Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Barry Gray
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, I’ve put together this guide on the 12 top tips and techniques you can apply to your next session – that will enhance your skills with some tips and tricks that will promote the quality of your work and protect your equipment.
Here are 12 tips and tricks to help you out:
- Before use, inspect the blade to see whether it’s sharp enough or the correct size for the cut you want to make.
- Check your blade tension – Blade tension has a direct effect on the outcome of your project.
- Ensure that you always use dry wood. You want to clean any wet wood with a dry piece of cloth and place them outside for drying.
- Make sure that your table is mid-torso level. This is so that you reach both your tool and project whether sitting or standing.
- Sand your project beforehand, you’ll save a lot of time and effort by doing it in advance.
- Prevent splitting by placing a scrap piece of wood under your workpiece. The workpiece below will absorb the pressure of the blade as it cuts.
- Learn to be patient when you are cutting through large and dense pieces of wood.
- Let your scroll saw do the work for you. Gently cut through your design patterns without any extra force on the piece.
- Stack cutting is an excellent way to create duplicate pieces faster. Saves the time you would need if you did them individually.
- Prevent wood warping by placing a heavier piece of wood on top of the wood you intend to use next.
- Don’t remove cutouts from their original piece. Keep them in place to provide leverage to the entire piece and prevent weak bridges.
- Increase blade longevity by spraying it with a thin layer of WD-40 or a thin coat of oil. It helps protect the blade from rust.
Tips and Tricks: Before Your Cut
Preparation may seem like something you may not think about once you know the ins & outs of a scroll saw. But, when you are new, these are things that you’ll wish you had thought about before.
Preparing the scroll saw and its accessories is an important part of the process. You want to make sure that all parts of the saw are in tip-top shape every time.
Early preparation helps you start working on a high note and maintain the quality of work.
Inspect Your Blade
The blade is the most important part of the scroll saw. It can either break or make the outcome of a project. Therefore, the last thing you want is to work with a blunt blade, or use an incorrect size.
Doing any of the above can result in a broken blade, a damaged project, or even worse; an injury. For starters, there is a lot to consider, should you use a pinned blade or a pinless blade?
The benefit of a pinned blade is that you can lock the blade in and set the tension immediately. The downside to using a pinned blade is that you won’t find a lot of varieties. Also, if you are dealing with a small hole, you’ll have a difficult time slipping the blade in.
When it comes to size, you want to go with something in the middle. Too thick and the blade might bend. Too thin, and the blade might snap when cutting through dense materials.
Therefore, replace any dull blades and ensure that they are the correct size. Scroll saw blades are inexpensive, so it shouldn’t be an uphill task.
Check the Blade Tension
You want to make sure that your blade tension is correct. Blade tension has a direct effect on your project. Too loose, and there’s the risk that the blade won’t make any cuts. Too tight, and you risk bending or breaking the blade.
Fixing the blade tension is an easy task. If your scroll saw has an adjustment knob, simply adjust the knob to find the right tension. If not, you can rely on “old-school” tricks to help you adjust. Simply flick the blade and take note (pun intended) of the note produced.
A high note represents high tension while a low note represents low tension. You want to ensure that you are getting something right in the middle; the perfect pitch. You can take advantage of guitar tuning devices or apps. Or, feel free to take advantage of your note-listening skills.
Use Dry Wood
You want to make sure that you’re always using dry wood. Always inspect your wood as you take it out of storage, especially if you have a water source close to the wood.
The downside to using wet wood is that it’s denser than dry wood. As your blade slices through the wood, it’ll pick up moisture. It can potentially dull your blade and result in blade rust formation.
So what should you do if your wood is wet? You want to dry wood with a clean, dry piece of cloth and let it dry.
Table Position and Preparation
For a majority of cuts, your blade will need to be at a right angle (90 degrees) to the saw table. However, for more intricate cuts, the scroll saw can also make bevel cuts on both sides at an angle of 45 degrees.
Therefore, you want to make sure that your table remains level, without any tilts. Additionally, you want to make sure that the position of both the table and the saw are mid-torso. This position is perfect as it allows you to have a clear and unobstructed view of your tool and project.
Scroll saws are perfect for intricate designs and difficult shapes. For you to be able to achieve high-quality accurate cuts, you are going to need to be able to see line patterns.
This won’t be possible if you are not using the correct lighting. That means you’ll need to invest in some good lighting in your shop. You also may want to consider mounting an adjustable flexible light on your scroll saw.
