Scroll Saws are a tool made for those who create detailed work, where creativity is at the forefront of most designs.
If you’re just starting off, you’re probably wondering – how hard is it to master this innovative saw?
Well, It’s easy to learn how to use a scroll saw, however they are difficult to master.
Luckily, we’ve put together this guide on the 12 top tips and techniques you can apply on your next session – that will aid in enhancing your skills, with some tips and tricks that will promote the quality of your work, and also protect your equipment.
If you don’t have too much time to read through our article, I’ve put together a list of the 12 scroll saw tips and techniques we looked into today:
- Before use, check the blade for any damages and make sure the tension is appropriate for the cut
- Use dry wood when cutting – clearing any damp or wet materials with a cloth, followed by letting it dry
- Make sure the table is at mid-torso level, whether it’s’ during standing or sitting
- Proper lighting will give you more clarity when working, and to use the provided adjustable light when necessary
- Prevent splitting by placing a spare piece under your workpiece, and drilling a hole into the piece
- Sand before you cut, which may cause fuzziness, however is safer and will reduce time for the project overall
- Be patient when cutting heavier pieces, there is no need to rush. Take your time.
- No force is needed, as you can let the saw do the work by guiding your piece over the outline
- Stack cutting reduces time spent on duplicate pieces, with a number of ways to do so available
- Prevent warping of wood by placing a heavier piece of wood or equipment on your piece you’ll be using
- When creating cutouts, place them back into place – this will prevent frail bridges and strengthen the overall price
- Use a thin coat of WD-40 or oil on your blades to increase their longevity and eliminates rust
Tips & Techniques: Before, During & After
To make it even easier, I’ve put these tips & techniques into three categories; before you begin your session, during and after.
Some can be done at more than one time – and it’s completely up to you to use your judgement regarding the best times.
With that being said, let’s get into it – starting with some tips and techniques before you begin your cut.
Tips & Techniques: Before Your Cut
Preparing your material, blades and the scroll saw itself is a vital component of the process when you’re looking to begin your project.
You wouldn’t find a chef serve a meal in a restaurant without the proper preparation first, so there’s no reason as to why you shouldn’t be doing the same with your cuts.
Of course, these are vastly different in comparison, yet a proper preparation will see you start off strongly, as you look to maintain a high quality of work.
Let’s look into our first tip.
Check The Blade & Blade Tension
For your scroll saw to work at its’ high level, your blades will also need to be checked to make sure they can get the job done.
Make sure you’re using the correct blades for the job, and that they’re in working condition. The last thing you’d want is blunt blades, or the incorrect size – so this is incredibly important.
Not doing so can result in a damaged project, and broken blades. Whilst they’re rather inexpensive, it’s an inconvenience for you.
After you’ve had a look at your blades to make sure they’re in good condition, it’s time to adjust the blade tension.
This can be a little tricky if you’re beginning, however it won’t take too long to learn.
The tension of the blade has a direct affect on your wood. Too loose, and it won’t cut through anything, instead falling out of the clamp. Too tense, and you’re at risk of damaging the blades through either breaking or bending, and I’m sure you don’t want that, right?
Adjusting the blade can be done in a number of ways. If you’re lucky enough to have a scroll saw with a blade adjusting knob/lever, you’re able to use this to find the correct tension.
However, if your scroll saw does not have this function, you’ll have to rely on your senses to find the correct tension.
This can be done by flicking the blade, and it will produce a note, similar to the strings on a guitar. Too high, and the the blade is too tense. Too low, and the blade is too loose.
You can use guitar tuning devices and apps in order to monitor the blades’ sound – so you have that perfect pitch.
After a while, this will become second nature – as you begin to become accustomed to how these blades sound.
Use Dry Wood
Of course, this may sound a little obvious – however it’s imperative that you’re using dry wood.
In storage, there’s a chance that your wood can become wet if placed within materials or objects that contain liquid.
Pending on the substance, this can damage the wood and also create a safety hazard within your project.
Use a dry cloth to clean the wood, and leave to dry if it’s wet. This will allow your scroll saw blades to correctly cut through the material, rather than glide or miss important sections – which can occur once water is involved.
Table Position & Preparation
Many scroll saws come with an adjustable table, which can bevel left and right to a maximum of 45°. When preparing your cut, have the scroll saw at a level position, without the bevel.
This will ensure you can begin your cutting process, and also observe and eliminate any inconsistencies which may occur from storage.
The best position for the scroll saw table is directly is in line with your mid-torso, whether you’re sitting or standing.
This position allows you for a clear and obstructed view of your work and the table, which is essential for perfect cuts.
As you’re preparing the table to be in line with yourself, also make sure that the blade is directly in line with the table, and is not leaning towards a certain direction.
If you find this is the case with your blade, you may need to adjust the tension again, or check the blade for any damages – and replace when necessary.
The Correct Lighting
We’ve established how important the scroll saw is for intricate designs and difficult shapes, and in order for you to get the highest quality cuts, you’re going to need to have a hawk-like perception over the table.
This isn’t possible without the correct lighting – so make sure your working conditions provide this.
A majority of scroll saws are fitted with an adjustable light, which can be either a LED or bulb. This will allow for a clearer vision, which is something that is highly important for this type of work.
