What Things to Look for When Buying a Scroll Saw

What Things to Look for When Buying a Scroll Saw

If you are in the market to purchase a scroll saw, you may be having some thoughts as to what to look for when you are buying a scroll saw.  When I was looking for my first scroll saw I do remember wondering what I would needed for a nice workable scroll saw.

The following considerations are important when looking into buying a scroll saw; Throat size, power switch location, what kinds of blades can it use and how they are changed/replaced, the table size, speed adjustment, tension adjustment, any additional accessories, and the very important question, how do others like the scroll saw.

With all these things to look for, of which I had no idea at the time when I was looking for my first scroll saw, I wanted to go into some detail now that I have experience with using a scroll saw, and share that with you.

 

Size of the Throat

The size of the throat, or the arm as I like to say it, is an important thing to consider when buying a scroll saw.  This is the length of the back of the arm to the front where the scroll saw blade does its work.

Some scroll saws will tout the size of the arm as maybe 16″ or 20″, my Dewalt that I purchased is a 20″ length.  Quite simply, what this size is referring to is the amount of space you have to rotate your projects under the scroll saw.dewaltScrollSaw_Throat

The larger the length of the arm, the larger the piece of wood you can rotate under that arm.  This of course gives you the ability to cut out larger projects.

Now, if you happen to get a scroll saw that does not have a larger arm leg, you do have another option.  When you get better at cutting out projects, you become a little bit more experienced and accurate with your cutting.  At this point you can move onto some different scroll saw blades such as the spiral scroll saw blade.

The spiral scroll saw blade cuts in any direction.  This means you can push your project from right to left, not just away from you, and make cuts to the wood.  In light of this, it also means you don’t have to necessarily rotate your project.  If your project is 20″ in one direction but only 14″ in the other direction, you can still work this project with a spiral scroll saw blade without rotating your project into the back of the arm.

For the most part, a lot of projects will likely not need such a deep arm for your scroll saw.  Even though I have a 20″ throat on mine, I have only had one project where it was too big in one direction and had to go about cutting the project in the manner I described above.

If you are thinking big projects though, you may view throat, or arm, size to be a important thing to consider.

 

Power Switch Location

So how could a power switch location be something important to consider when buying a scroll saw?  Good question, and I have to admit this was not something I even thought of when I purchased my scroll saw.

As I have done many scroll saw project in my time, I have found that the location of the power switch on my Dewalt is perfect.  I have come to the appreciation of that power switch being at the top of the scroll saw arm.

Why you might ask?  When I do a project that requires cutting out a lot of empty space in the middle of the project, I have to thread that scroll saw blade into the pilot holes I made many several times.

All I have to do is reach up, flip the power, reduce the tension, un-clasp the top pin of the scroll saw blade, prop up the arm with a 2×4, and thread the blade into my next pilot hole.

That power switch will never get bumped by accident during this process, and it gives me a good feeling of confidence and security when I am cutting out projects.  If your power switch is in a location that can be accidentally bumped, in particular an attached pedal, you run a risk of bumping that power switch during your scrolling process when the power should be off.

Now, I am guessing most scroll saws have the power switch in a good and safe location.  Save it be for a scroll saw with a pedal.  I thought I would mention the subject of the power switch because the location of it does have importance to me now that I have already purchased my scroll saw, and maybe it might be something you would like to consider when buying your scroll saw.

 

Scroll Saw Blades, pin or pin-less

When it comes to attaching your scroll saw blades to the scroll saw, you want to consider how that is done.  Scroll blades have two major varieties, the pin end blades or the pin-less blades.

A pin end blade has a tiny pin on both ends of the blade.  This pin is used to help attach the blade to the scroll saw.  I do not own a scroll saw that utilizes the pin on the ends of the blade, but I can imagine that these pin ends hook into some sort of slots to hold the blade in place.

I could also guess that with these pin ends, that you would have a less likelihood of a blade popping off or coming loose like you can with a pin-less.

The pin-less end blades are as they sound, they do not have pins.  Typically when using these types of blades you would have some sort of clamping mechanism to hold the blade in.  This is how my Dewalt does it.

I have had times where I did not clamp the scroll saw blade down good enough.  This resulted in the blade coming loose from the clamp.  At times when this happens a blade can get bent.  When a blade bends, it looses some of its integrity and can now break more easily.clamp

Some scroll saws have the ability to accept both types of blades.  This is likely due to the ability for a clamp to have enough room to allow clamping on the pin and the pin-less ends of the blade (the pins don’t interfere with clamping the blade in).

