Basically a scroll saw is really good for cutting out detailed or intricate curves. If you were doing this manually, it would usually be done with a coping saw. Many of us will remember this especially those of us who have done woodworking classes.
A scroll saw is a neat addition to your workshop, and this is especially true if you are a keen hobbyist. These saws are extremely quiet, they don’t create a lot of dust, and what I like best is that the surfaces seldom need any type of finishing or working with sanders or sand paper.
- 1 What is a Scroll Saw Used For?
- 1.1 Why Do You Need A Scroll Saw?
- 1.2 What Features Should You Get On Your Scroll Saw?
- 1.3 Scroll Saw Accessories
What is a Scroll Saw Used For?
They are great for all types of hobbies such as making puzzles, Christmas tree ornaments, and anything that requires an intricate design, angle or curve. It is of course not designed for ripping wood, nor is it designed for your standard cross cutting. This saw has been designed to do what is known in woodworking circles as internal cuts in a variety of materials such as veneers and other types of lumber.
Why Do You Need A Scroll Saw?
Here is a great video that explains why you should consider getting a scroll saw for your workshop or garage. I found it very informative and enjoyable to watch.
Should I Use A Scroll Saw or a Band Saw?
This is a very good question. I have written a detailed article about band saws which you can check out by clicking here. However, the brief version is that a scroll saw is much better suited for people who need intricate work, such as people who do wood based hobbies.
These saws have some distinct advantages over band saws and these are:
- Very small blades that allow you into tighter spots
- A super way to get kids started on working with wood
- Have a nice range of variable speeds for the ultimate control
- Easy to turn in the wood cutting process
The best way to think of this is that a scroll saw is basically a motorized coping saw. So if you have used a coping saw before, then you will be familiar with its cutting concept, and a scroll saw is just one of those on steroids.
You can cut most types of materials with one of these if you have the correct blade. These materials can include; metals such as brass and copper, plastic and various types of wood. You will always have to make an entry hole using a drill, and then insert the blade of the saw to be able to cut out your pattern. Quite often skilled saw owners will make a number of entry holes around the desired cut-out shape.
What Features Should You Get On Your Scroll Saw?
There are plenty of features to pick from but in the main you should make your decision based on what type of projects you plan to do with one of these. What material will you be using? For most people this will be wood, but some may want to use this for tougher materials.
In the main, will your saw be used for making a lot of interior cuts? Will it be used on a regular basis?
Once you have in your head, a general understanding of how much and how often you will be using this, then you can make much better decisions about the type of scroll saw that you want to own. It isn’t just about the power of the saw, and features like simple operation and convenience, may well outweigh the need for outright power.
All that said, now let’s have a look at what I consider to be the most important features.
Capacity of Your Scroll Saw
You will hear a term associated with scroll saws known as a “throat depth.” It is really important to understand this. It is the distance between the blade and the rear frame and it is this distance that will determine which sizes of material you will be able to work with.
Most home users will use either a 16″ or an 18″ throat depth which are classed as entry level saws.. Professionals will use larger throat sizes such as a 20″, 21″ or a 30″. Check out the video below if you need more clarification on the importance of picking the right throat depth.
The size of material that you can cut is then double the size of the throat depth. So with a 16″ throat depth, you can work with a piece of wood that is 32″ in size. This is a useful rule of thumb to remember.
There are a number of key features that I would like on my list, but if I had to prioritise these, this would be my number one requirement. Depending on the type of wood you are cutting, and the detail and intricacy of the cut, having a variable speed is an essential feature.
This is especially true when it comes to cutting metals. You will want a slow speed for metals to avoid burning and blade damage. The control unit for that should be easy to access and simple to adjust. Normally this is done by a knob which you turn.
The speed range varies across saws and can be anything in the range of 200 strokes per minute all the way up to 2,000 per minute. An ideal range for most people is something around 350-1500 strokes.
There are 2 types of blades that can be used on a scroll saw:
You need to understand which type of blades your saw will be able to take. Pinned blades are almost always thicker blades and are primarily used for thicker cuts. For finer work and intricate work you will need to buy a scroll saw that can accommodate pinless blades.
Changing The Blade
At some stage along the way, you will have to change your blade. That could be for a variety of reasons, but the fact is, you will do this a lot. Again, there are two choices available:
You can find out about those differences in the video above when it comes to the way that your blade is mounted. We would highly recommend that you only ever consider the tool-less option or it will drive you nuts.
Blades are normally tensioned either using knobs, levers or cams. Tensioning is almost always done at the head, but in cheaper saws this adjustments is at the back of the saw. That can be pretty inconvenient, so look for a tensioner at the front of the saw.
Some saws also come with a place to store your blades. This is a nice option but not of vital importance.
The Bench or Table of the Saw
This should be big enough to offer support to the material you are cutting. Some of the cheaper saws tend to have small tables, that can actually feel a little rough when you rub your hand over it. The perfect table should be very smooth and allow freedom of movement.
Remember size, material and smoothness when it comes to the table top.
You can also get tables that tilt. Some tilt to the left, some to the right, and some tilt both ways. This would be for more intricate types of work. You want to check their accuracy, if they have a tilt guide with various stops. In some scroll saws the table will not tilt, but the arm adjusts instead.
The Hold Down Foot
This is a piece of metal that holds down the material when you are cutting it. It is a safety feature and in my opinion used at all times. Many experienced users take these off so as they can get closer to the blade. Please do not do that as it is very dangerous.
like many saw products removing dust is important but many of the dust extraction systems that these saws come with are not that good. It is to be honest not much different when it comes to your scroll saw. These types of saws tend to use some sort of blower to keep the area you are cutting free from dust.
The bottom line is that if you are cutting wood using a scroll saw, then the best you can hope for is to have a dust free area, around the spot where you are working. Afterwards you will then need to tidy up yourself using a vacuum or whatever dust removal system you have.
Scroll Saw Accessories
Normally when you buy your scroll saw you simply get the saw itself. There are very few manufacturers who bundle in any types of accessories. These are items such as a lighted magnifier that will allow you to do detailed or intricate work.
Lighting is generally very important when doing any type of work. Some saws do come with built-in lighting. This is useful but to be honest I prefer a work light that has some sort of magnification.
You can also get foot pedals which allow you to use your foot to start and stop the saw and adjust the speed at which it will run. Some manufacturers put power switches in very strange places. Ideally it should be on the head of the saw and easily accessible. I love the foot pedal feature as it means I can concentrate on the cutting, and not have to worry about twiddling knobs to adjust the speed.
Some saws will come with this and some will not. I think that you need one and as such just make sure it is adjustable so as you can work safely and with comfort. Please get one that is of good quality as you will be leaning on it and applying a lot of pressure.
One with drawers will be hand for holding blades and tools. You can also make one for yourself as these are not too difficult to do.