If you have not used a scroll saw before, you might be confused by the up and down movements. For my case when I was a newbie, I had to take a keen look at the teeth configuration and the movements before and during the process to understand how everything works, especially when using common or regular tooth blades.
A scroll saw blade should cut downwards or on the downstroke. This applies to most blades including the regular tooth blades, skip, and double-skip tooth blades. However, some of the scroll saw teeth blades such as the reverse tooth blades and crown tooth blades cut both on the upstroke and the downstroke.
Understanding whether the scroll saw blades cut up or down is important in avoiding accidents, and also for proper installation of the blades. It means that on the downstroke, the blade makes cuts on the wood, and on the upstroke, it can only drag the wood. Therefore, if you install it wrongly, it will not cut and may even cause injuries to you when you put it in operation.
Which Direction Should the Teeth Face on A Scroll Saw?
If you are wondering which way should your scroll saw blade go, then you should always ensure the teeth are facing downwards. This is because the scroll saw blades cut only on downstroke, on the upstroke, they do not cut. It all depends on the type of blades you are using – this is for the commonly used regular tooth blades.
For the reverse and crown tooth blades, the direction does not matter, since the teeth are configured to face each other and hence can cut both up and downwards. To understand more of this, it is important to know the most common scroll saw blades that include:
Regular Tooth Blades
These are the most common blades, every experienced woodworker has come across them many a time. Regular tooth blade, just from the name, means it has their teeth aligned in one direction, and in an even manner.
There is no space between the teeth except for the jaws. As mentioned, these cut only in downstroke and should be installed so that the teeth face down.
Skip Tooth Blades
There are skip tooth and double skip tooth blades. It is similar to the regular ones but only missing some teeth in a consistent alternating manner. Both of these cut downwards just like the regular teeth and should also be installed to face downwards.
Reverse Tooth Blades
Reverse Tooth blades cut both in upstroke and in the downstroke. They have half of the teeth facing down and half facing upwards with a small space in between. The teeth, however, are not close to each other but look like that of the Skip Tooth blades.
Specialized Scroll Blades
The Specialized Scroll Blades include the spiral blades and the crown blades. The crown blades cut both up and down and so to spiral blades. The difference is that the spiral blades also cut sideways or just in any direction.
How to Install Plain End Scroll Saw Blades
When it comes to installation, scroll blades are either pinned or plain end. With the plain end, there are no pins to hold the blade in place from end to end. Therefore, the installation of the two can be different since with the pinned ones, you just need to place the blade in its position on the scroll saw, then tighten it appropriately. For the plain end scroll saws, here are the installation steps:
Step 1 – Engage Your Safety Gear
The first step is to ensure that you are safe. You don’t want to hurt your fingers in the process of installing a new blade. Wear gloves and disconnect electricity by unplugging it from the power socket.
Step 2 – Place the Blade on A Clamp
You will need a blade clamp for the plain end blades unlike for the pinned blades that only need positioning and tightening. Some of the other tools that you may need are the screwdriver and an Allen key if your clamp does not have one.
With a clamp, place the blade in its slot and screw it up with a wrench to tighten it. You need to use your fingers to tighten first before using a tightening tool. This is to ensure that the blade sits well on its slot.
Of course, this happens after you have removed the clamp and the blade that you want to replace.
Step 3 – Install the Scroll Blade
Place the new blade into the scroll saws’ blank spot where you removed the old blade. Ensure that the teeth are facing downwards and also, they should be of good quality. Push the blade into the slot and place the other end onto the hook.
Step 4 – Adjust the Tension
After you have successfully placed the new blade, it is time to adjust the tension of the blade to ensure it is tight. You can do this by running the saw, then check if it is loose again after running and tightening properly. You can do this using any lever system or tension adjustment knob.
How to Know If Your Scroll Saw Blade Is Broken
It is easy to identify a blade that has broken by simply observing whether there are missing teeth in it. The teeth could also be full but worn out chipped, or broken.
The other thing to help you know that your scroll saw blade is broken is to check whether there is a wear line on the carbide edges. To do this, you may not see with the naked eyes and hence you will need to check with magnifying glasses and in bright light.
If the damage is one that you cannot restore by sharpening the blades, then it would be time to replace the blade. There are a number of factors that can cause a scroll saw blade to break. This includes:
Too Tight or Loose Blades
When the blades are installed such that, they are too tight, the high tension can easily cause the blade to break when in operation.
Pressing Too Hard
When you push the wood too hard while cutting, that may also make the blade break, you, therefore, need to push your wood gently when cutting to avoid this.
Inferior Quality and Thickness of The Blade
Blades of poor quality tend to rust or corrode easily. This can cause the blade to break when in heavy use. In addition to that, using the wrong thickness of the blades when cutting can also cause the blades t break.
Bonus Tips on Working on A Scroll Saw
The first thing when you are operating a scroll saw is that you should never wear gloves. Loose clothing or gloves can easily cause accidents if it gets into contact with the moving parts of the machine when in operation. Some of the other important tips include the following:
- Make sure that the wood is dry before cutting. If your wood is wet or damp, allow it to dry before you attempt to cut it on a scroll saw.
- Install a proper lighting system in your workshop. You need to operate in an area that is well lit to avoid messing up your projects or even getting inured by the saw.
- Don’t push your wood too hard even when you are in a hurry. You may end up breaking the scroll saw blades.
- Always wear your safety glasses or face mask when you are operating a scroll saw. A dust mask is also recommended to help prevent dust from getting into your ears.
- Always put off the power whenever you want to make any adjustment to your machine or replace the blades.
- Always ensure you are using the right blade for the right task. Different blade types are made to suit different purposes.
- Don’t keep your fingers too close to the blade when in operation. Also, your fingers should always be on the side and not directly in front of the blade.
I hope at this point, you have gained some insights on what you never knew about how the scroll saw blades cut the wood. In a nutshell, regular and skip tooth blades cut down while the crown and reverse blades cut both on the upstroke and on the downstroke. The spiral blades on the other hand cut in any direction.