Pin-less blades appear to be more popular, maybe popular for the lesser expensive scroll saws who knows.  When you go to purchase your scroll saw you will need to put some thought into what blades that it accepts.  I like the pin-less as I think they are more widely popular and available base on my searching for scroll saw blades.

 

Table Size

The size of the table is an important feature indeed.  I don’t know that too many scroll saws skimp on the size of the table, but if they do, I would recommend looking at other scroll saws if the table does not look adequate.

The ability to have your scroll saw project firmly held down to a nice large table is a must have for me.  Maybe that is just me, I like plenty of room.   When I get to a far side of my project, (a lot of wood on one end, and not so much wood to hold onto on the other end), it nice to have more table space to hold down your project when it gets into this uneven and unbalanced scenario.

I think that most scroll saws have a table made out of some sort of cast iron or heavier type of metal.  I think the companies that make the scroll saws know that a good solid table is a very important feature for the saw.

When it comes to the table, look at the size of the table and determine if you like what you see.  If you feel you would like more table room, I am right there with you, and you will want to purchase accordingly.

 

Can the scroll saw Tilt

You know, I don’t actually remember if my Dewalt has the ability to do a tilt and cut.  There is a little nob on there that looks like the capability is there.  I have seen some scroll saws that have the ability to tilt and you can make an angled cut.

Though I can see how this might be useful in a few scroll saw project cases (e.g. creating a bowl), I don’t know that I would use this feature very much.

Let me go look right now and see if Dewalt does supply this feature…  Looks like it does.  There is a nob under the table, as I pointed out earlier, I can loosen and rotate to an angle.  In fact Dewalt has this to say as one of its features,  “Over sized, cast-iron table provides excellent material support and bevels 45 degrees (left and right)”20181214_124901

At this point you can guess that I don’t do any scroll saw projects or have even really thought of any scroll saw projects that would require me to tilt to any degree.  Kind of funny that all this time and all the scroll saw projects I have done, I have not really considered this feature.

If tilt is something important to you, and it looks like there are some options out there that allow you to tilt to 45 degrees, then this may be a feature to consider when buying a scroll saw.

 

Blade Speed Adjustment

Here is an important feature that I think many should give some thought to.  The ability to adjust the speed at which the blade oscillates should be a must have.

Fortunately for all who are buying a scroll saw, the companies that make them think this is important as well.  I have looked at quite a few scroll saws and so far all of them have some sort of variable speed adjustment.sawspeed

With confidence, I would even venture to say if you come across a scroll saw without variable speed adjustment, to move on and look somewhere else.

Now, having said that, I want to confess that for the most part, I set my speed and leave it at that speed.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I adjusted the speed as I currently cut every project I do with that speed.

But does that mean it should not be adjustable.  No, everyone has their preferences and because I set my speed at a 5 or 6, someone else might like a 4, or even a 7.  Additionally, I think there may be scenarios that come into play where you might want to drop your speed very low to ensure an exact and more controlled cut.

To say it simply, ensure the scroll saw you are interested in has variable speed for the scroll saw blade, accepting something else may result in some sort of remorse on your purchase.

 

Blade Tension Adjustment

With scroll saw speed adjustment comes a different type of adjustment, the blade tension.  Blade tension is the amount of tension you put on the scroll saw blade after you have properly installed it.

For any scroll saw to function properly after you install a scroll saw blade, you need the ability to apply some tension to the blade before you start cutting.  All scroll saw’s should have this ability or quite simply you would not be able to cut much of anything in my thoughts.

When it comes to blade tension, I think the topic of concern for this would be where is the tension mechanism located and how easy is it to operate.  If you do a lot of scroll saw projects where you cut out empty space and have to thread your blade into pilot holes, you can count on having to use that tension mechanism over and over again.sawtension

My Dewalt scroll saw has a tension lever right at the front of my scroll saw.  Perfect placement I might add.  I can see the tension numbers and apply the amount of tension I want to the blade without too much trouble.

The big question you might have after you look at how the blade tension is applied when buying a scroll saw, may be on how much tension to apply to a scroll saw blade when you start using your new scroll saw.  I have an article on using your scroll saw that may help when you settle on a scroll saw purchase: Scroll saw How to Use: 6 Easy Steps to Get You Started

 

The Air Blower

Why all scroll saws do not come with an adjustable blower, or blower of some type, I do not know.  I suppose it is one of those features that is not necessarily a must have.  After all, we have a blower right on our very own faces we could use, right.

