Yesterday evening, I was directed to a forum topic here on Lumberjocks. The title of the post is “Scroll saws vs Lasers – Is Scroll sawing Doomed?” and you can read it here.
Naturally, being in the position that I am in, I am somewhat curious as to what people think about this subject. After all, if scroll saws are doomed, then my own doom as a pattern designer for the scroll saw is soon to follow.
For now however, I am not very worried.
In reading the comments so far, while there are a few that are certain that the scroll saw will go the way of the dinosaur, for the most part people seem to feel that they are here to stay. I also think that scroll saws are going to be around for a while. Even though lasers can be used in several applications, they do have their limitations and I can think of many instances where the scroll saw is preferred over the laser.
First off, lasers are limited by the thickness of the material that they cut. While they may be good for some purposes, in general, the material needs to be very thin for a laser to do the job. This is fine if what you intend to cut is somewhere around 1/8” thin, but I would find that quite limiting as to what you can produce. I realize that it is possible to do multiple passes to achieve cutting on greater thicknesses, but I wouldn’t think that it would be very efficient to do so. And I am assuming that efficiency would be what you are aiming for if you are using a CNC.
One advantage of using a CNC or similar machine is that you are able to “sculpt” pieces using the machine. My friend Lis here on Lumberjocks (tyskkvinna) does some amazing projects using the CNC router. One of my favorites of hers, which I purchased for my son, was this awesome Periodic Table that she carved with her router. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of thought and programming that went into her work! Lis certainly brings programming the router into a high-tech art form. It is far more than a matter of “pushing a few buttons.”
Yes, the scroll saw is what some would consider “low tech” – just as a non-computerized sewing machine is considered “low tech.” But there are still people who love to create and design and sew their own clothing and find a great deal of satisfaction from doing so.
A large part of why we do woodworking in the first place is because it fulfills our need to be creative. I realize that some here (like myself) are involved in woodworking to earn a living, and I am lucky enough to realize that what I do for a living also feeds my need to be creative and give me a wonderful sense of accomplishment with each design I draw, cut and finish. While some people may use woodworking strictly in an industrial sense, many others are able to gracefully blend and marry their passion for creating with making a living.
Dan Mosheim comes to mind as someone who has successfully made a living from creating pieces by hand. If you browse his project gallery you can immediately see that not only does he create functional pieces, but pieces that are beautiful too and will over time become heirlooms to those who are fortunate enough to own them. This is accomplished not only with the use of power tools, but also by many hours of hands-on “low tech” labor. Not everything can be automated successfully to provide the same level of excellence.
These are only a couple of examples of the many hundreds that are here on the Lumberjocks site alone.
In speaking with Ray Seymore from Seyco (one of the leading distributors of the Excalibur Scroll Saw in the USA) they are selling so many Excalibur saws these days that it is difficult to keep them in stock. I have heard from several customers of mine first-hand that there is a waiting list for a new Excalibur saw. That certainly wouldn’t indicate to me that people are ready to put the scroll saw out to pasture quite yet.
I am sure that there are many people that find that CNC machines and routers are a useful tool for their woodworking purposes. One day, I hope to own one myself perhaps. But even if I were to have one sitting here, I don’t think that I would be ready to retire my scroll saw any time soon.
I was happy when I read the responses on the above mentioned forum. While there were some that said they thought the scroll saw was on its way out, most of the people who checked in who actually used the scroll saw voiced that they thought it was here to stay. I believe the reason for this is that the people who scroll saw, do so not so much for the finished results or project, but also what plays a huge part in it is that the process of scroll sawing is in itself enjoyable and satisfying and leaves us with a sense of accomplishment.
Just like when Britboxmaker finished one of his amazing boxes, and sits back and thinks of his accomplishments and starts planning the next one – what he would do differently, what he liked about this one, etc., when I finish a scroll saw project, I sit back with that same sense of accomplishment and think about not only the final piece, but how much I enjoyed creating it. It is something that feeds the soul of any creative individual (INCLUDING people like Lis who accomplishes the same with her programming expertise and woodworking skills!)
Whether your tools are scroll saws or band saws or table saws or even programming a computer, we all enjoy doing something that is challenging to us and we love that feeling of accomplishment that accompanies the successes that we achieve doing so.
I think that there is plenty of room for BOTH the scroll saw and the CNC machines. I think that each of them have their purpose, and there will be loyal followers for each of them. It is a matter of personal choice it depends on what you like to do best to be creative.
While a scroll saw may only be as perfect as the person operating it, the CNC in all its perfection also has its limitations on thickness and speed. It is like comparing apples to oranges.
I didn’t want to hijack the aforementioned post by offering a lengthy reply there. As you see, I had a lot to say about the subject. I invite you to go to the original post and voice your own thoughts on the matter, as it is very interesting to see others thoughts on the subject.
I am glad that this topic was addressed. We are all different people here with different goals and reasons that we do our woodworking projects. These differences are something that makes woodworking so interesting, and the diversity of we woodworkers, along with our passion for what we do is what keeps it fresh and exciting. At least that is how I feel about it.
No matter which method you use to be creative, the most important thing is that you are enjoying yourself and having FUN being creative. Life is too short not to enjoy every minute of it you can, and we need to make the most of our time and spend it doing something we love with passion. For me, that is scroll sawing and painting. For you, it may be something different.
I know however, that doing something that I love every day really makes for a good life. And sharing it with you all only adds to that happiness.
I wish you all a wonderful Friday! I got my cutting done yesterday, and I should have something to show you by tomorrow. Have a great 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"