What Is a Scroll Saw Used For? Complete Users Guide

Scroll saws? What are they? What can you do with them? How do they work?

We would answer all this and several other questions you might have about the scroll saw in this piece; Afterall, at WoodisWood, that’s what we do. If you’ve had the pleasure of using a coping saw, then you would have no problem understanding what the scroll saw is used for. So, here is a quick explanation of what the scroll saw is used for:

The scroll saw is a pedal or electric-powered saw with thin blades principally used to cut ultra-intricate shapes across a wide variety of materials. Its use is not limited to cutting fretwork, making inlays, and creating dovetails. This saw is also useful for carving several household projects like toys and home decorations. With this saw, creating marquetry, intarsia, zigzags, circular, and various angled cuts is easy.

Now that you know the scroll saw’s diverse uses let’s dig right in and explore every other major detail you need to be familiar with before calling yourself a scroll saw expert.

What kind of work is a Scroll Saw Used for?

The scroll saw is compatible with various jobs, including cutting wood, metal, plastic, bone, brass, copper, acrylic, leather, and even plexiglass rubber. This saw finds great use in creating intricate furniture designs and can also be used when you need to construct a piece of furniture from scratch. In addition to this, you’ll also be able to use the scroll saw to carve out different designs like Christmas and other home décor.

Popular scroll saw projects

Here are some projects that we are sure your scroll saw can handle with ease


What is intarsia? Well, it’s an ancient craft that has existed for decades for the principal purpose of creating a depth-like illusion.

How is the scroll saw useful here? Well, since wood and other materials need to be fitted together to give a 3D feel, precision is the key. So, what other sawing tool can you trust when precision is at stake?

To create an intarsia effect, you need to have a wide variety of wood available. Also, please pay attention to the blade selection process as it is crucial in making the intarsia come alive.

The reverse skip tooth blade is the most obvious choice when making intarsia on hardwood or softwood around 1inch thick. This blade’s design ensures that the cuts are smooth, even, and split-free.


Inlays are next. They refer to voids or depression created in wood pieces. After these voids are created, you can then insert beautifully colored wood that will fit into the wood pockets.

Creating any inlay with the scroll saw can be done using two different techniques. The first is by tilting the right side of the scroll saw table and cutting clockwise. The second is by tilting the left side of the table and then cutting the wood in the counterclockwise direction.

Dovetail Joints

When you need to slide two perpendicular pieces of wood and secure them by gluing, creating a dovetail joint becomes necessary. This joining technique has existed for ages, and its history can be traced to ancient Egypt and the old churches. When you need to slide two perpendicular pieces of wood and secure them by gluing, creating a dovetail joint becomes necessary. Creating a dovetail joint is quite easy. All you need to do is cut the end of two pieces of wood to create a trapezoid-shaped end. When done properly, these two wood ends should fit perfectly. However, since perfection is the key, you’ll need to employ a scroll saw in its creation.

This joining technique has existed for ages, and its history can be traced to ancient Egypt and the old churches. There are so many types of dovetails joinery that woodcarvers use. French dovetail and English dovetail are the most popular ones among them. These two types of dovetail joints have so many structural differences among them. If you are interested to know more about how these two joints are different and their use case scenario then You can check out our detailed guide.


Marquetry and Inlays are quite similar. Their difference lies in how the second wood is inserted into the base wood. In marquetry, veneer pieces are added to the surface a second wood that serves decorative and artistic purposes.

Today some techniques involve the use of the scroll saw to create marquetry. Some of these techniques include; the double bevel marquetry technique, which is made possible through the tilting ability of the scroll saw to create a beveled edge. There is additionally the stacking method which, like as it sounds, involves the stacking and gluing of veneer.

Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are interesting and educational; the best part is that you can make them for your children to play with. There are different techniques for making jigsaw puzzles, including the interlocking technique, which means all the puzzles are interlinked. There is also the knob technique.

In addition to these projects, you could also use the scroll saw for Fretwork, to make toys and games, to create 3D puzzles, musical instruments, lettering, and a whole lot of other things.

How does a scroll saw work?

To understand the working principle of the scroll saw, you need to first understand that the scroll saw is made up of different parts. These parts include the table tilt adjustment, the blade tension knob, the workpiece drop foot, the workpiece foot lock, and the speed adjustment knob. Also crucial in the scroll saw setup are the arms, the table, and the blade.

This table-mounted saw, usually powered by a 0.6-1.5amps motor has reciprocating saw blades that make threading through the workpiece easy. These blades are normally connected to the top arm of the scroll saw. 

Although there are four different types of scroll saws, we’ll explain the working principles of the two more common types.

Working Principle of the Parallel Arm Scroll Saw

The parallel arm scroll saw is perhaps the most popular of the four different scroll saw types. Here both arms of the scroll saw are parallel to each other. The scroll saw blade is attached to the end of each arm, allowing the blade to move in a nearly straight line to help deliver an almost perfect straight vertical cut.

Like several other scroll saws, the parallel arm models are powered by a variable speed motor lying underneath the scroll saw table. The arms here are attached to a pivot that allows them the freedom to bend. With the lower arm linked to the motor, and the upper arm going over the top of the table, these saws are quite safe to use.

Working Principle of the C-Arm Scroll Saw

Although not as popular as the parallel arm model, the C-arm scroll saw coins its name from the shape of its arms, which is the letter C.

Here, each scroll saw arm is connected to only one pivot point located at the top arm. Due to this setup, the blades of the C-arm scroll saw form a slight arc movement when cutting, making them perfect for when you need to remove more material faster. They are, however, not particularly the best choice when precision is key.


Q: How deep can a scroll saw cut

A: Most scroll saws have an average cut depth of 13/4 to 21/4 inches. However, these values will also be subject to the thickness of the material.

Q: What size wood can scroll saw cut

A: Scroll saws can cut wood that is 3/4inches in size. Additionally, you can use the scroll saw to cut hardwood that is ¼ to ½ inch in size.

Q: What material can a scroll saw cut

A: The scroll saw, a cutting tool used to make intricate and detailed cuts in materials, can be used to cut materials like wood, plastic, brass, copper. This means that with the right metal blade, you can use your scroll saw to make cuts in a wide variety of soft metals too.

Q: What kind of wood can a scroll saw cut

A: You’ll think that these saws won’t be able to make cuts in various wood types, but this isn’t so. Scroll saws can be used to make cuts in both hard and softwood types. This includes softwood like cedar, plywood, and pine. When it comes to hardwood ash, maple, cherry, walnut, and birch are the preferred options

Final thoughts

We’ve come to the end of what you can use the scroll saw for. With all that you’ve learned about scroll saws, their uses, types, and working principles of the various types, we encourage you to give one of the already described projects a try.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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