Position Your Pattern
To concentrate on your scrollsaw technique, put a clear pattern on your wood piece to reduce any distractions. You can copy the outline onto the piece with transfer paper and apply the pattern with rubber cement, spray adhesive, or repositionable spray glue.
Joanne recommends removing the dust from your wood piece, then spraying the pattern — not the wood — with repositionable glue. (She uses Ridlen All-Purpose Glue.) Spray lightly; if your pattern becomes transparent, you’ve applied too much glue.
Once you’ve transferred your pattern, try cutting multiple shapes from 1/8″ stock. Stack 4 to 6 wood pieces that are slightly larger than the shape you plan to cut. Wrap masking tape around the outside edges of the stack, overlapping the tape ends firmly. Then once you’ve cut the wood pieces, simply remove the tape.
Don’t Take It Sitting Down
Unless you’re an experienced woodcutter, always stand directly in front of your saw. Don’t move off to the side of the saw as you work; it’s easier to feed the work straight into the blade. Also, keep a fluorescent light at one side of your saw. The light will prevent shadows on your cutting area. And lways wear a dust mask.
Make Blades Your Business
After extensively testing all blade sizes on 1/8″ wood, Joanne finds she prefers a #3 double-tooth blade. Blade sizes #4 to #6 work best for 1″ stock. A double-tooth blade will produce less chip-out on your wood piece, and will last longer than other blades.
To install your blade, make sure the teeth face you and point downward. A blade installed backwards won’t cut wood, and an upside-down blade will pick your wood up off the table bed and slap it back down again. You’ll notice sawdust on the top surface of your wood piece, not on the bottom, if the blade is upside down. For proper blade tension, insert the blade and turn the tension knob three-quarters of a turn past the point of resistance. A blade that’s too loose won’t cut a straight pattern line, and a blade hat’s too tight will break and possibly damage your saw.
Hold On to Your Hands
If you’re right-handed, you’ll probably be more comfortable cutting your wood pieces with the largest portion of your piece to the right of your blade. Left-handers should work with the largest part of the wood piece on the left side of the blade.
Don’t put your hands at the edge of your wood piece. Position them an inch away from either side of the blade to control the wood movement. Keep your fingers at least four inches away from the front of the scrollsaw blade.
Position Your Hands
Joanne considers hand position the most critical aspect of controlling your workpiece. If your hand position is correct and you’re working on a good-quality saw, you will not tire quickly and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing. All you need is a light touch to hold the wood — a white-knuckle hold only tires you out and makes the wood more difficult to turn. (Note: Thick wood needs to be held down much more firmly than thin wood.)
Imagine that you’re driving a car. You know you’re headed into a sharp turn, and you reposition your hands in preparation. The same thing applies to the scrollsaw. “Think ahead,” says Joanne. “Unless I’m sawing in a straight line,” she notes, “my hands are constantly moving around the wood to better position myself for the turns.”
Watch your hand movements. If you find yourself turning your body to control the movements of the wood, stop and reposition yourself. If you notice when you turn that your entire arm is in front of the blade, stop! Always stand square in front of the machine for best control. Once you’re aware of your hand movements, you can cut anything.
Keep the Blade Moving
It’s imperative to keep the blade moving when attempting to turn your workpiece. “Ninety-nine percent of my students have a tendency to stop the motor (especially when working with a foot switch) when going into a tight turn,” Joanne confirms. “This causes the wood to pick up and smash back down on the table.” Keep your motor going! And listen to your machine. You should not hear any sawing noise when you make a 90-degree turn.
Make the turn by putting your finger fairly close to the blade to allow the wood piece to “pivot” around the blade. An inch away from the blade is close enough.
When you’re trying to cut out a circle, keep the feeding speed constant. If you continually stop and start as you make the turn, the finished edge will be choppy.
Above Tips are from Joanne Lockwood
- Start off by learning how your saw works. Getting familiar with the controls. Most saws now have a variable speed and a tilting table. Find out how to install blades on your unit in the instruction manual. Now that you know how to install a blade lets learn how to tension the blade. This is one of the most important parts of making the saw work properly. When the blade is in the saw, ping it with your finger, (saw not running) it should give a nice high pitch, like a high “C”. It is better to have too much tension than not enough. Blades are very tough and are tempered. You will break more blades with not enough tension than too much tension. With not enough tension, you will push too hard into the blade. This will cause the blade to get hot and lose it’s “temper” it will dull or break faster. Smaller blades can’t take as much tension as larger blades. If you find that you are breaking a lot of blades adjust your tension to help solve the problem.