The blower can be a small adjustable arm that typically comes off the scroll saw throat.  The design of this blower is to be adjustable enough to be far enough away so as not to get in the way, yet put a small amount of air on the wood to clear any dust from your visible cutting lines.

Typically this blower is pointed somewhere right on the blade so you can always get a clear visual of you cuts.

The blower is a must have for me.  At times it does get in the way, but the overall benefit of it certainly outweighs that.  I would highly suggest a scroll saw with some sort of a blower on it, I don’t think you would regret it.

 

Any Accessories

Ah yes, accessories.  A lot of the time when we buy something, it does not include everything.  This is certainly no different when it comes to tools and the scroll saw, or hobbies in general for that matter.

Many scroll saws out there do come with all the bells and whistles that help you to start out with you purchase in confidence that all you needs are met.

So what are some of the forgotten items I may not have received with my scroll saw?  Well for starters, you need something to put your scroll saw on.  Purchasing a scroll saw stand may be an option for you to consider.  If you are an avid woodworker and looking to save some money, you may want to consider building your own scroll saw stand.  If you are lucky you may already have a table to put it on.  And in some cases, a stand may even come with the purchase of your scroll saw.20181019_210620

Additionally, you need to consider lighting.  You need adequate light on your scroll saw projects, this is a must.  If the room you are working in does not cover your lighting situation adequately, some scroll saws do come with a lamp to help you with this, some do not.  With my Dewalt, I had to purchase a lamp separately, one of the draw backs about the scroll saw.  There are many other different lights out there one can purchase.  Some lights can clamp onto things, some just sit on a table.   Find something that will work for you.

Other accessories can include a scroll saw pedal, though I am a little wary about safety when it comes to a foot pedal.  Accidentally taping that while changing out a scroll saw blade can result in a bad day.

A chair or stool to sit on may deserve some thought.  I have built my own stool to sit on but I often think that purchasing an adjustable chair or stool might give me some benefit.

I have listed a few accessories that I thought about when I purchased my scroll saw.  When it comes to accessories there can be many other things to consider, but I will leave those other things up to you to think about.

 

It’s all in the Personal Reviews

When we go off to purchase things we often see that people have written some reviews about that particular thing.  For me, those reviews are invaluable.

What better way to consider a product for purchase than to see how others, whom have purchased that same product, think about that purchase.

We should be aware though, that some of those reviews are not necessarily honest and could be fake reviews to help boost the sales of the product.  I will leave that up to you to be able to determine which one of those reviews are fake and which ones are real.  That topic may very well fall out of my expertise.

When I bought my Dewalt scroll saw, reviews were very important.  I love to see hundreds, if not thousands, of reviews that create a composite score of 4 1/2 stars.  This gives me a lot of confidence in the product that I might consider purchasing.  If it is a 4 star composite score then that is not too bad as well.

The Dewalt you can find here at Amazon, as of currently writing this article, had a 4 1/2 star composite score when I purchased it some time ago.  I will wholly admit this was a pretty big factor for my choice in purchasing this scroll saw.  I have not regretted it either.

A competing scroll saw for my purchase was the Wen, you can find that here at Amazon.  Not only did it have a nice cheaper price, it holds a 4 star composite (as of this article) and a lot of other people have purchased the scroll saw to give it those 4 stars.

As a quick example of a purchase in my past, I once had an ant problem I could not get rid of.  I tried so many things to get rid of these ants.  I stumbled onto a product that had only 20 to 30 reviews, but had 4 1/2 stars.  I read the reviews and though I would give this less popular product a try.  To say the least, I was not disappointed and my ant problem was gone.

I feel one should always consider the reviews of others when purchasing products, and buying a scroll saw should carry that same notion.

 

Conclusion

I hope I have given you some good things to consider when buying a scroll saw.  I love the hobby of scroll sawing and I hope I can help anyone interested in the hobby.

If you find yourself wanting to read some more about the scroll saw and scroll saw projects feel free to poke around this website, I have put up quite a bit of stuff that you might consider a good read.

If you are interested in taking a look at some of the tools and items I use for my scroll saw projects please visit My Tool Picks.  You can find the link at the top as well.

Thanks for reading.