Sand Before You Cut
During the process, you’ll be needing to sand your wood. It’s best to do this prior to cutting.
Sanding before you cut is incredibly important for works such as fretwork. This may create some fuzziness – however you’ll save both time and also patience doing this beforehand, rather than after.
Also, it’s a safe option to do so beforehand – the finished product will arrive quicker than it would if you were to postpone this step to later in the process.
Tips & Techniques: During Your Cut
So now we’ve discussed some tips prior to cutting, let’s look at what you can do during your cut, for a quality finish.
Prevent Splitting By Drilling A Hole Into The Wood
Splits are great for bananas, but not for wood. Once a split is found in your project, it can damage the entire piece – which can result in a very long and stressful process in replicating your cut.
To eliminate splitting, I can share with you a very helpful tip – especially when working with thin pieces.
Place a scrap piece of wood below your workpiece. It’s as simple as that.
By doing this, the underlying piece provides stability and leverage for your wood, and is able to absorb the pressure of the blade throughout both pieces of wood.
This results in a thin piece of wood that doesn’t split, which is incredibly useful for all woodworkers using a scroll saw.
Take Your Time Cutting Thick Pieces
It can be quite easy to become lost in your work, especially if you’re working to a timeframe.
With thick pieces of wood, the best tool you have in your inventory (apart from the scroll saw itself), is time.
Be patient when cutting through these heavier pieces. Cutting too quickly can result in burnt wood, and also heavily damage your blades by either breaking or bending them.
Patience is the key – and should definitely be a trait of yours when using the scroll saw.
If drilling a hole through a thin piece of wood, you can prevent splitting by placing a scrap piece below your workpiece. If you’re drilling through thick wood, you should drill down till that point where you just break through the bottom surface. Stop drilling the wood, turn it over so that the bottom surface is now facing upwards and finish drilling from this side.
Let The Saw Do All The Work
Unlike many other saws, the scroll saw is perfectly capable of doing the majority of the work for you.
All you need to do is guide the saw through the wood, moving the piece relative to the design you’ve already shaped out.
You won’t need to press onto the blades (please, make sure this is something you NEVER do), and can simply glide over your design.
If you let the saw do the work for you, you’ll find a higher quality of work in your end result.
Stack Cutting For Duplicate Pieces
There are going to be times where you’re working on several duplicate pieces, which can become quite a repetitive and arduous task.
Luckily, there are ways in which you can eliminate the time in making copy cuts, by doing them in bulk – which is known as stack cutting.
To perform a stack cut, you’ll need to stack the pieces of wood you’re using, with their best sides facing in the same direction.
You’ll then need to hold these pieces together, in which there are a number of ways to do so.
One of these ways we’ll look into, involves the use of tape.
It’s one of the quickest methods, and it’s as simple as taping the pieces together using the tape.
For better vision, it’s best to use tape which is different to the material you’re using. Any specific type of tape can be used, however I’d definitely recommend duct tape or a clear, packing tape which not only holds the pieces together, but gives you a complete look over your pattern.
Tips & Techniques: After Your Cut
So you’ve prepared for the cut, and also used some helpful tips during your cut. But what about after?
Here are three helpful tips and techniques you can use after you’ve finished.
Prevent Warping By Placing A Heavier Piece Of Wood On Your Pieces You Intend To Use
Okay, so this is fairly straightforward, and can be a technique used to prepare for your next session, as well.
Woods can become warped when not stored properly, and to prevent this is quite simple.
It involves placing a heavier piece of wood on top of the pieces you’re going to be working with in your next session.
By having this weight placed upon the piece, it prevents the wood from warping.
If you find that your wood has warped, this can also be reversed. Simply dampen the warped piece with a little water on a cloth, and keep a heavier weight upon the warped piece for a week.
You’ll find that this straightens out your piece, which can also save you money in the long run.
Replace Cutouts Back Into Place
When cutting from the inside, or designing pieces that result in a removable piece – it’s important to place these pieces back into your larger piece.
Well, this prevents frail bridges and eliminates the chances of a potential split, by providing leverage to the entirety of the piece.
So, even if you’ve cut out a piece and have no need for this – keep it in position, you’ll definitely be thanking yourself for it.
Increase The Longevity Of Your Blades Using WD-40
You should have many blades, of all sizes and many duplicate blades. They’re very affordable, and provide you with assurance in case a blade is broken or damaged, which is an unfortunate part of a woodworkers’ lifecycle.
After use, it’s recommended to remove the blade from the saw, and before storage – spray the blade with a thin coat of WD-40.
This will help protect the blade from rust, giving the blade a longer lifespan. No WD-40? No problem.
You can also use oil, in which you would also use a thin coat.
So there you have it – 12 different tips and techniques you can apply to your sessions (before, during and after), that will definitely increase your skill level and increase the quality of your work.
These are just a few of the different tips you can find – with many coming over hours put into practice, and finding out what works for you as you go along.
I’m sure you would have your own tips, especially if you’re quite experienced.
We would love to hear them, and that goes for any comments you may have!
Leave your thoughts below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What additional accessories can I use to assist me in my woodworking?
Great question! There are a number of handy features which many scroll saws come with, which can elevate your scroll saw game.
This includes, but isn’t limited to; blade tensioning knobs, air blowers, bevel tables, clamps, variable speed triggers – to name a few examples.