- Now line up the blade to make it square to the table. There are different ways to do this. I use a 2″ machinist steel square, it is very accurate and leaves no doubt that the blade is square. To achieve this, (with the blade installed) loosen the bolt that allows the table to tilt. Line up the table and the blade with the square. Tighten the bolt back up that allows the table to tilt. Most saws will now allow you to set the zero degree mark on the saw now that it is set perfect. Always check to make sure that the table is square every time you start cutting. This is very important especially if you are stack cutting (will cover stack cutting later).
- Now lets get ready to make some cuts. Take a piece of scrap wood and draw some lines on it. Make several curves, corners, circles, ovals, and straight lines. Put the piece on the table and adjust the hold down clamp (you may want to take it off, it is very easy to hold the work down with your hands and the hold down clamp just gets in the way). Put a blade in the saw. Use a smaller blade for thin work and a larger blade for thick work. Refer to “what blade should I use chart”. Turn the saw on and adjust the speed. Start off with a very slow speed. The more you cut the more speed you will be able to use.
- Start cutting on the line you have drawn. The first thing you will notice is that the blade wants to cut to the right. This is normal and nothing is wrong with the saw. You have to adjust your cutting, so turn the work to the left to make the adjustments. Use a slow feed rate. Let the saw do the work. Don’t apply side pressure on the blade when cutting. Always turn the work to make the cut in the direction you want. If you apply side pressure it will cause the blade to break prematurely and can also cause your cut to have a bevel in it.
- When you get to a corner, stop the feed rate, pull back slightly on your work, and spin the work around to the new line. Your spin has to be very fast so that you don’t burn the wood that you are cutting. This takes a little practice but within a short time you will be making perfect turns. Immediately start applying pressure so that you are cutting on the new line again.
- What wood should I use? This question depends on what you are trying to make. When first starting out practice on pine. It is easy to get and very cheap. Most of your projects will require thin plywood. I use 1/8″ Baltic Birch plywood because there are no voids in the middle. Also there are not as many knots in the wood and it is a very good looking wood. Many of your other projects will require exotic hard woods which will make beautiful works of art.
- Sand all of your wood before you start. This saves a lot of sanding after you finish your project.
- You can stack cut your projects to make more than one project at a time. To do this start out with wood or plywood that has the same dimensions and put them together. Stack up to 3/4″ of pieces at a time. That means you can stack up to 3, 1/4″ pieces or 6, 1/8″ pieces at a time. I’ve even stacked 12 pieces of 1/16″ bass wood and it turned out great. After you stack them use masking tape and wrap it all away around the edges twice.
- Now your ready to make your first project. Most scrollers use a pre-made pattern. You can trace the pattern onto the wood or you can use a spray adhesive like 3M Super 77 on the back of the pattern and apply it directly to the wood itself. If using a spray adhesive spray a light coat on the back of the pattern and wait until it is tacky (about the same as masking tape) before applying it to the wood. If you apply it right away it will be very hard to get it back off.
- After applying the pattern drill holes out for all of the inside cuts you will have to make. Try to drill the holes near a corner and make it close so you don’t have to cut a long way to get to the line. Use a drill press or one of the drill guides like they make for the Dremel. This is important for the real small inside cutouts because it is very hard to drill the holes with a regular drill straight enough. If the hole is not straight when stack cutting you might drill right through the line where you need to cut.
- If you are stack cutting, nail some brads In the waste spaces to make the pieces stay tight together. If there are gaps in between the pieces the blade will cause tear out and make a rough cut that needs a lot of sanding. Use a steel plate on the bottom so that the brad will not go all the way through the wood.
- Now you have to tread the blade through the hole on the project. Attach the blade to the bottom blade holder and tread the blade up through the hole. Then attach it to the top blade holder (unless you have a saw that can feed down from the top to the bottom like the Dewalt Scroll Saw). Start cutting out the middle holes first and work you way to the edges.
