Are you having trouble making precise cuts with your scroll saw? Do you find your blade veering off the cutting line often?
You see, each scroll saw blade has a bias. And to be a good craftsman, you need practice. To help you in your journey to becoming a better scroller, we’ve put together this tutorial on how you can make straight, curved, and hole cuts with a scroll saw. Also included in this tutorial article are tips on how to make scroll saw cuts that shine. Let’s get right in it, shall we?
To make straight cuts, draw a straight line on the workpiece. Follow the drawn line carefully and guide the board with your hands as though you are steering a car. For curved cuts, cut along the inside edge of the curve first. After which, you cut the outer edge. You can either backtrack or make a turning loop when you get to a pointed edge. For hole cuts, drill an entry hole at the center of the marked-out area. Thread your blade through that hole. From this point, make your way to the edge and follow the cutting line carefully. The trick is to feed the wood in gently and let the saw do its work.
Scroll sawing is an exciting hobby that allows you to practice several cut styles and make all kinds of gifts and toys from different types of wood, plastic, Plexi-glass, and even metals. Read on to learn how to perform various types of scroll cuts.
How to Cut Straight Cuts with a Scroll Saw
Making straight cuts with a scroll saw can be daunting, especially since not all scroll saw blades are designed for it. They are biased; they tend to veer off the cutting line.
The flying Dutchman blades are an excellent choice when making straight cuts with a scroll saw. Ideally, it would be best to consider thinner materials at the start. To get a perfectly straight cut, you should wisely choose your wood type and blade size. Blade tension is another essential criterion. The tension required increases as the blade size does. Use new blades with just enough tension.
It would help if you had high tension but not too high. Too much tension breaks blades. Not enough tension will distort the blade, causing it to drift, bend or follow the wood’s grain and you’d have a hard time controlling your cut.
Also, opt for smaller-sized blades, and handling would be much better. Your work would be more precise, and there wouldn’t be too much pressure on the saw.
Once you are done putting all the necessary factors into consideration, proceed to mark out and cut your workpiece to a size that fits your saw’s table.
Before cutting, check and be sure that your table is square, especially if you’re working with hardwood. Also, check that your blade is tuned and the right fit for the workpiece.
Once you are done checking out the saw, draw a straight line with a pencil. Follow this line carefully as you cut, making minor adjustments if there be any. As you cut, guide your wood carefully as though you’re steering an automobile. Move the piece a little to the right and the left slowly and often; these tiny right and left inputs make for a good cut.
N.B: Don’t feed the wood too fast, or the blade will deflect. Scroll sawing is a slow-speed process, especially when making straight cuts. Please don’t force it. Let the saw do its work. So the best speed for scrolling is slow and steady, splitting the line as you go.
If you are cutting within, like a square hole inside a board, mark your lines with a fine drafting pencil. Next, drill a hole in the midpoint of the line, not at a corner. Thread your blade into that entry hole. Check the instructions in the saw manual on how to do this.
Work your way along the cutting line from that hole using the same process. Keep the pace as you cut till you get to where you started.
Key Video Takeaway
- You have to line your blade up as you cut, very significantly within the first few seconds.
- Concentrate on splitting the line. With constant practice, you’d get better at creating perfect straight cuts.
- Cut with the picture of your desired result in mind.
Cutting Curved Cuts with a Scroll Saw
Making curved cuts with a scroll saw is much easier than straight cuts because of the thin size and nature of the saw’s blade. Scroll saw blades allow for tiny-detailed cuts and more designs nearly effortlessly. Follow these steps to create curved cuts with a scroll saw;
Attach your design to your workpiece using contact paper if you use a pattern draft or mark your designs on your board with a pencil. Before you begin doing anything on the scroll saw, check the settings of your machine and the blade tension too.
Next, you’ll want to drill a hole in the midpoint of your piece; that is your entry hole. Thread the blade through that hole and work your way gently out to the corner. Scroll along the inside edge of the curve, guiding carefully with your hands.
If you get to any pointed edge, continue slightly into the waste area and make a tiny turning loop instead of turning immediately. Or you can backtrack at that point and trim out the edges later to the pattern line.
Continue cutting along the rest of the curve until you get to where you started.
For Pierce cuts, you’ll need to make on-the-spot turnings. Stop when you get to the turn and quickly rotate the workpiece. Pivot the workpiece on the blade applying just a little pressure on the wood with the non-turning hand.
A little tricky at first, but with practice, you will master the skill.
You can cut either in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. It is good to practice scrolling in both directions and pick the one you’re most comfortable with.
It is possible that, while cutting, you may veer off a bit from the line. In such cases, adjust your piece carefully and gradually. Avoid making sharp turns to get back in line.
Ideally, it would be best to work with the smallest possible blade to easily handle more precise and neat cuts. But if veering off occurs too often, switch up the blade size.
Here’s a tip for you. When cutting, do the inside edge of the curve first and then cut the outer part. This way, there will be little or no pressure on the inner edge since you cut that first. If you cut the outer edge first, you’d have a free-standing outer edge and much pressure on the inner edge.
Another tip on curved cuts. Breaking the back edges of the blade using a stone helps make curved cuts easier with less stress on the blade.
The one-turning hand method makes your cuts crisp and more precise than using both hands to turn the piece. The trick is to pivot using your fingers and cut outside the line. Then use your sander to bring it just to the line.
Go easy on yourself. Allow yourself some error margin since you’re just beginning. Plus, curves are very forgiving; minor mistakes are hardly noticeable. And practice, practice. The more you make curved cuts, the better you get.
Key Video Takeaway:
- Guide your wood project with one hand and leave the other hand free to hold the wood in place.
- There is nothing like too much practice.
