Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Barry Gray
Scroll saws are important and unique tools with a special place in a woodworker’s arsenal. They stand out because of their visual distinctiveness and specialized purpose in the shop.
A scroll saw is used for making thin and curved cuts in wood. Its flexibility and accuracy make it possible to use a scroll saw for details in musical instruments or complicated joints.
Although they can make fine cuts, scroll saws aren’t known for being especially powerful. They may struggle to cut through particularly thick pieces of wood, especially if attempting a sharp angle or curved cut.
What Can You Cut with a Scroll Saw?
You can use a scroll saw to make fine cuts, as previously mentioned. But wood isn’t the only material you can make those cuts in.
People use scroll saws to cut a wide variety of materials, including:
Of course, your ability to cut a particular piece will depend on its thickness, its hardness, and the characteristics of your scroll saw. But with experience, people find it easy to work the above materials with their scroll saws.
What Are The Key Parts of a Scroll Saw?
Because a scroll saw is specifically designed for its intended purpose, learning its key parts will help make it clear what you can use it for.
One of the most distinctive features of a scroll saw is the arm. There are three types of arm: the C-arm, parallel arm, and parallel-linked arm.
These different arm types can help the worker make different types of cuts when maneuvering the saw through the wood. Parallel-linked arms are the most recently developed and have become among the most popular kinds of arms to use.
A scroll saw’s throat is the space between the blade and the back of the machine’s table, and it affects the maximum depth with which you can cut an object.
The throat size is an important factor when you consider what is the best scroll saw to buy, as it limits what you can cut.
The most typical scroll saw throat sizes are 16” and 20”. However, you can find models outside that range if you need a more specialized saw.
Along with the arm, the scroll saw’s blade is one of its most distinctive features. The blade is at the core of the scroll saw’s design, and it lets you make those fine cuts you’re looking to get from a scroll saw.
There are a few special things about a scroll saw’s blade. It is usually thin, allowing for narrow maneuvering. It’s also a vertically-mounted blade, as opposed to the table-mounted blades you might be familiar with.
There is enough variety in the kinds of scroll saw blades you can use that picking the right blade deserves its own discussion.
Unlike many saws, most scroll saws come with an air blower. The air blower is a small tube that can let out a jet of compressed air, blowing dust and debris away from your work.
Dust can make it much more difficult to see what you’re doing, especially when working with the fine designs scroll saws excel at.
Scroll saws sometimes include both an air blower and a dust port, which collects the dust you blow away.
What Scroll Saw Blade Should You Use?
The blade is part of how scroll saws are different from other saws.
Different blades serve distinct purposes, whether they are for cutting through different materials or they’re meant for different types of cut. There are a few factors to think about when choosing your blade.
When you pick a scroll saw blade, one of the most important factors to consider is its size. Scroll saw blades have a wide range of different sizes, which are labeled 0 through 12.
Larger blades can handle thicker and harder wood and are more durable, but some fine cuts are only possible with thin, maneuverable blades.
Pinned vs. Pinless
All scroll saw blades are either pinned or pinless. Those terms refer to how the blade attaches itself to the machine: with or without a pin.
While pinless blades can be thinner and better for the tight maneuvering some scroll saw users need, they are also usually difficult to change. Conversely, pinned blades can be thicker but easier to change.
How the sawteeth are placed along the blade affects the way that it cuts and the blade’s teeth per inch (TPI). Eight of the most common scroll saw blade tooth configurations are:
- Regular-tooth Blades
- Skip-tooth Blades
- Double-tooth blades
- Reverse-tooth blades
- Two-way cut blades
- Crown-tooth blades
- Spiral blades
- Specialty cutting blades
There is even more to dig into about scroll saw blades, but that deserves its own discussion.
How Should I Use a Scroll Saw?
Although you shouldn’t use a scroll saw for cutting apart large amounts of hardwood, there are plenty of other uses for this important tool.
Cuts and Designs to Make with a Scroll Saw
Because of its maneuverability, you can use a scroll saw to make a wide variety of cuts. These are just a few of the techniques that make use of the scroll saw’s unique capabilities.
- Curved cuts
- Dovetail joints
- Box joints
- Angled cuts
- Plunge cuts
- Thick cuts (¾” up to 2” depending on the blade)
These are just a few of the top scroll saw techniques you can start trying out.
Creative Scroll Saw Projects
Once you’ve mastered how to use a scroll saw, there are almost unlimited projects you can start working on.
Scroll saws allow for so much creativity that it can be a little overwhelming. The thin, maneuverable blade can cut fine outlines, so many of the projects involve creating realistic images or complicated outlines.
A few things that people like to make with their scroll saws include:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Designing plaques
- Letter and number carving
- Wooden portraits
- Cutting boards
But don’t let that list limit you. Scroll saws are so versatile that you can make unique projects of your own once you let your creativity loose.
Because scroll saws allow you so much creativity, they’re often used to make personalized gifts or objects completely unique to you. They also allow you to customize the object with fine details.
Scroll saws are a great tool for skilled users looking for more fine and creative projects. Whether you will use yours for a hobby or for your profession, you’ll quickly find that it is a unique and valuable tool.
Whether you work with wood, tile, aluminum, or a variety of materials, scroll saws have the versatility to cut whatever you need with precision.
They have unique characteristics that allow you to do detailed work and make fine cuts without endangering yourself or the wood. They also give you the flexibility to make whatever creative projects you might be interested in.
That said, not every scroll saw is right for every project. Arm type, blade size, tooth configuration, and pinned or pinless blades will all affect what you can do with your scroll saw.
That’s why the best way to learn about scroll saws is to try one out for yourself. Give one a spin, and see for yourself what you can make.
What scroll saw projects are you working on? What’s your favorite thing you’ve made with yours? Do you have any plans to make something special with one in the future?
Leave a comment and let me know!