- When finished cutting out your work pull off the pattern and sand the rough spots. Finish the project with a finish of your choice.
SCROLL SAWING NOTES AND TIPS:
Types of Wood
Woods are increasing in cost, and depending on the project, this can get expensive. Fortunately in scroll sawing there are a fair number of options. The favorite has been Baltic birch plywood. This wood has almost no voids in the layers, and is reasonably stable against warp age or breaking. Often it is desirable to get the effect of more exotic woods. This can be achieved by gluing veneer to Baltic birch plywood. Small scraps of veneer are available from various suppliers, and local wood working shops.
Other options are MDF (medium density fibre board) which is easy to saw because it has no grain, but has an undesirable finish unless finished in paint or other covering. For items that will be painted, MDF is a very good choice. It is also a good choice for “print-on” patterns. These patterns are printed from the computer printer in color and glued on permanently. Then when the item is sawed out, it is already prefinished. Scraps of wall paper can be glued on MDF to get a multitude of effects. This is a very cost effective way to dress up a project. For those who want to get a more exotic look that is labor intensive (but not too costly in material) one can construct multicolored material. There are a number of ways to do this but the basic concept is to glue multiple sheets of colored construction paper (or similar) together in alternating color patterns. This could be done on top of MDF, or if done thick enough could be made into a solid block of its own. It can then be sanded at an angle to expose multi colors, or in the case of the solid block, could be sawed (resawed) on a band saw at an angle to expose any desired effect. We have also included a download on the web site of a “rainbow” pattern. The rainbow effect can then be glued on before the pattern (or on the reverse side) to achieve a prefinished rainbow effect.
Prefinished hardboard is another option for some items. This type of hardboard is commonly used in bathrooms and kitchens. Some patterns available include floral arrangement and other tile effects. This material is a good choice for items such as table place mats. It is durable, easy to clean, as well as prefinished.
Paper, plastic, and thin metals may also be used as material. Paper is best stacked and sawed between two pieces of scrap wood to sandwich the paper and hold it tight. Other materials and combinations are also possible, limited only by your imagination, and the size of your saw.
Thickness of Wood
It is important to consider the pattern when picking the thickness of wood to use. The two biggest concerns are warpage and breakage. The size of the pattern and complexity will determine the thickness requirements. If the wood is multi-ply (plywood) it generally can be thinner with less concerns about warpage or breaking. If solid wood is desired, then it is best to go thicker to help avoid problems. You will have to use your judgment and experience to help make the best choice.
Printing our Patterns
All patterns from this web site are printed on letter size paper.
These patterns are best if pdf is printed “as image” to better maintain the size and quality. And most importantly this ensures a consistently sized printing from one pattern to the next. This is especially important for multi page patterns.
There are many ways to attach a pattern to wood to scroll saw it. If the pattern is not complex it can be traced with tracing or carbon paper. However for soft woods this can leave marks and the grain sometimes makes it hard to follow the lines exactly. With other methods attaching is a balance between a strong enough attachment to avoid the paper lifting during sawing, and the ability to remove the pattern from the wood. If a person owns good sanding equipment, and is not working with thin veneer, then a practical method can be to attach the pattern with a glue stick. This is quick, not messy (like spray adhesives), allows you to attach only the areas necessary, and can be worked with immediately with no drying times. Of course it sticks very well and you do not get any lifting of the pattern during sawing. However the compromise is that you need to sand off the pattern, and if you have a wood has large pores you may need extra sanding to remove glue that maybe in the pores.
Spray adhesives are commonly used by scrollers. The strength of the bond can be adjusted by the drying time before application of the pattern. The compromise is you need to setup a spraying area, becuase it is a bit messy, and you need to be consistant to ensure the pattern is attached properly.
Next there are combination methods. One can put a tape down on the wood such as painters tape, or packing tape. (Both come in various widths) Then attached the pattern to the tape pernamently using a glue stick. This has the advantage of good attachment so it does not come loose during scrolling, yet becuase of the consistancy of the tape, it can be removed from wood without requiring sanding.
No matter what method you use (there are lots) have fun,and remember there is no right way or perfect way. The way you want to do it, is the way that is right for you.
