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In many ways,
the scroll saw is the ultimate piece of equipment for fancy
woodworking. It can make straight or very complex curved cuts in
a variety of materials including hard or soft woods, plastics, non-ferrous
metals, ivory and mother-of-pearl. It's also one of the only machines
which can make piercing cuts--like a donut hole-in the center of
make the scroll saw ideal for cutting intricate scrollwork or making
tiny models and miniatures. It's perfect for inlay, marquetry (inlaid
veneer) and intarsia (wood mosaic). And with the proper blade installed,
it even cuts finely enough for ornamentation or jewelry making.
are confused about the difference between a jigsaw and a scroll
saw because the terms are often used almost interchangeably. In
fact, the scroll saw can do just about anything a jigsaw can do,
but it does it better! That's because of differences in the way
the two machines operate.
jigsaw powers the blade down through the cut and uses a spring to
pull it back up. Since the spring is seldom fast enough to keep
pace with the lower power cylinder, the blade tends to bend in the
middle which produces a rough cut and leads to premature blade breakage.
With the scroll
saw, however, the blade is suspended between two parallel arms.
These arms move up and down with the blade, so the blade is under
constant tension during both the up and down stroke. This reduces
blade bending and breakage-and the slight forward and backward motion
of the blade allows the teeth to cut smoothly, so sanding is often
Saw Models, Setup & Features
One model of the scroll saw mounts on the MARK V.
The scroll saw
is available in two models. One can be installed at the power mount
end of the Mark V (Figure
15-1) and the other is a freestanding unit with a separate motor
and stand (Figure
15-2). To set up your scroll saw, follow the instructions in
the Owners Manual that came with your scroll saw.
A freestanding model is also available.
and capacities of the two scroll saw models are:
- With the
proper blade installed, the scroll saw will cut stock up to 2"
- It has a
throat depth of 20" which means you can cut to the center of a
40" wide workpiece.
- The blade
mounting blocks will accept blades ranging from 1/4" wide (very
heavy) to 6/0 (very fine). The stroke of the blade is 1-3/32".
The scroll saw
accepts virtually all standard 5" jigsaw or scroll saw blades with
plain, straight ends. Blade selection will be based on the thickness
and type of material being cut; the amount of fine detail in the
project; the cutting speed; and the desired quality of the finished
Scroll saw blades
are relatively inexpensive, so it's best to have several types and
sizes of blades available for different jobs. Table
15-1 shows a number of common scroll saw blades and their intended
uses. The following guidelines will also be helpful in selecting
the best blade for your projects:
- For best
results, use the thickest blade available that will make the necessary
turns without binding or twisting.
- There should
be at least two and preferably three teeth across the thickness
of the workpiece. Cutting veneer or other very thin material may
require blades with 60 to 80 teeth per inch.
- As the thickness
of the stock increases, use a heavier blade with fewer teeth per
inch. Only the coarsest blades have "set" in the teeth. Thin blades
tend to bow in thick stock and fine-toothed blades may not be
able to easily remove sawdust from the cut.
- Use a blade
with hardened teeth for cutting aluminum, brass, silver and other
non-ferrous metals. Wood cutting blades will dull very quickly
- Use the blade
backup only when sawing stock over 3/4" thick. Otherwise adjust
the backup away from the blade.
types of blades are also available. First is a reverse tooth blade
with the three lower teeth pointing up instead of down. These reversed
teeth help eliminate splintering along the bottom side of the cut
when working with thick stock. The second type is a spiral blade
which will cut in any direction without turning the workpiece. Although
spiral blades may be useful in certain situations, there are tradeoffs.
Spiral blades tend to follow the grain of the wood instead of the
intended cutting line-making it difficult to cut smooth, graceful
curves-and the cut is much rougher, so more sanding is required.
Before using the scroll saw read and understand these important
- Wear proper
- Never reach
beneath the table while the scroll saw is running.
- When removing
the blade, release the blade tension before loosening the chuck
- Never attempt
to cut a radius that's too tight for the blade.
