instruction than anything anyone can tell you.
Always Think Safety
With any power tool you need to think about safety. Any number of things can happen when using saws, not just taking a finger off.
Though with a scroll saw the likelihood of you taking a finger off is less than with a table saw, it would be good for a woodworker to always respect their tools and the power they have.
With a scroll saw, you will want to do what you can to keep your fingers as far away from the moving blade as possible. I have seen some very experienced scroll saw users that have their fingers way to close to the blade. One moment of fatigue, one sneeze, or one misjudgment and you will be seeing red.
Consider your lungs and your eyes with any saw. A scroll saw should be no different. Since the scroll saw is a bit tamer of a saw, I have seen many that don’t use eye protection or wear a dust mask. You will likely want to follow any safety warnings labeled on your scroll saw, but ultimately the choices on safety is up to you.
Using your scroll saw can have many things to consider. I have listed out 6 easy steps to get you started on using your scroll saw.
There are a couple of topics in these 6 easy steps that may pique your interest on some further reading, especially if you are a beginner.
If you wish to get into some more detail on scroll saw blades, you can find some info on this article; Scroll Saw Blades: Choosing Your Scroll Saw Blades.
I mentioned safety above, but you might be interested in a more in depth look at scroll saw safety I had to consider as a scroll saw hobbyist. Scroll Saw Safety Tips That I Could Not Ignore
As always, there are other resources on this website for further reading on scroll saw projects, feel free to poke around. Thanks for reading.