Cutting Large Words on a Scroll Saw
Cutting large words on a scroll is simpler than you think. With the right material, blades and a few tricks, you can cut just about anything you set your mind to, regardless of the size of your saw!
Scroll saws are classified in size by the length of the throat, which is the distance from the blade to the back of the saw. The Dewalt DW788 saw that I use has a 20” throat.
Before we get into HOW to cut out large items, I want to review the different kinds of materials and blades you can use for various projects.
To know what kind of blade to use, it’s important to know what material you plan to use. For large cutouts, I typically stick to birch plywood or MDF. Because these materials come in sheets, you aren't limited to the size as you would be with something like dimensional lumber.
If I’m cutting out something large that will be attached to a backer, like a large word that will be glued to a round, I will use 1/2” MDF. MDF is a great material to work with because it’s easy to cut, and paints beautifully. However, MDF that is 1/2” or thinker can easily break if it is handled too much, so I wouldn’t recommend using anything thinner than 3/4” if you are doing a standalone cut out.
My preference when cutting a standalone word is 1/2” or 3/4” birch plywood. Birch plywood is very dense and hard, and has very minimal gaps in the layers. Many cheaper plywoods will have large gaps in the layers and because you can see on the edges on your cut outs, you want to ensure you use a quality product that will finish nicely.
Birch is also much less fragile, so won’t break as easily as something like MDF. It really is personal preference on what you use, but in my experience, birch plywood works best!
Now that you know a bit more about the materials, lets get into blades.
When working with plywood, choosing a blade that reduces tear out is essential because if you use a blade that is too aggressive, it will split your material and cause a lot of the layers to flake off. When cutting plywood, I would advise avoiding skip tooth or regular tooth blades.
My personal preference when cutting plywood is either a #5 double reverse tooth blade or a #5 MGT blade. Both of these blades have reverse teeth, which means they are cutting from the top and the bottom, allowing the blade to cut fast and clean.
Many people who are experienced scrollers may ask “why not use a spiral tooth blade?”. Sprial tooth blades allow you to cut in all directions, because the teeth spiral around the blade. And while this can help you cut out large items I personally find spiral tooth blades much too aggressive when cutting finer materials like plywood and MDF. The kerf, or trace, of spiral blades is much larger than a normal scroll saw blade, and because they are so aggressive, the cut is quite rough which requires more clean up after the fact.
Now that we’ve reviewed materials and blades, it's time to start cutting!
To print your large designs at home, follow these steps:
Check out this video to learn how to cut it out:
Let me know what you think in the comments!!
I’m doing my research to buy my first scroll saw, and I find myself leaning towards the Dewalt DW788BS. It has a great price point for new scrollers, and I believe I won’t outgrow it quickly. My questions to you are:
1) do you prefer to use a foot pedal or not with the dewalt? if so, what one do you use/like?
2) do you have the type 1 or type 2 dewalt dw788… i’ve heard many negative comments about the type 2, but i’m wondering if it’s like anything.. the more product sold, the more comments there will be out there.. whether good or bad.
3) would you buy this scroll saw again if you were replacing it, or would you be reaching for a Pegas perhaps.
Thanks for your time, and answers to my questions!
Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
You are a great inspiration for me. i am setting up my small home-business setup for me and my wife to start with. Looking forward to receiving the dw788 soon. Thank you again and all thanks to you for your motivation and design ideas.
from Ontario, Canada
This morning I saw an advertisement by you on Facebook and I want to inquire about a price for a word piece
24" wide lettering 4" high the word is
Stained In Black
Thank you, look forward to hearing g from you.
I would love to get a price of a peice !
I would love to get a price of a peice !