- Never turn
on the scroll saw with stock pressed against the blade.
- Never cut
extremely small stock. Cut small components from larger stock.
- Adjust and
lock the holddown, check blade tension and adjust the blade backup
as required for each operation.
- Install the
blade with the teeth pointing toward the table.
- Before you
turn on the machine, turn the drive shaft by hand to be sure the
blade moves freely.
- Do not force
stock against the blade or try to cut too quickly.
- Keep the
table tilt locked.
- Do not use
worn or damaged blades, or a worn blade backup.
- When mounting
the scroll saw on the Mark V, secure the accessory mount lock,
power plant lock, and the scroll saw mounting tubes.
The grid system is commonly used to enlarge an illustration
to create full size patterns. Click on image to see larger
Full size patterns
for scroll saw projects are available in magazines and books as
well as from commercial suppliers who provide letter templates for
signs or complete project plans. If your plans are not full size,
they can be enlarged by methods such as the grid system (Figure
15-3) or by using a pantograph (Figure
A pantograph makes enlarging or reducing plans quick and easy.
Click on image to see larger view.
effective way to produce full size patterns is by using a copier
machine which can enlarge and reduce. By making an enlargement of
an enlargement, small drawings can be quickly and accurately increased
to many times their original size and the cost is minimal, even
if several copies are required.
With dark woods or for more accurate results, patterns can
be mounted directly to the stock.
The full size
pattern can then be transferred to the stock in several ways. For
light colored wood you can use carbon paper or trace around a heavy
paper cutout of the piece. On darker woods or for very accurate
work it is usually easier to attach the pattern directly to the
stock before cutting (Figure
15-5). This can be done with a thin coating of rubber cement
or with a spray adhesive.
After the stock
has been cut, you can easily remove the pattern by belt sanding.
If the pattern is reversible, you can even leave it attached to
the back side of the project. In either case, the pattern will be
destroyed, so you will want to make copies for duplicates or in
case of cutting mistakes.
(in strokes per minute) is determined by the type and thickness
of material being cut and the blade in use. Refer to Table 15-1
for the recommended speeds for various blades and materials.
For most general
scroll work in hard or soft wood the higher recommended speeds will
be best. Slower speeds should be used when working with very thin
blades or hard, brittle materials or non-ferrous metals. Slower
speeds are also good for thin stock or delicate materials such as
such as walnut, tend to burn at higher cutting speeds, so both speed
and feed rates must be reduced. A little practice and experimentation
will be time well spent.
A scoring cut in a thick piece of scrap is a way to check
that the blade and table are square.
and installing the correct blade, adjusting the blade tension, checking
the speed setting and adjusting the work hold-down, you're ready
to begin cutting. If you have a tall stool handy, you may want to
work sitting down instead of standing. It's a lot more relaxing--especially
for long sessions.
thick stock, it's a good idea to be sure the table is square to
the blade. This can be checked with a square or a thick piece of
scrap wood. Just feed the scrap stock into the blade enough to score
the wood slightly--then swing the piece around behind the blade
If the table and blade are square, the blade will be aligned perfectly
with the kerf. If not, adjust the table to eliminate half
the difference and try again.
An outside corner makes the best starting point. Avoid starting
at a curve -- especially whn cutting parallel to the grain.
Starting Point The best place to begin cutting is almost always
at an outside corner (Figure
15-7). Then when you come around the workpiece you can finish
off with a sharp, clean corner with little or no sanding.
If you must
begin cutting along a curve--such as when sawing a round circle--begin
cutting across the grain, not parallel to it. This reduces the tendency
for the blade to follow the grain and make a bump or dip where the
cut begins and ends. You may even want to begin and end the cut
slightly outside the pattern line and then sand away the excess
to produce a perfectly smooth curve.
For general cutting, press the stock lightly against the table and
feed it smoothly into the blade. When properly adjusted, the hold-down
will minimize vibration and yet be loose enough to allow the stock
to move freely.
