Scroll Saw Basics

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Scroll Saw Basics

issues-ssw32-basic-leadBasic scrolling techniques to help novice scrollers

Attaching Patterns

Temporary-bond spray adhesive is the most common method used to attach patterns to stock. Photocopy the pattern. Spray the adhesive on the back of the pattern, wait a few seconds, and press the pattern down onto the blank. Rubber cement or glue sticks work similarly.

You can also use graphite or carbon transfer paper. Place the pattern on your blank and slip a sheet of transfer paper in between the pattern and the blank.  scroll-saw-basics1Use a few pieces of painter’s tape to hold the pattern and transfer paper in place. Trace around the pattern with a red pen (so you know where you have traced). Choose a light-colored transfer paper for darker woods. Carbon paper costs less than graphite paper, but must be sanded off before finishing.

Removing Patterns

Dampen the paper pattern with mineral spirits to aid in removal. Commercial adhesive removers work as well. A quick wipe of mineral spirits will remove most adhesives left behind on the wood.

Blade-entry Holes

Some patterns have blade-entry holes marked. If the pattern doesn’t, place the holes near a line to be cut to prolong your blade life, but don’t place the hole on a curving line or inside corner (if possible). Drill the hole perpendicular to the blank. Use a drill press if you have one; otherwise the holes may interfere with delicate fretwork. Drill through your blank into scrap wood to prevent tear out on the back side of the blank. scroll-saw-basics2

If you have the space, use a larger bit–it will make it easier to thread your blades through. For thin veining cuts, use the smallest bit your blade will fit through.

Blade Tension

Before inserting a blade, the tension should be completely removed. Clamp both ends of the blade into the blade holders and adjust the tension. Push on the blade with your finger. It should flex no more than 1/8″ forward, backward, or side to side.

A blade that does not have enough tension will wander. It will also flex from side to side, making for irregular or angled cuts. If you press too hard on a loose blade, it will usually snap.

A blade that has too much tension is more susceptible to breaking and tends to pull out of the blade holders. In general, it is better to make the blade too tight rather than too loose.

scroll-saw-basics3Squaring Your Table

Most scroll saws have an adjustable table that allow you to make cuts at different angles. There are times when you want your saw set at an angle, but most cutting is done with the blade perpendicular to the table. If the table is even slightly off-square, your cuts will be angled. This interferes with puzzle pieces, intarsia, segmentation, and many other scrolling projects.

The most common method for squaring your table is the small square method. Set the square flat on the saw table against a blade that has been inserted and tensioned. Adjust the table to form a 90°-angle to the blade. scroll-saw-basics4

The cutting-through method is also popular. Saw through a piece of scrap wood at least ¾”-thick and check the angle of the cut using a square. Adjust the table until you get a perfectly square cut.

You can also use the kerf-test method. Take a 1¾”-thick piece of scrap and cut about 1/16″ into it. Stop the saw, and spin the wood around to the back of the blade. If the blade slips easily into the kerf, the table is square. If it doesn’t slide into the kerf, adjust the table and perform the test again until the blade slips in easily.

Stack Cutting

Stack cutting lets you cut several pieces of a project–or even several projects–at one time. Essentially, you attach several blanks together, and cut them as one unit. scroll-saw-basics5

One way to attach blanks is with tape. Line all the layers up and wrap a layer of tape around the outside edge. You can also wrap the whole stack in tape for extra stability. Scrollers can use either masking tape, painter’s tape, or clear packaging tape.

scroll-saw-basics6Another method uses hot-melt glue. Glue the blanks together with a dot of hot-melt glue on each side.

You can also join pieces for stack cutting by driving brads or small nails into as many waste areas as you can. Be sure to cut off any overhanging nails as close to the surface as you can; then sand them flush to avoid scratching or catching on the table.

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