Well, it looks like we are going to have a great group here! I am really happy with the enthusiasm of everyone who wants to participate, and also the cheerleaders. You can all get back in your seats now and we can start to get down to business.
I wanted to get this post up here by the weekend so that if you need to get some supplies to start, you will have some time to do so. One thing that I really like about scroll sawing is that it takes very little ‘equipment’ to make things work. My partner recently got a lathe and it is amazing to both of us how many different parts and chucks and tools you ‘need’ to make things work.
With scroll sawing, all you really need is a saw and a drill press (and you can even get by if you have to using a regular drill or even a Dremel and some drill bits.) Aside from some sand paper and a few supplies – that is it! You can be well on your way to scroll sawing!
But for our purposes, I will give a general supply list of the most common items you will want to use. You probably have most of them in your shop already!
I am finding that the biggest discrepancy we are going to have is the many different kinds of saws people have. I started with a Delta saw in 1997 and then moved up to a DeWalt which I kept until a few months ago when I got my Excalibur. Even though I have been doing this for quite a long time, I haven’t had a lot of experience on many of the other saws and will need to go by what I have heard from others.
I am going to start out by saying that I encourage you to do some of your own research on the saw you own if you are having issues with it, as it will be impossible for me to help everybody with specifics on saws that I have never worked with. (This is actually homework in disguise – but I was hoping you wouldn’t notice because there is more to come!) You can always ask a general question on the class blogs too because chances are someone here may be able to help. If you want to know of a GREAT source for information on scroll saws of all type, you should go to Rick Hutchenson’s site at
Not only is Rick one of the smartest guys I know, but he has one of the most comprehensive sites that I have ever seen in regards to scroll saws. (Plus, he is a really nice and helpful guy!) On his site, there are tips on maintenance, trouble shooting and all kinds of information and videos about just about any saw you can imagine. Rick has a collection of literally hundreds of saws and has first-hand knowledge on many of them. He has lots of experience testing tools and consulting with big companies such as Delta and he will give you whatever information you may need to get your saw in tip tip shape. He also has some great patterns if you are in the shopping mood for lots of woodworking projects and videos.
So let’s get on with the supply list:
I use Olson Scroll saw blades almost exclusively. I know there are many brands on the market, but Olson blades are my favorite. I love the control you have with them and I have yet to find better blades anywhere. I know that there are some who swear by other blades, but this is my own personal preference and I stand by my decision. You need to work with what is good for you and what you are comfortable with, but these are my favorites.
Here is a link to a blade chart from Olson which will help you choose the right blade for whatever you are planning to cut. Remember – this is only a suggested guideline and you may choose something else depending on things like the type of wood you are cutting and the thickness and hardness. But it is a good starting point and reference:
You can download and print it out for future reference. You may want to even laminate it and keep it by your saw for a quick reference. (By the way – this is NOT homework! It is kind of a little treat to help you along! )
I like using reverse-tooth blades because when you use them there is less sanding involved. Reverse-tooth blades are blades where the lower inch or so of the blade has the teeth pointing up (traditionally, the teeth should point down on scroll saw blades!) this helps prevent tear out on the back side of your piece and as I said, minimizes the amount of sanding you need to do on the back side when you are finished. Some say that reverse tooth are a little harder to control – especially when you are beginning – but I find the difference is marginal if anything and the good still outweighs the bad on them. I would suggest you give them a try and I would bet that once you use them, you won’t want to go back.
Now I have a homework assignment for you. (Here it is – there is no hiding this one from you!)
My partner wrote an article called Scroll Saw Blade Selection that will help familiarize you with scroll saw blades. This is a great basic article for you to get a handle on the types of blades and their characteristics so that you make the best choice for your project.
As far as the blades you will be using for class, here is a list of the blades that I tend to use most of the time.
#2/0 Regular reverse-tooth #2 Regular reverse-tooth #3 Mach Speed reverse-tooth blades (Olson’s new blade) #5 Regular reverse-tooth #9 Regular reverse-tooth (I rarely use these, but for thicker projects they work nice)
I bet you were expecting a longer list than that! But honestly, those five pretty much cover most of the things that I cut – and they probably will handle most of what you do also.
The other supplies you will need is of course – wood. What kind of wood, you ask? I find that hard wood with even grain such as maple and birch do a fine job for delicate fretwork. Pine is OK to practice on, as it is cheap and usually plentiful, but the soft texture and sap usually doesn’t make the best choice for fretwork. If I were to tell you a certain type of wood that is a good overall wood for scrolling I would say maple. But any scraps you have around will do. Most of the projects we are going to do here will be smaller, so just about all the wood will be 1/2” or less in thickness. I will be more specific on suggestions prior to each project. For starters, let’s say that we will start with 1/2” maple. If you don’t have maple, don’t kill yourself trying to find some. Anything similar will do. I am going to have some practice sheets for you to learn some really basic things like casting on and off and basic maneuvering to start with and that should do fine.
You will also need some temporary spray adhesive to apply your pattern. Two popular kinds are made by Elmer’s and 3M.
Others will do as well, but these are two brands that I have used successfully for years. A word of caution though – Elmer’s (and probably the other companies too) makes many different strengths of spray adhesives ranging from temporary to extra-strength, which could probably be used to glue the tiles on the space shuttle successfully. So be sure to avoid those at all cost! I am going to show you two ways to apply your pattern, as well as suggest others that have been used successfully, but it is important that you use temporary spray adhesive to be able to get your pattern off the wood once finished cutting.
The only other things you will need are blue painter’s tape (try to get it at least 2” wide) and some clear packaging tape, also 2” wide that you should be able to find at the dollar store. You don’t need the thicker and expensive kind – the cheap kind will do fine.
Other than those few things, you will only need your normal shop supplies, such as various sized drill bits and a drill press or drill and sandpaper in various grits. Then we will be ready to go!
I will probably have the next lesson up sometime early next week. That will give you all time to gather your basic supplies and do your homework! I hope I covered everything you need to know to get started. I will be checking here frequently to answer any questions you may have. Thanks again for reading and I look forward to getting to know all of you better and showing you how fun and versatile the scroll saw can be.
Have a great weekend everyone! I look forward to getting started and moving ahead with this. Let the adventure begin!! :D
-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"