The scroll saw
cuts fairly quickly, but don't try to force the stock or you'll
bend the blade and reduce the accuracy of your cut. In most cases,
slower feed rates will result in a smoother finished cut. This is
especially true when cutting very soft or stringy woods and less
critical on harder woods such as maple or oak.
If you're new
to the scroll saw, you may be tempted to cut slightly outside your
pattern line and then sand away the excess. Although this can be
done, the scroll saw cuts so smoothly that sanding is seldom required.
Therefore, practice cutting right on the pattern line and eliminate
the extra work, except for special situations as mentioned above.
cuts--especially with heavier blades--you may find that the blade
tends to "lead" or cut slightly to one side of your intended line.
This is caused by the set of the blade or minor imperfections in
the teeth which cannot be eliminated during manufacturing. It's
easy to compensate for this problem by feeding the stock at a slight
angle--usually two to four degrees.
You may also
notice a tendency for the blade to follow the grain of the wood
when you are ripping or cutting parallel to the grain. This problem
can be eliminated by slowing your feed rate to give the blade plenty
of time to cut.
Although a constant tension scroll saw will permit you to make turns
in an area only slightly larger than the width of the blade, no
machine can cut a sharp, square inside or outside corner in a single
pass. Therefore, some compromise or combination of techniques must
Sharp outside corners can be cut: (A) in two passes or (B)
by looping around in the scrap area.
are usually cut in one of two ways. One method is to cut completely
across the stock and out, then turn the workpiece and begin cutting
in the new direction (Figure
15-8A). The other method is similar, but you simply loop around
in a scrap area and come into the corner from the new direction
inside corners must also be cut in two passes which intersect at
the corner. This can be done by cutting into the corner from one
direction, then backing the blade out through the kerf and approaching
the cut from another angle (Figure
15-9A). An alternative is to cut into the corner from one angle,
back up slightly and cut across the corner, then come back to clean
out the small remaining piece of scrap (Figure
Sharp inside corners may be cut: (A) in two passes or (B)
by cutting across the corner, then coming back to remove the
saw projects do not require perfectly square corners and a tight
radius turn will be all that's required. Unlike a bandsaw or jigsaw,
the scroll saw lets you turn almost on-the-spot by spinning the
workpiece around the blade. Just hold the stock against the table
and spin it smoothly and quickly, being careful not to press sideways
and deflect the blade.
technique is easy to learn. Practice making these on-the-spot turns
with a scrap piece of 1/4" thick stock until you can make a cut,
turn 180° and come back out the original kert (Figure
Always take a minute to plan your cuts--especially in delicate or
intricately detailed scrollwork. Whenever possible, break complex
designs up into several simple curves or shapes and don't hesitate
to back up along the kerf or leave the pattern line and cut into
the waste area to get a better angle for the next section.
With a little practice the scroll saw can make 180° turns
in little more than the width of the blade.
In some cases--such
as cutting inlays or matching parts--there will be no waste stock,
so the en-tire shape must be cut in a single pass. In these cases,
you may want to simplify the design to make cutting easier or you
can practice cutting the shape in scrap stock to locate trouble
spots and develop confidence.
Several layers of material can be stacked, fastened together
temporarily and cut all at one time for duplicate parts.
cutting several layers of material at once-is a great way to save
time when you need duplicate pieces for a project (Figure
15-11). You can also create special effects by stacking different
types of woods and then mix-ing colors and textures during final
assembly (Figure 15-12).
For pad sawing,
transfer your pattern to the top piece and then stack as many layers
as you need-up to 2" thick. You can hold the layers together temporarily
with nails or brads in the scrap area, by taping around the outside
of the stack, or with double-faced tape between each layer.
Mix woods of different colors and textures to create unique
It's also a
good idea to be sure the table and blade are square before starting
the cut. Even a slight angle will result in finished pieces of different
Several layers of material can be stacked, fastened together
temporarily and cut all at one time for duplicate parts.
One of the most
useful features of the scroll saw is its ability to make cutouts
in the center of a workpiece. These piercing cuts are made by unclamping
one end of the blade, threading it through a starting hole and then
reinstalling the blade before making the cut (Figure
hole should be located close to the layout line--preferably close
to an inside corner to reduce wasted effort cutting across the scrap.