To help prevent fraying on the bottom side of a item, place a backing underneath the wood. The backing can be another piece of wood, or thin cardboard such as from a cereal box. This is especially useful to prevent a pre-printed paper coating from fraying on the bottom side. Fraying generally only occurs on the bottom side of the sawing action, so when an item is stack sawed, the advantage is there is no fraying in between the stack layers.
Raised, Recessed or Flush Wood
The technique used to raise for recess wood is to place the scroll saw table at a slight angle.
Angle required depends upon:
desired amount of raising or recess
The direction of cut (i.e. CW or CCW) will determine if the wood is raised or recessed (along with table tilt direction). With the table tilted uphill left to right, a CCW sawing direction around the outside of a pattern will result in raised wood.
The secret is to use a test piece of wood to verify the desired effect. If you keep the direction of cut, blade thickness, wood thickness the same, then you can have full control over the desired amount of effect, by table tilt only.
Requires the use of a small hole to minimize the visual effect. Also it is best if the location of the hole is picked at a corner. A small manually turned drill often works best for drilling these type of holes.
A tight fitting flush wood effect can also be achieved by a small table tilt (i.e. small raised effect) and then sanding the reinstalled wood perfectly flush. This is useful if the cutout piece is stained a different color to accentuate the difference.
Stack sawing has the obvious advantage of sawing more items, with basically the same effort. A second benefit is the wood does not fray in the stacked layers. However the compromise is that as the thickness of the stack increases there is some error in the cutting angle from the bottom of the stack to the top. This makes it important that the table be square with the blade, and that no sideways pressure is applied during sawing. Tight blade tension helps reduce blade bending. The more detailed the pattern the harder it becomes to stack saw, as the accuracy with in the stack will become more important.
When nailing to build up the stack, nail around outside edge and cut the outside last. Alternate methods of building the stack are taping around the outside, and double sided tape between the layers.
Compound Sawing is a technique of sawing from 2 or 3 different sides, to produce an item that has a 3D effect to it. The normal approach to this is to take a 2D printed pattern and fold it at the corner of the wood, so that once attached to wood results in two aligned patterns at right angles. Compound scroll sawing is easier with softer woods. It is also of benefit to ensure the wood has square sides, and the table is square with the blade. Also remember that thicker woods need blades with fewer teeth per inch, and it is helpful to slow the speed of the saw down.
Picture Frame Windows
The problem with picture frames, is how do you mount the glass and the picture? An easy way around this is to use thin plastic, such as those available from some cardboard product packages such as toys. The picture and plastic window can be simply be stapled to the rear of the frame that has been scroll sawed. Alternately a 2nd outline can also be sawed (or even stack sawed) so the picture and plastic window may be sandwiched between the layers. When stack sawing the rear portion, it is desirable to separate the stacked layers before sawing out the inner portion. This will allow a perfect outer match, but still give the rear plate an area of complete backing where the picture is.
The second problem is what if you want to place it on the desk instead of hanging on the wall? Wall hanging only requires a hole to be able to hang it and most patterns already have a convenient hole already to do this. For desk viewing of a picture a simple method to support the pattern is a dowel (or two) mounted near the bottom from the back side. The height from the bottom will determine the desired amount of leaning.
Coaster Tips and Options
- Mount pattern on reverse side (especially when using Good One Side wood(G1S).
- When stack sawing put the best side to the inside.
- Trim corners to make smaller if the object is large. This will allow easier rotating of the wood.
- When performing a lot of fretwork, it is often not necessary to remove the blade entirely for each hole. Often it is only necessary to remove the top connection to the blade. Pull the wood off the top, and reinsert into a new hole. As long as the wood is not a large piece, or the hole is close to the outside edge, this is not too hard an operation.
- Felt on bottom side of pattern
- Glue the felt on before sawing
- stack saw felt back to back facing the inside, so no felt is on the outside of the stack.
- Some napkin and paper towel holder patterns have a pin to hold the coasters. This pin length can be adjusted to hold almost any number of coasters. So it is best to decide how many coasters you are going to make for your set before determining the pin length.
Scroll Machine Saw Setup
-The most important operation (for thick sawing) is squaring up the scroll saw table to the blade. This is done with a small metal square. An alternate method is to use a tall block of wood, (like from a 2×4) and saw a test mark. Then turn the block of wood upside down and saw a second test mark over top the first one. If the marks line up exactly the saw is perfectly square to the table (assuming the board was not warped) If the marks to not line up the table angle will need to be adjusted, and the test repeated.
