Scroll Saw

scroll saw
Woodworking tools. Image source: Pixabay

In many ways, my 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 softwoods, plastics, nonferrous 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 a workpiece.

These capabilities 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.

Many woodworkers 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.

A conventional 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 best scroll saw By NowTopReview best 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 downstroke. 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 completely unnecessary.


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 cut.

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 scrolls 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 bending 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. Woodcutting blades will dull very quickly in metal.
  • Use the blade backup only when sawing stock over 3/4″ thick. Otherwise, adjust the backup away from the blade.

Two special 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 that 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.

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