The starting hole should also be 3/4" in diameter whenever possible.
This saves time because the mounting block and blade can pass through
On more delicate
work the starting hole can be only slightly larger than the width
of the blade, but the blade must be removed from the upper blade
mounting block, threaded through the hole and then reinstalled.
When removing and remounting the blade use the blade clamp shim
to prevent the mounting block from turning and be careful not to
bend the blade. Be sure the blade is properly seated in the mounting
block and readjust the blade tension before cutting.
When Chamfering irregular shapes, (A) draw a gauging line
around the workpiece and then (B) saw to the line with the
The scroll saw
table tilts either right or left and locks at any angle from "0"
to 45°. This allows you to add decorative bevels or chamfers to
workpieces and also makes it possible to cut inlay or relief pieces
which will fit into the background with no visible saw kerf. These
inlay techniques are described later.
In general scrollwork,
almost any shape can be cut with a beveled edge; however, the complexity
of the shape and angle and direction of the bevel will limit how
smoothly and accurately the cut can be made. For example, outside
curves, such as a circle, can be cut very easily even with a 45°
bevel, but tight inside curves become more and more difficult as
the radius gets smaller and the angle of bevel increases.
It is also important
to keep the workpiece on one side of the blade if the bevel is to
point in the same direction--either in or out--all the way around
the piece. This can limit the complexity of your designs because
tight curves and corners may have to be cut in a single pass instead
of backing up and approaching them from the opposite direction.
Advance planning and your own skills are especially important when
cutting pieces where the bevel will be visible on the finished project.
The best way
to master bevel cutting is to practice with scrap stock before beginning
on a project. Depending on whether you are right or left handed,
you'll probably find it more comfortable to tilt the table one way
or the other and turn the workpiece either clockwise or counterclockwise.
The table tilt and direction of rotation will also determine which
way the bevel faces.
similar to bevels except that only a portion of the edge is cut
at an angle, so a second pass must be made after the piece is cut
A common chamfer
angle of 45° results in the same amount of stock being cut from
the face and the edge of the piece. Other angles will change this
relationship. Depending on the angle of cut, the chamfer line can
be marked on either the face or the edge of the workpiece to serve
as a cutting guide (Figure 15-14).
As with beveling,
accurate chamfering is difficult-especially on tight inside turns,
so after the chamfer is cut, go back over the edges with sandpaper
or a file to remove rough spots or other imperfections.
When sawing inlays, experiment with the table tilt until distances
"A" and "B" are equal. The inlay will
then fit snugly into the background. Click on image for larger
of complimentary or contrasting woods can be used to accent your
most sophisticated projects. They can be made with no visible gap
or saw kerf thanks to the scroll saw's piercing and bevel cutting
capabilities. But professional looking inlays require patience and
practice because a very slight bevel angle is used and both the
background and insert pieces are cut at one time. This means there
Will be no waste area for repositioning the stock, so your planning,
setups and cuts must be made very accurately.
your pattern and stock, the correct table tilt must be determined.
This angle will usually be between one and eight degrees, depending
on the thickness of the stock and the width of the saw kerf. It
is easiest to find this angle by trial and error (Figure
You should also
consider which way the table will tilt and which direction the stock
will be rotated during the cut. Either direction will work as long
as you plan it that way. For example, tilting the table to the right
and rotating the stock clockwise will make the lower piece fit into
the upper one. Tilting to the left or cutting counterclockwise will
make the upper piece fit into the lower one.
Tape scrap pieces of the background and inlay stock together.
Make trial cuts until pieces fit correctly.
When your setup
is ready for a test, tape scrap pieces of the background and inlay
stock together and cut out a trial piece at the edge of the stock
Be sure to rotate the test piece in the same direction you will
be using for your final cuts. Then try fitting the inlay test piece
into the background (Figure
15-17). When the correct angle and direction of rotation is
used, the in lay piece will fit snugly into the background with
only enough room to allow for glue. If the test piece is too small
or too big, adjust the table tilt slightly and try again until the
pieces fit correctly.
