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There are some pretty hefty saws out there that will make light work of cutting through large pieces of lumber. But when you want to create something a little more intricate and delicate, you need a tool that is up to the challenge. Many people are not sure what to use a scroll saw for but in this ‘scroll saw for beginners‘ guide, we are going to tell you everything you need to know to confidently and safely use this important piece of equipment.
What Can You Do With A Scroll Saw?
A scroll saw is a small, delicate saw that is often used by hobby woodworkers. They are typically mounted on a tabletop or bench and while they may appear to be similar to the band saw, these intricate tools have much finer blades.
But what can you make with a scroll saw? Well, these handy tools are not used in the same way as larger saws for simply cutting pieces of wood or metal into smaller sections. Instead, they are used for adding detail to projects. You can either make a cut from the edge of the material or you may create a hole inside the piece of wood and create a design from here. Scroll saws can be used with various types of blade depending on the type and thickness of the material you are cutting.
What Scroll Saw Blade To Use
One of the first questions that DIY enthusiasts ask about any type of saw is what it can be used to cut. Most commonly, scroll saws are used to cut through smaller, thinner pieces of wood, but they can be used to cut other materials.
Will a scroll saw cut metal and plastic?
Scroll saws can cut metal and plastic but it is essential that you choose the right blade. These saws are compatible with many different types of blade that range in thickness as well as pattern. These blades are numbered 1 to 12 and the higher the number, the more coarse and thick the blade.
Coarse blades are generally used for bigger pieces of material and where heavier work is needed. However, finer blades that are lower down on the numerical scale are more suited to very detailed and intricate work.
When choosing your blade, you will not only need to look at its thickness and pattern but also at how it attaches to the saw body. In the main, there are two types of scroll saw blade; plain end and pin end. Plain ended blades are typically narrower than the pin ended blade but they are notoriously more fiddly to attach. For the most part, all scroll saws will accept either type of blade.
How To Use The Scroll Saw
When learning how to use any tool, it can feel a little overwhelming but scroll saws are relatively easy to get to grips with, provided that you sync yourself up with their delicate nature. If you are used to operating large table saws or circular saws, you may not be accustomed to handling the wood as delicately as you will need to with your scroll saw; but don’t worry, this will come with time.
To begin with, you will need to think about the placement of the saw. Since this type of work will involve being much more intricate, you must make sure that you position the saw in good light where your view won’t be obstructed. Once you have chosen your location, you must then bolt the scroll saw to an appropriate stand or work table. Which you choose is up to you provided that the saw is securely fitted.
Scroll Saw Safety
Next, you will need to think about how you will ensure your safety while using the scroll saw. Generally, these types of saws are not as dangerous as some of the bigger types of saw, but anything with a blade has the potential to cause an injury, no matter how minor.
It is, therefore, a good idea to make sure that your scroll saw has an appropriate blade guard in place and if possible, use an aid to move the material through the blade as opposed to using your fingers. That being said, this could be difficult with very intricate work. Of course, you will need to make sure that you wear appropriate gear such as eye goggles to protect the eyes from flying wood shavings.
Operating A Scroll Saw
- Before you start, you will need to have cut your material to an appropriate size using a different type of saw.
- Now take a pencil and mark your design onto the piece of wood. If you prefer, or for less intricate designs, you might mark the area with tape, but this can interfere with the cut.
- When you are just starting out, it can be useful to have the saw moving more slowly until you get used to it. For this reason,we would suggest choosing a blade no higher than a 3, this will be suitable for cutting wood with a thickness of around 3.2mm. Smaller blades like this move through the wood more slowly and can give you greater control over the tool.
- Once you have inserted the blade, you will need to adjust the tension. This process may vary slightly depending on the manufacturer so check your user manual to see how yours is done. Once you have adjusted the tension, the blade should move no more than 3mm to either side.
- You can now turn the saw on and test the function of the blade on a piece of unwanted wood. It is better to do this than risk damaging your project and having to start again.
- When you are satisfied that the blade is working correctly, you can begin cutting your project. Guide the wood towards the blade using both hands making sure that your fingers are clear of the blade. As you move the wood through, allow the saw to do most of the work; your job is to guide the material, not force it through as this could either break the blade or ruin the cut. If the speed of the machine is not set correctly, this could cause difficulties. As a general rule, soft types of wood work better with fast speeds, whereas hard or dense woods will benefit from using a slower speed.
- You can turn corners so that the blade follows your chosen pattern, however, if you need to make a 90º cut, you should remove the material from the blade and guide it back in at the correct angle.
- When you have finished, remove the material from the saw and switch off the power. If you won’t be using the saw again for some time, you should store it away to prevent damage. Blades should always be removed in between uses.
Comparing Similar Tools
There are so many tools out there that a lot can appear to be the same thing with a different name. One question that a lot of beginners have is whether there is a viable scroll saw alternative.
When it comes to the scroll saw vs fret saw, you will see that there is no difference between the two other than the name. What is referred to as a scroll saw here in the UK, may be called a fret saw on the other side of the pond. Traditionally, a fret saw is a manual tool but there are now powered versions that are essentially a scroll saw. If you need something that will perform the same tasks, a fret saw is your best bet.
A lot of people wonder whether they should use a scroll saw or jigsaw but these are two very different pieces of equipment. The jigsaw is a handheld tool that is designed to make various types of cut. If you are looking for something that is versatile, this would likely be the tool that you would choose. However, owing to the freehand nature of this tool, it isn’t great for the intricate work that a scroll saw is capable of.
Finally, we will compare the scroll saw vs band saw and these are tools that look very alike. They are both stationary and use thin blades. However, the blades of the band saw are generally thicker and longer. This means that they are better suited to larger projects but will still cut detail into the wood.
Where To Buy A Scroll Saw
One of the great things about the internet is that you can find pretty much anything you need. If you are looking to purchase a new scroll saw, there are manufacturers websites where you can buy direct or you can head to a marketplace like Amazon. Alternatively, you might consider purchasing one second hand but you must make sure that you see the tool in person before committing to a purchase. You can find out more about where to buy scroll saws in our guide, here.
The scroll saw is an invaluable tool for hobby woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts and is relatively easy to use. As you get to know your tool better, you will be able to pick up the pace and create more detailed work. But in the beginning, you should start off slow and learn the basics for the best success and your safety.