Scroll Saw: Basics
Three years ago, I had no idea what a scroll saw was. Truthfully, I thought it was the same thing as a band saw. I'd never heard of one, let alone seen one in person. But I had seen some really cool 3D lettered signs and I knew I wanted to try. After doing some research, I realized that the scroll saw was a specialized saw used to create intricate and detailed designs by cutting a variety of materials, including wood. Similar to the band saw, the biggest difference is the blades being use. Most scroll saws now have plain end, or pinless blades.
I wasn't ready to invest in a larger saw, so I started off with a small Dremel Motosaw, which has pinned blades, and more similar to a band saw (though an extremely small one). This requires the pilot holes in your piece (the holes you drill into the interior sections to cut out) to be quite large, meaning you can't do very detailed work.
My parents supported my desire to develop my skills on this specialized saw, and they bought me the Dewalt DW788 scroll saw for Christmas. Having never used one, the learning curve was pretty steep, and at the time, there weren't very many resources to learn how to use it. By following scrollers on Instagram and scouring YouTube for tips, I taught myself. What I've learned is that for the most part, using a scroll saw allows you to do things a million different ways and a lot of things are personal preference. From the speed, tension, type of blades and type of materials you use, it varies by the user.
But if you are just starting out, the same as I did going a little blindly into this niche woodworking world of scrolling, I hope this video helps you out! And if you are like me, and you can't watch videos because you constantly have kids crawling all over you trying to see, you can read below for the written details!
The main parts of the scroll saw are:
- Blade clamps
- Tension Lever
- Speed Adjustment
1. For the Dewalt saw specifically, it uses tool-less blade clamps, meaning you can change our your blade without needing a specialized tool to do so, making it quick and fairly easy to do.
There are 2 clamp, on on the top and on the bottom. To insert your plain end (or pinless) blade, you loosen the top blade clamp and slide one end in. Tighten it to secure the blade, and then you can you do the same on the bottom.
If you are doing an interior cut you can clamp the blade, then thread your blade through your pilot hole by lifting the saw arm and then clamping the bottom.
Top Blade Clamp:
Bottom Blade Clamp:
2. The blower is a great feature on the Dewalt saw. As you can imagine, as your blade cuts through the wood it creates a lot of dust. This adjustable blower clears the dust as you cut, allowing you to keep your eye on you design. Without the blower, you will end up with an extremely dust covered piece which would make it extremely hard to cut.
3. The tension lever allows you to adjust how tight the blade is pulled. When you use the blade clamps to secure your blade, it will feel flexible. As you adjust the tension, it will pull the blade taut, which will allow for a much straighter cut. Tension is something that is a personal preference, but I've found if I adjust higher than 3, my blades tend to snap very easily. Typically if I'm cutting 1/2 material, tension of about 1.5 is great for me. This is one of the top things to play around with if you get a saw. If your blades are breaking a lot, or your cuts are really crooked, adjust tension is the first thing I'd recommend.
4. Finally, speed! This is something that was the hardest for me to get used to. The Dewalt saw has a speed dial from 1 - 8. If you are cutting at a speed that is too slow, this can cause you to push your material into the blade. This will typically break you blade since your are working harder than the blade is cutting. However, if you are cutting too fast, in can be easy to lose control of your piece and cut where you don't want. Depending on the material you are using, speed is very much a personal preference. I tend to never go below 4, but usually I have my saw going at top speed!
So that's it for your first introduction to the scroll saw. If it helped, I'd love to hear form you in the comments about what you'd like to learn about next!