It has come to my attention that some of you are having difficulty finding the Olson scroll saw blades that I frequently talk about here on my blog. While I know there are other brands available that work very well for others, I have tried many types of blades and find that the Olson blades work the best for me.
I especially think it is important to have a good blade that you feel comfortable with when cutting designs such as the one I just finished (my Conversation Heart Valentine ornaments) because the lettering in this project is quite small and you really need to have decent control of the blade in order to accomplish the design. I found that using these blades in conjunction with my Excalibur saw allows me to cut these pieces quite easily.
While I do understand that we all have many different types of saws and equipment, I am often asked what I use and recommend and I am doing so here. That’s not to say that your own equipment wouldn’t accomplish the same thing. But I can only speak from what I have tried and hopefully, my personal experiences will give you a starting point and you will be able to find your own combination of saw and blade that will make your cutting as comfortable and trouble free as possible.
Last night I received an email from a scroller who was looking for the Olson blades. He told me he found the 2/0 reverse tooth blades for $3.65 for ONE BLADE! I thought that was criminal. There are many places that offer blades for anywhere from $2.30 per dozen (with further discounts if you buy a gross of them!) and up.
Two wonderful and reliable companies that I have personally ordered from are Sloan's Woodshop located in Lebanon, TN and The Wooden Teddy Bear, from Portland, OR. While Sloan’s doesn’t ship out of the USA, The Wooden Teddy does and usually if you are only ordering blades from them, even international shipping costs are quite reasonable. Both companies are family owned and are honest and have fast and friendly service and will help you with any blade questions you may have. They both offer mix and match quantity discounts too, and have different sampler packs so you can try some different types of blades too. I highly recommend them.
I was also asked how I stored the blades that I have. As many of you know, scroll saw blades can be very small and it is not always easy to immediately identify the exact size of the smaller blades. It is usually necessary to keep them segregated by size in order to have them easily accessible when working on a project.
My partner Keith and I came up with a system that works really well for us. Since our ‘workstation’ is in our kitchen, we keep our scroll saw on a small cabinet:
In the bottom section of the cabinet we keep our sandpaper, glues and even a small waste basket that we use when scrolling. The top drawer is great for keeping blades, scissors and tape. We purchased these little plastic storage boxes that are typically used for storing beads and embroidery floss:
They only cost a couple of dollars each and we liked them because they weren’t more ‘small’ things that we had to keep track of. As you can see, we labeled them as to which types of blades we put into them. We needed to cut out some of the dividers so that the blades fit, but that was quite easy to do:
For us, this works the best. The boxes fit right in the drawer and are easy to keep clean and at hand, and can be easily carried to the table or wherever we are working. I know a lot of people like using the little plastic tubes to hold their blades and that is fine too, but we prefer to have something that is a little bigger. They stack two levels high in the drawer and we have a total of three of them which is large enough for all the types of blades we use.
I hope this information helps you all a bit. While there are many great ways to organize and store things, this is the one that works best for us.
I was also asked the question recently as to how I knew when it was time to change a blade. (Obviously before it breaks!) I think the best way to answer is to rely on your own intuition and common sense. As you use a scroll saw blade, you will note that it gradually becomes a bit harder to move the blade through the wood. Where you may have only needed a slight amount of pressure to maneuver around your piece, you may find that little by little, you are pushing harder and harder.
There are many factors that contribute to blade dullness – thickness of the wood, density and the amount of moisture that the wood contains are among them. Also, if you are cutting plywood, the amount of glue in the plywood will also affect the life of the blade you are using. You will also find that certain blades dull faster than others. Skip tooth blades tend to last longer because the space in between the teeth of the blade tends to allow more heat to dissipate more efficiently and consequently the blade is running cooler, prolonging its life. Also the precision ground blades tend to have a longer life just by their nature and the materials they are made of. All of these factors should be considered.
For the most part, I use regular skip tooth reverse tooth blades. I think that they are economical and efficient and they give a good long life. The definition of “long” I realize varies with each individual, but since I buy them at the gross price, they typically cost under 30 cents a piece. At that price, it doesn’t really bother me to throw them out when dull and they aren’t performing and put in a fresh one. Even if a project requires half a dozen blades or more to complete, I still feel that the cost is small for the time and material cost already invested.
One thing that I ask you all to remember – Scroll saw blades are disposable components of the hobby. So many times I see scrollers holding on to old blades and trying to cut with them long after their life has expired. To me, if I spend “x” amount of money on wood and “x” amount of hours of my time on a particular project – doesn’t it only make sense to use a fresh and sharp blade? Especially at a cost of around 30 cents each. It isn’t like a table saw blade that can cost up to $100 or a band saw blade that you change ever year or so. It is something that has a relatively short life span and it also relatively cheap.
I throw out my blades when I realize that I am ‘working’ a bit too hard to cut. You can usually feel the blade being to drag and sometimes you can smell if it is starting to burn the wood from heat build up. Sometimes I will push it to the end of the project if I am nearing completion of a cut, but more so than not, by the time I really feel the difference, it is near the end of its life and time to change.
As a habit, I tend to bend the old blades in half and break them as I discard them – just so I know that they are spent and I don’t attempt to use them again. But soon you will be able to tell when it is done as you are more experienced and gain confidence in your scroll sawing. You will wonder why you ever held on to those old blades so long and your overall experience of cutting will be greatly improved.
I hope that this information helped some of you who are looking for more information on blades. Besides the scroll saw, I think the blades are the most important tool in success when making your scroll saw projects.
Today I will be finishing up the site update and sending out the new newsletter. If you aren’t on my mailing list, I invite you to do so. The link for joining is HERE. I only send out one or two newsletters per month and I also offer some special discounts to newsletter subscribers only from time to time.
I hope you all have a wonderful Saturday and get some time to play in your shop this weekend.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"