Scroll Saw for Beginners: Step by Step Guide
Of all the types of wood cutting power tools, the scroll saw is one of the easiest to use. However, some basic practices need to be observed when working with one. In this guide to scroll saws for beginners, we are going to explore some them. This should help you get started with this power tool in a productive and safe way.
>> Read More: Best Scroll Saws on the Market
Table of Contents
What to Look for When Buying a Scroll Saw
Scroll saws are not inexpensive power tools. It demands some prior knowledge and research before purchasing one, especially if you are a beginner. Without further ado, here are some aspects to consider when buying a scroll saw online
1. Throat Size
The throat size is simply the distance from the blade back to the saw throat. Standard throat sizes are 16”, 20”, 21” and 30”.
A 16” scroll saw is an entry-level machine suitable for beginners and small jobs. 20” throat size is for general purpose cutting. A 30” scroll saw is top of the line and used mostly by experts.
2. Blade Mounting
There are 2 ways to mount a blade on a saw.
- Tooled: You will require a tool to mount and dismount a blade. They have a more rigid and stable blade mounting. But they are also more challenging and time-consuming to change.
- Tool-less: You do not require a tool (like an Allen wrench) to remove and replace your scroll saw blade with the tool-less type. They are the easiest to use and the most modern blade mounting on most branded scroll saws. Additionally, keep an eye out for the material of the tool-less fob. A plastic fob is not necessarily a bad thing as long it if securely tightens the blade.
3. Smooth and Flat Work Table
To work with the scroll saw more enjoyably and efficiently, it needs to be flat and smooth. A rough surface will prevent you from doing accurate cuts. With a scroll saw, you bring the material to the saw. You don’t want any resistance. Keep an eye out for both a relatively broad table as well as one that sits perfectly horizontally.
4. Variable Speed
For more versatility, a variable speed control scroll saw is better for both beginners and professionals alike. It will assist you more when working with different materials.
5. Hold Down Foot
The hold down foot needs to be sturdy as it holds down your material. Check if it is made from a solid metal material. The manufacturer should also provide an easy way to make adjustments (blade tension).
6. Table Tilt
See if it has a table tilt for angular cuts. Bear in mind, the “table” itself does not tilt. It is the motor, housing, and blade that do. Additionally, it needs to have a lock to position it permanently.
7. Blade Storage
This is an extra feature that allows you to store your various blades. It is an optional but handy feature.
8. Price Range
It is important to look for models that hover around your budget. It can quickly become expensive when purchasing a scroll saw. Good quality scroll saws for beginners (see below) usually are between the $100 - $250 price mark.
9. Recommended Models
You cannot go wrong with a branded scroll saw regarding dependability, durability, and performance. They are built from quality materials along with a host of other features and benefits.
Models like the Dremel MS20-01 or Wen 3920 are budget friendly scroll saws that will make an excellent first scroll saw for beginners. If you want more “premium” quality entry-level scroll saws, you cannot go wrong with Hegner 18" or Dewalt DW788. They have one of the industry’s highest quality scroll saws.
How to Select Scroll Saw Blade
By default, your scroll saw comes with a standard factory blade. This is not always the best blade. You will want to swap it with a more performing one.
The best way to get a “feel” of a blade is to start cutting material with it. By switching to different blades, you will soon come to find one that is best for your need. It will deliver both a very comfortable cutting experience as well as allow you to make cleaner cuts.
Bottom line is, you will need to perform a certain level of “experimentation” before you finally find a good one. Make sure you purchase additional blades for this effect.
1. Blade Size
The size of the blade is one of the most important aspects. For a professional clean cut, you need a size that is adapted to the material you are cutting. A blade size too small or too big will not work efficiently.
Blade sizes range from 3/0, 2/0, 1/0, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12. 3/0 is the smallest (nought blades) and 12 is the largest.
The smallest blade type in a scroll saw is often called “nought” blades. They are the smallest and deliver a very fine cut. The caveat is that they are so small that they can easily bend and break. You need a steady hand and some experience before using them.
2. Material Thickness
The thicker the material, the bigger the blade needs to be. Note that this is a general rule of thumb which also holds true for almost any other type of wood cutting.
The blade needs to be neither too small or too big and suited for the material thickness.
To help you, here's a quick rundown of the different type of blades as well as their typical application:
- Type 2/0: Mostly for softwood. This size has the cleanest and most detailed cut.
- Type 1: Delivers great detail and cuts faster than 2/0. Ideal for beginners looking to make fine details.
- Type 5: A general purpose blade perfect for any wood cutting - from tapered wood to raw lumber.
- Type 12: Used to cut material of at least 1” and above in thickness.
>> Read More: Definite Guide about Scroll Saw Blade
How to Tension Your Blade
When you finally decide over the right blade, you will need to make one final adjustment - The Blade Tension.
Many experts use a fork to test a blade tension. They listen to the pitch of a blade to see if it is properly tensioned. What they are doing is listening to the “high C” note. This is not very practical or evident to beginners.
Here is a much easier way to tension your blade:
- Tighten the blade on your scroll saw mount and run it.
- Go right in front of the scroll saw and look for a perfect line while the scroll saw blade is moving. If you see a blurry image, it means that it is not properly calibrated. You will need to tighten (sometimes even loosen) it more.
- Use a test lumber to make a cut. This is simply to check if the blade is properly tensioned and it produces a clean, detailed cut. Be careful when tensioning your blade. One that is too tight will break easily and too loose it will not produce clean and accurate cuts. Again, you will need to take your time and experiment a little when tensioning.
Things You Can Make
Image source: scrollsawworkshop
You can design many things with a scroll saw, limited only by your imagination. After all, the scroll saw is used by many wood artists for fine and detailed artistry woodwork.
These days, it is very easy even for beginners to get started using a scroll saw. By making use of a pattern, you can quickly and easily get a professional cut and create beautiful designs.
If you do not want to affix a pattern to your material, you can always go around it the old fashion way.
Here is how:
Then you can start cutting your material by following your tracking paper markings. Go slowly if you are an absolute beginner. You will quickly get the hang of it and see how easy it is to cut with a scroll saw.
As a finishing note, you will often find situations where you need to make inside cuts in material. It is very easy to do so. Simply drill the material with a drill size no bigger than the scroll saw blade and then slide the blade in it. Voila!
How to Cut with a Scroll Saw?
With a scroll saw, you bring the material to the blade. In doing so, you need to be VERY CAREFUL not to apply too much force on the material. This will force the motor and blade - causing it to either break and come loose.
The best way to work with a scroll saw is to let the blade to all the cutting. Each blade has their specification. Small 2/0 blades will require a gentle push while 12 blades will literally “suck” the material in.
The amount of force that you need to apply can only come from experience. You will need to practice a lot before acquiring this. There is no other way!
Start by making small test cuts. This should let you get a good feel of the blade.
One important closing note: Never stagnate when your material is on the blade. It will cause wood burn and can ruin your work . You need to move constantly, even if they are small movements; do not stop moving when cutting with the scroll saw.
Practice Makes Perfect
As the adage goes - practice makes perfect. This has never been truer than when working with the scroll saw. You will need to practice a lot before you acquire this skill level and become familiar with the way your scroll saw cuts material.
Once you do, the sky is the limit with the scroll saw. You can now make any design and pattern in wood to your heart's content.
Without a doubt, scrolling is one of the most self-rewarding hobbies out there. Good luck and stay safe with your scrolling endeavors.