Fit the inlay pieces into the background.
You may also
want to increase the blade tension somewhat for cutting inlays because
bulges or bowed cuts can ruin your project. This increased tension
will cause blades to break more frequently, but with a little practice,
you'll find a good compromise.
is ready, fasten the inlay and background pieces together as you
would for pad sawing and drill a hole to insert the blade. This
hole must be drilled at the same angle as the table tilt, so cut
a piece of scrap or use your test piece as a drilling guide (Figure
15-18). Since this hole must be filled when the project is complete,
make it as small as possible for the blade you're using and drill
close to an inside corner or other inconspicuous location.
Use your test piece as a guide for drilling a hole for the
blade at the proper angle.
you're making duplicates or cutting several designs with the same
stock and blade, go ahead and finish them all while the setup is
correct. Any change in blade width or stock thickness will require
a new setup.
or Recessed Inserts
Reliefs and recessed inlays may be cut to install from either
the front or back.
or recessed designs are cut very much like inlays, but two different
pieces of stock are not usually required. The desired shape can
often be cut on a bevel from a single piece of stock and then raised
above or lowered into the background to produce a three dimensional
effect (Figure 15-19).
Contrasting stains or other techniques can then be used to highlight
important areas or create special effects.
Table tilt and
blade angle are less critical than they are for inlays. Any angle
will work as long as it is wide enough to cover the saw kerf. The
greater the table angle, the less relief or recessing you will achieve.
With a little experimentation you can create striking designs with
multiple levels above and below the basic background.
Also think carefully
about the direction of rotation of the workpiece into the blade.
One direction will produce a raised relief-the other a lowered recess.
Either can be attractive as long as it's what you had planned.
Bevel cutting can produce recessed or raised relief projects
like this. One or both edges bay be rounded over to accentuate
certain designs or produce special effects.
and inlays can also be accented by sculpting the edges of the insert,
background or both (Figure
15-20). This is often done by rounding over the edges with sandpaper
or a file to create a visual distinction or to accentuate the shadow
line where the two pieces come together.
ready to assemble your relief or recessed pieces, hot melt glue
fillets on the back side are an effective way of joining the pieces.
These fillets are strong enough to hold most decorative projects
and yet they won't run onto the edges or face of the project like
most woodworking glues, so you save cleanup time and frustration.
Pieces & Thin Stock
to its other capabilities, the scroll saw is the most delicate and
precise cutting tool commonly available to the home craftsman. This
makes it ideal for sawing very thin materials such as plastics and
veneers, cutting extremely small pieces for models and miniatures,
or even creating custom jewelry and decorative ornaments.
Cut small components from larger stock or tape the stock to
a scrap of plywood, posterboard or cardboard for safety and
small pieces presents two immediate problems. First, the workpiece
is often too small to control by hand and still keep your fingers
a safe distance from the blade. Secondly, the normal blade opening
in the table insert may be too large to support the piece properly.
To achieve better
control, small components should be cut from a larger, easier to
manage piece of stock. A suitable piece of scrap is often available
and the waste is insignificant.
If you must
work with a tiny piece, use doublesided carpet tape to mount it
temporarily on a scrap of plywood, posterboard or cardboard (Figure
15-21). In this case, the hold-down will probably be too large
to function properly, so lift it out of the way for better visibility
and press down on the backup stock to prevent it from lift-ing or
fluttering with each up-stroke of the blade.
for cutting very tiny pieces can be achieved by making either a
special table insert or complete table covering from hardboard.
This covering may be attached to the scroll saw table with double
Make an auxiliary table insert out of harboard to provide
extra support for cutting small pieces or thin stock. A hole
drilled in the center of the insert accommodates the blade.
To make a table
covering, layout and drill a small hole for the blade in the center
of the insert (Figure
15-22). Refer to the Scroll Saw Owners Manual if the blade is
not centered in the insert.
