Reply by William

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Posted on Equipment SAFETY tips: The Scroll Saw

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9949 posts in 2868 days

#1 posted 07-14-2011 03:28 PM

The scroll saw is a great tool for anyone. It is one of the safest tools you’ll ever use. I recently done a project on the scrollsaw where my finger came into contact with the business side of the blade on several occasions. The next day, the tip of my finger was a little sore, but it never actually broke the skin. I joke sometimes that in order to cut your finger off with the scroll saw, you’d probably have to stop half way through and change blades because without the proper blade, the bone would dull the blade and break it.
That being said, this doesn not in any way mean that one can just be careless using any tool, including the scroll saw.
Eye protection:
As with any tool in the wood shop, you must protect your eyes. I am guilty. I seldom wear eye protection at the scroll saw. I pay for it. The dust from a scroll saw is very fine. If it gets into your eyes, it does hurt, like any saw dust, and it is difficult to get out without completely flushing your eyes under running water.
Part of scrolling will eventually lead to broken blades. Most times this simply involves shutting the saw off and changing blades. There are times though that blades (especially the smallest ones) actually shatter almost like glass from heat tempering and dulling. You have no idea where the pieces of this blade will go, so protect those eyes.
Hand protection:
You read above that the scroll saw isn’t a tool that will just rip your finger off. You still though need to be aware at all times where your hands are. The biggest thing to watch for is when turning stock to cut curves and such. If you cut a full circle, for example, it is easy to pass your hand under the upper arm. Most scroll saws have very small motors in relation to other tools. However, that small motor is moving that upper arm at a very high rate of speed. My saw, at top speed, is making over two thousand strokes per minute. Passing your arm under the upper arm with a thick enough piece of wood can very well result in a broken arm if you’re not careful.
Respiratory protection:
This one, dust collection can help greatly. Some people though, like me, just let the dust fall where it may and clean it up later. For these people, be aware of what you’re cutting. You can find a wood toxicity chart here. Be aware that some woods can be very dangerous to your respiratory system. Besides the ones on the chart though, remember that we are talking about very fine saw dust. It is always a good idea, when in doubt, to wear a dust mask when scrolling.
General joint protection:
Scrolling, or fret work, is something that, depending on your saw mounting choices, can sometimes involve many hours standing or sitting in one spot. This can become very tiring on your joints before you realize it, not to mention eye strain. It is always a good idea to keep up with how long you’ve been scrolling in one session. Know your limits. Take a break now and then. Move around. Rest your eyes, and your joints.
General tips:
Know your saw. Before committing to long drawn out project, be able to put your hand on the power switch without even looking. There will be times that taking your eyes off your work piece can and will put your eyes or hands in danger. You need to be able to get that saw off with one hand without looking. Another good idea (that I use myself) is a foot switch. They are available from many suppliers and allows you to turn your saw off while keeping both hands on your work.
Another source of eye strain is lighting. I didn’t include this in eye protection because it depends on the person and how good the lighting is in your shop. Scrolling sometimes deals with very fine detail. If you don’t have good lighting, or just have poor eyes, there are aftermarket light available from many sources that attach directly to your saw that you can direct straight on what you’re working on, making it easier to see.
Shop air quality is something that you may want to think about. Some have shops seperate from their home where it gets hot. Some use fans to direct air towards us. If you do so while scrolling, you will be directing all that very fine saw dust directly at you. One option short of an expensive air filtration system is a simple air conditioner filter taped to a box fan. This allows air flow while catching most of the fine dust.
Something that most scrollers eventually do is to remove the holddown from the saw. While I myself do this, I do not tell others to do it. If you’ve been scrolling for long enough and feel comfortable with it, then by all means you may give it a try. If you do it though, this means you have to be extra cautious about always keeping firm pressure on the material you’re cutting. If you do not, it will lift off the table and slap back down on it with every stroke of the blade. At the least, it can break the piece you’re working on. At the worst, it can pinch your finger between the work piece and the table. Another function of the holddown is to encourage your finger not to come into contact with the blade. I said before that it won’t cut your finger off. It can however scratch your finger to the point of being painful. If you remove the hold down, be aware of this and pay extra attention about cutting your finger with the blade.
The last one I saved till last simply because it something you shouldn’t have in the work shop anyway, loose clothing. You do not ever wear loose clothing, dangly jewelry, or anything around the scroll saw that can hang down and get caught in the saw blade. This also goes for long hair. While scrolling, there may be times you have to lean over the saw. If you have long hair, tie it up so as to prevent it from even possibly getting into the blade or any other moving part.
Well that’s all I have for now. The only other thing I can suggest is patience. Scrolling is a hobby that even kids can enjoy. It is not a table saw though. It will take time. Also, as with any tool, there is a leanring curve. This learning curve differs from person to person. If you give it a chance though, you may just amaze yourself what you can create with a scroll saw.


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