-The selection of the speed of the blade can be used to help you gain more control over the sawing action. This will vary from user to user, so experiment with what works for you. However the thicker the wood the slower the speed you will need to use
-Dust collection should be used. Especially with some exotic woods whose dust is more toxic than others. An excellent dust collection system can be made from an old furnace blower assembly and a low speed motor. The low speed motor helps ensure quiet operation, while with the over kill of furnace blower you can still get enough dust collection capability. It is possible to design this right into a scroll saw table. This is also great for scroll sawing in the house or apartment when you do not want dust to collect anyway.
The brand is a matter of personal preference. The blade size selection is basically a trade off between the ability to cut straight and the ability to make tight corners. Bigger blades can cut straighter while the smaller blades perform tighter corners. The larger the blade number the larger the blade. Smaller blades are required for the tighter corners. When purchasing blades also look out for the thickness of the blade. Thicker blades are generally stronger, but will not make as tight a turn. A general kit for scrolling may have blade numbers 9,7,5,3,and 2
Applying Patterns to Wood
- Some woodworkers may choose to cut designs freehand, but the preferred method is to use a pattern glued to the wood. Use a temporary spray adhesive to attach the pattern and then cover the cutting area with clear packing tape. The packing tape will act as a lubricant for the saw blade and prevent burn marks on the wood. After cutting, you can easily remove the tape and pattern for sanding. If you accidentally use too much spray adhesive and cannot remove the pattern, apply some mineral spirits, and it will come right off.
Cutting Straight Lines
- The first thing every new scroller learns is that a scroll saw does not cut in a perfectly straight line. Generally, the saw blade will veer to the right when making straight cuts. The blade manufacturing process causes this problem due to a burr on the right side. To compensate for this, try standing slightly to the right of the saw and feed the wood straight into the blade from the new position. You should be able to achieve a much straighter cut from this angle.
- Your hand position must allow you to move the wood around the blade freely. Place one hand on each side of the wood. Apply enough pressure to prevent the wood from bouncing but will allow the wood to rotate easily. Try to keep your dominant index finger close to the blade to improve cutting accuracy. Allow the wood to feed into the blade. Forcing the blade into the wood will cause it to break and potentially ruin the project.
Cutting Curves and Tight Corners
- To accurately cut curves, pick an imaginary point about 1/16 inch in front of the blade path. Concentrate on keeping the kerf in line with the imaginary point. Cutting to the imaginary point helps to keep the blade on the proper path. Navigate tight corners by quickly spinning the wood until the front of the blade is in line with the new cutting direction. Since the sides and back of the blade do not cut, use this to your advantage by applying slight pressure to one of these areas to hold the wood in place as you spin it. The spin should be fast enough to avoid burning the wood.
Care & Set Up
Always read your tool’s instruction manual first and follow their guidelines, for proper setup and maintenance. Follow their lubrication guidelines religiously. …….Here are a few extras.
Often we hear stories about how noisy or how much vibration a particular tool generates, only to find out that it is walking around the floor. It is very important that the scrollsaw is held firmly in place, one way or the other. Screw it down to a bench, or mount it on a stand that is heavy enough to hold it in place. It is both dangerous and hard on your tools to let it float.
Wax your table with a good, furniture grade paste wax. If there are burs or sharp metal edges, sand with a very fine emery cloth first. This will make all your work slide more easily, as you rotate your wood through tight corners. This will also help to prevent rusting of your table surface. Don’t use your table as a bookshelf!!
If you have a separate insert where the blade travels, it often gets caved in with continuous usage. If this is the case, it can cause your pieces of wood to not sit flat on the table and make for difficult cutting. Either cut yourself a new insert if possible or take an new board, cut into the centre with the blade, and clamp this board onto the original steel table. It can be replaced as needed.
Often this can be caused by wear in the arm pivots, rather than incorrect blade tension. Take the blade out, and see how easily the arm moves left to right. If there is a lot of blade movement, check your manual or ask your supplier whether there is a way to adjust this, or a part that can be replaced. The sooner this is fixed, the longer your machine will last.