Check the blade
tension and speed setting before beginning your cut. A blade with
too little tension will be difficult to control, especially for
fine detail. Many people also find that slower speeds are less distracting
for close work.
Tape veneer to cardboard or posterboard for added support
and a cleaner cut.
other thin materials must be handled carefully to prevent splintering
and tearing. Choose a very fine blade and adjust the tension to
the highest recommended setting. Reduce the tension slightly if
blades begin to break frequently. Also select the lowest speed setting--especially
if the material is brittle or the piece requires intricate detail.
Even if you
are using the special insert or table covering mentioned above,
you'll get better results by supporting veneers during the cut.
This is easily done by taping the veneer to a piece of cardboard
or posterboard (Figure
15-23). Many people sandwich the veneer between two layers of
posterboard to prevent fluttering.
If they are
available and suitable for your project, the new adhesive-backed
veneers seem to splinter somewhat less than ordinary types, but
even these cut smoother when an additional backup is used.
Metal, Plastic and Other Materials
to its woodworking capabilities, the scroll saw can be used to cut
a wide variety of materials including nonferrous metals, rigid plastics
and even such unusual items as bone, ivory, mother-of-pearl, rubber,
cork and paper.
characteristics of these materials vary greatly, so it is impossible
to provide complete instructions in a limited space. The following
suggestions should be used as a guide to help you get started, but
you'll need to experiment to find the best techniques for each material.
widely in hardness and ease of cutting, but all metals require blades
which have hardened teeth. These blades are identified as suitable
for metal cutting and are available from heavy duty sizes down to
extra fine jeweler's blades. Caution: Trying to cut metal with
an ordinary woodworking blade will dull the teeth and ruin the blade
may be cut dry while others require lubrication. When using lubricating
fluids, disconnect the air blower tube to keep from blowing the
fluid away from the cutting line. Ideal cutting speeds also vary
from metal to metal, but when in doubt it's usually best to start
slow before trying faster speeds.
Many of the
softer metals--such as silver, gold, copper and brass--seem to be
almost selflubricating and cut well dry. Aluminum, although a soft
metal, cuts better when a light oil or a tap and die lubricant is
very hard metals such as steel can also be cut with the scroll saw
if necessary, it is difficult to do and not generally recommended.
Warning: If you must try it, use slow speeds and feed rates,
keep the blade lubricated to reduce dulling, and never attempt to
cut steel more than 1/4" thick.
of metal often form a burr on the bottom side. This can be minimized
by backing up the metal with a piece of plywood or similar material.
Any remaining burrs can be removed with emery cloth or a file. Caution:
Cutting metal will leave abrasive dust on the scroll saw and the
Mark V. Always clean up carefully after each work session to protect
When cutting plastics, leave the protective paper in place
or tape both sides of the cutline to reduce heat and scratching.
Plastics vary even more widely than metal in density and ease of
cutting. In general, use the coarsest blade available which has
at least three teeth in contact with the work and does not produce
chipping on the bottom side.
The harder and
denser varieties of plastics often cut like wood, so fairly high
speeds and somewhat finer blades may be used.
plastics such as acrylics are often difficult to cut because they
create more friction and heat. As the heat builds up, the plastic
starts to melt and weld itself back together. These materials should
be cut with the protective paper covering still intact or with a
piece of masking tape applied to the cut line to promote cooling
Select a blade with some set in the teeth to promote chip removal
and slow down or stop completely at the first sign of melting.
For very soft
plastics such as polystyrene or polyethylenes, reduce the speed
and select a very coarse blade with maximum set in the teeth.
Use the dust
blower when cutting plastics to help cool the blade and rub the
cutline with paraffin or a crayon for lubrication.
Very soft materials such as leather, paper or cloth can be cut by
sandwich ing them between layers of posterboard or plywood. Use
a high speed setting and a fairly coarse blade.
materials such as bone, ivory or mother-of-pearl are best cut with
a jeweler's blade.
is often necessary because these brief suggestions cannot possibly
cover every situation.