Having an LED or a light bulb attached to your scroll saw can help you bring in light from different angles. Not to mention, you’ll have a clear vision, which helps reduce eye strain and fatigue. Especially if you are working with small, detailed patterns.
Sand Before You Cut
Sanding is an important part of the scrolling process and a lot of people prefer to do it after. However, if you are dealing with delicate work, you’ll want to ensure that you do your sanding first.
The cutting process will create some fuzz around the cut areas. However, sanding first minimizes the chances of this fuzz being too “outspoken.” You’ll be saving both time and effort by doing it beforehand.
Not to mention, the finished product will get done earlier than if you were to postpone this process.
Tips and Tricks: During Your Cut
We’ve now looked at some helpful tips and tricks before cutting. In this section, we’ll take a look at what you can do during the cut to achieve a quality cut.
Prevent Splitting by Placing a Scrap Piece Below your Work Piece
Wood splits are an absolute nightmare. They can damage an entire piece, forcing you to replicate your work from the start. Unfortunately, you’re bound to run into one or two splits as you work with wood.
If you happen to run into one, I encourage you to place a scrap of wood below the workpiece. It’s particularly handy if you are working with thin pieces of wood. By doing this, you are adding stability and leverage to the piece. It’ll be able to absorb the pressure of the blade as it cuts through both pieces.
Take Your Time Cutting Through Thick Pieces
Cutting wood is such a peaceful hobby that it can be easy to get lost in it. However, when you are pressed for time, you may want to cut through wood quicker to finish early.
While this might be possible with thin pieces of wood, I don’t recommend doing this with thicker pieces of wood. Cutting too quickly through thicker pieces of wood can result in burnt wood.
Additionally, it’s more likely that you will dull or even break your blade. If you push your piece too hard on the blade, chances are that you will bend the blade, which will skew your cuts.
Patience is key and should be a trait of yours while using the scroll saw.
Use the Scroll Saw for the Majority of the Work
The majority of power saws can handle specific cuts. The scroll saw, however, is capable of handling a majority of the cutting for your project.
All you have to do is to ensure that you guide the saw into the wood. Move the piece relative to the pattern you’ve already set.
Make sure that the blade glides through your design. Do NOT attempt to press the blades onto your piece. Chances are you will cause damage to both the blade and your piece.
Let the saw work for you and you will achieve amazing and high-quality cuts at the end.
Utilize Stack Cutting for Duplicate Pieces
There are times when you will work on a project that requires duplicate pieces of the same pattern. Creating every individual piece one by one can become an arduous and repetitive task.
Cut the amount of time spent cutting individual pieces by incorporating stack cutting. Stack cutting can help you reduce your production time by almost 75%. There are various ways you can do stack cutting.
The benefit of stack cutting is that you can produce 4 to 5 pieces at a time. The extra pieces offer the original support and stability. Especially when you are dealing with delicate and fragile areas.
Tips and Tricks: After Your Cut
Are there tips and tricks that you can follow after making your cut? Yes! Here are three helpful tips and tricks that you can use immediately after making your cuts:
Prevent Warping by Placing a Heavier Piece of Wood on Pieces You Intend to Use
This is a straightforward tip that you can utilize for your next session. If you hoard a lot of wood in your store, you will mostly realize that it sometimes warps. Especially if it’s not stored properly.
Getting rid of warp is a straightforward process. All you have to do is place a heavier piece of wood on the wood that you intend to use in the next session. This heavier piece of wood will prevent your wood from warping.
If you happen to find that the wood has already warped, you can still salvage it and force it back into shape. Simply dampen the piece of wood with a wet piece of cloth, spreading it all around the warped area.
Immediately after, place it below a bigger piece of wood for a straight week. This will straighten your piece out, saving you lots of money and time in the long run.
Replace Cut Outs into Place
When you are making cuts, it’s alright to leave tiny frets open. If you are cutting out large removable pieces, you may want to leave these pieces in their original place.
Leaving a large piece in its place minimizes the chances of weak bridges and splits. It provides the entire piece with extra leverage.
Make sure to always keep the pieces in position, even when you don’t have any need for them. You’ll thank me later!
There you have it! Top 12 scroll saw tips and tricks recommended by scroll saw pros. You can use them for every session (before, during, and after). They’ll help you increase your skill level and the quality of your work.
I hope your visit to this page has been helpful. Let me know if you have any questions. Is there any tip or trick that I’ve missed? Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.