6 Easy Steps to Cut a Hole with a Scroll Saw
Inside cuttings or holes in scrolling projects like the inside of letters are called islands. To cut out islands, follow these steps:
Step 1: Draw your pattern line on your workpiece with a pencil.
Step 2: Using a drill, make an entry hole in the center of the island area.
Step 3: Thread your blade into the entry hole. Check your scroll saw manual on how to do this.
Step 4: Check your machine’s settings, and ensure that the tension is set correctly.
Step 5: Start cutting from that entry hole and carefully make your way out to the pattern line.
Step 6: Cut inside the line carefully, following the pattern line.
Practice making these cuts on as many scrap woods as you can get and with different patterns. Your cutting confidence will increase as your cuts become more precise and crisp.
Key Video Takeaway
- Some projects may require you to make a lot of small holes. Making that many hollows and turns can get tiring. If you start making mistakes way too often, rest for a while. You can go for a bit of a stroll, take a break, or just rest.
How to Cut a Perfect Circle with a Scroll Saw
Perfect straight lines aren’t the domain of scroll saws; neither are perfect circles. There isn’t a thing as perfect cuts with scroll saws.
But you definitely don’t want your work to say poor craftsmanship. So, all you need is to get 99.9% good; a tiny 0.1% defect is very much allowed.
To cut a perfect circle with a scroll saw, all you need is to adhere your design to your workpiece with contact paper or layout the pattern line with a pencil directly on the piece. Check the settings of your machine. Ensure you have the right blade and the correct tension.
Starting directly on the circle line tends to get sloppy at the finish point. A perpendicular start to the circle is more effective. After scrolling, you can then sand off the extra.
So, begin from a perpendicular point and carefully work your way using one finger as the pivot point. Your free hand will serve to hold your project in place as you cut.
Be consistent with cutting once you begin a circle. Once started, keep going. If you notice that you’re veering off, slow down your cut and gradually bring yourself back to the line. It doesn’t help to start and then stop midway. Avoid making sharp turns to prevent defects.
As with other types of cut, you cannot have enough practice. Try your hand at circle cuts with scrap wood as often as you can. Another tip is to go slow. Slow speed allows you more maneuvering and better circles.
Key Video Takeaway
- Starting from a point perpendicular to the circle line than directly on the circle line makes circles cleaner and more precise.
- Try to become a natural at pivoting with a finger; you’d need to do a lot of practice for this.
- Your pivot finger doesn’t have to be fixed to the center. Just make sure you have it at a point where you can freely rotate the circle piece.
How to Fix a Scroll Saw Not Cutting Straight
One of the issues with using a scroll saw is it sometimes won’t cut straight. Every scroll saw blade has a bias. They tend to veer off to the left. Each blade is unique in the angle they cut due to different sizes and patterns.
One tip here is to compensate for this. Use new blades and feed the wood line towards that angle. This is much better than trying to fix it.
Make sure the blade you are using is suitable for the type of wood you’re working with. The blade tension is also essential. If it isn’t enough, the blade will wander off.
Also, if the wood grain is too pronounced, it would dictate the blade’s direction. So you need to check all these and be sure everything is correct.
Another tip is to slow down. Scrolling is a slow process, and it doesn’t need so much pressure. Too much pressure breaks blades. Just apply the right amount and let the saw do its work.
Just keep trying straight cuts; you’d find yourself getting better at feeding the wood.
Where Should You Put Your Hands When Using a Scroll Saw?
The scroll saw is as not as dangerous as other types of saw. But the fact that the blade is small doesn’t mean it would not cut your fingers if they get in the way.
When using a scroll saw, you need both hands: one hand to hold the wood and the other to guide it. However, your hands must not be in direct line with the blade. They are to remain on the side of the blade.
Do not attempt to clear the table with your hands. For that, you need a chip blower or a table broom.
Important Scroll Saw Safety Tips
The scroll saw is relatively safe to use. But there are safety rules, too: you wouldn’t want to lose a finger while scrolling.
- Always wear safety glasses before you do anything. Even before turning on the scroll saw.
- A lot of dust is produced during cutting. So, in addition to your safety glasses, you also need to wear a dust mask. A dust mask will prevent you from breathing in any dust.
- You also need a dust removal system, like a vacuum or something similar.
- Avoid carrying the scroll saw when it is switched on and running.
- Carry your scroll saw by its legs or base. Do not pick it up by it*s arms.
- Ensure your machine comes with good lighting so you can see and cut better. Or you can fix one. You can even mount an LED magnifying light for better results.
- Ensure your scroll saw blades are sharp and straight. Make sure they are also firmly secured on the machine.
- Ensure your fingers are not directly in line with the blade. If you need to make a cut that comes very close to the edge, use a pencil eraser instead.
- Always switch off the saw when you change blades, do maintenance, or make other adjustments. You wouldn’t want to step on the footswitch while doing that accidentally.
Here’s a video showing these safety tips you should adhere to when using a scroll saw. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0vL8KBtY3k
Key Video Takeaway
- Trim off excess wood, leaving a size that fits right into the saw’s table so you can guide the wood properly.
- Safety first. Don’t let your guard down. A scroll saw blade, though small, would not spare your fingers if they get in the way.
In scrolling, you need to have solid eye and hand coordination and muscle memory. Working with a scroll saw can be hazardous if you don’t adhere to essential safety measures. So, do well to remember these five things whenever you have a scroll saw project.
- Ensure you have the right blade and tension.
- Draft your cutting line with a pencil on the piece of wood.
- Use one hand to guide and the other to hold the workpiece in place.
- Ensure that you wear a safety goggle and a dusk mask always.
- And practice as much as you can.