new scrollsawers in need of some help

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Forum topic by chancey posted 09-15-2015 01:38 AM 787 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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36 posts in 556 days

09-15-2015 01:38 AM

Topic tags/keywords: scrollworking scroll saw question

Hey so my beautiful wife and I recently got a scrollsaw and we are having a heck of a time with it. I was wondering if there is any sage like advice out there? I think we might be starting to get an idea about tension but i am still getting drift and having a hard time seeing my lines. and i just went to the eye doctor 2 weeks ago so it’s not that. We have watched a few videos on the old Youtube but hands on is always better advice. Any advice is helpful like are there better beginner blades size or type.

13 replies so far

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


4039 posts in 1621 days

#1 posted 09-15-2015 01:48 AM

I was wondering if there is any sage like advice out there?

Practice :)

It gets better over time… trust me! Start with just drawing stuff on a blank and trying to cut the lines.. straight, curved, squares, stair steps, spirals, whatever. You will get better the more you do it.

As for your specifics.. the blade drifts, so you need to compensate for it… nature of the beast. Proper tension helps a bit, and you will quickly learn what works for you. Too tight and you will be breaking blades. Too loose and you will have a hard time making curves and staying on line. My ‘scientific’ method is to pluck with my index finger, like a guitar string, and listen to the tone it makes. Also, make sure your air blower is correctly positioned to blow the sawdust off the lines so you can see them. And a good task light, preferably with a flexible arm, really helps if you don’t already have one.

Have fun… it’s a blast.


-- Brad in FL - To be old and wise, you must first be young and stupid

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Jim Finn

2390 posts in 2344 days

#2 posted 09-15-2015 01:52 AM

I spend hours most days on one of my scroll saws. I got some three power reading glasses from the local Dollar store to use with the scroll saw. Cutting a straight line with a scroll saw takes a little time to learn. Curves are a lot easier. High tension on the blade “Ping” and very slow feed rate. Scroll saw is the slowest cutting tool in a woodshop. Pushing too hard will cause the blade to bend and wander off of the line. this happens when cutting thicker woods like 1/2” and thicker. Steer the wood along the line, like you ride/balance a bicycle. A little left and then a little right… even for a straight line.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

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445 posts in 508 days

#3 posted 09-15-2015 02:07 AM

Though I only scrolled for a couple of years, one thing I learned for sure—get the best blades! A lower quality blade can turn a good saw into a dud, and a high-quality blade can make an inexpensive Delta like I had work like a champ. Flying Dutchman blades were the ones that I found the absolute best, and Mike's Workshop is the place to go. The website has excellent info for starting out, and if you call him he will help you pick out the right blades for your project(s). I think he sells an assortment pack for starters. My scroll-life changed radically once I got those blades on my saw, and I was so grateful!

-- My mother said that anyone learning to cook needed a large dog to eat the mistakes. As a sculptor of wood I have always tried to keep a fireplace. (Norman Ridenour)

View chancey's profile


36 posts in 556 days

#4 posted 09-15-2015 02:09 AM

thanks guys i keep telling my wife how great a community there is on lumberjocks and this stuff is showing her just what i’m talking about.

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 843 days

#5 posted 09-15-2015 03:37 AM

Howdy chance, & welcome to the world of scrolling! To learn the scroll saw, is like learning to drive a car for the first time. Every scroller has their own way of setting up their saws, has blade preferences, etc. The first thing about tension is learning where that “sweet spot” is, & how to maintain it. Depending on the size of the blade, when you begin adjusting your tension, set it just enough to keep it tight. Run your saw a minute or so to “stretch” the blade, so to speak. Then adjust your tension to just a snug point. As mentioned, pluck it. If you get a high tone, your tension is good to go. I know how this all may sound, but, I’m a simple minded feller, & have found when I teach others the scroll saw, it helps to keep things easy. As you start your cut, ease into it. Let the blade do the work. Don’t force it! You’ll just break blades, & get frustrated. As the cut goes on, steer the work piece into the blade, gently, side to side. Maintain your line without force, but steady. You’ll get it. Keep your dust blower adjusted to keep your work line clean. Keep practicing, that’s the important thing. Enjoy your scrolling.

-- Sawdust703

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1824 posts in 1411 days

#6 posted 09-15-2015 01:01 PM

I would try looking at some of the more specific scroll saw forums. Scroll Saw Village is good. was good but now encountering technical issues.

View bruc101's profile


1075 posts in 2964 days

#7 posted 09-15-2015 01:11 PM

We’re building a website now for a scroller that got started about two years ago when he retired from owning a software development company.

It didn’t take him long to figure out most all the above advice you’ve been given is spot on. As he learned to scroll he found out his scrolling talents are doing portraits of people.

-- Bruce Free Plans

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4939 posts in 3085 days

#8 posted 09-15-2015 01:39 PM

I don’t know if you have happened onto Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) here on LumberJocks.

Sheila is a wealth of information and contributes a lot to the scrolling community.

Check out her profile ( ) and her blog ( ).

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View CharleyL's profile


190 posts in 2787 days

#9 posted 09-16-2015 05:02 PM

I’ve been working with scroll saws for almost 30 years, and about the best advice that I can give is to just tell you what works best for me, because what you will be cutting and how you will be doing it will almost certainly be different from what I do.

I use Flying Dutchman blades almost exclusively. To me, they cut better and last longer than the same size and style available from the other manufacturers. I run them tighter than most will suggest (3-5 on DeWalt 788) and I run blades that are 1 or 2 sizes smaller than what many suggest for a given project. People have all kinds of ideas about blade tension. I run them tight because I want the blade to cut straight. You will just need to try different blades, sizes, tension settings and speeds on different woods to see what works best for you. Smaller size blades allow tighter turns, reverse tooth blades reduce chipping on the bottom, etc. It will depend a lot on what you cut and what you find that you are most comfortable with . If a blade causes burning of the wood you are either running it too fast or there isn’t enough set in the teeth for that material. Some woods, like cherry, can burn very easily and must be cut very slowly. Most of my cutting lately has been done with #1R, 0/1R, and 0/2R blades because I’m working with intricate soft and hard wood pieces in the 1-3” overall size range with each piece taking 10-20 minutes to cut out. I frequently apply paraffin wax to the blade for lubrication and replace the blade after 15-20 pieces are cut because it gets dull. I rarely have a broken blade.
Not all blades are created equal. They don’t all cut the same, even if from the same package. The smaller they are the more likely you will find significant differences from one to the next. If one doesn’t cut right, toss it and try another. They cost less than $0.20 each in quantity. It’s just the price you pay for doing tiny intricate work.

Lighting and it’s position is very important. It must be positioned so that you can see the blade clearly where it goes through the wood and without getting the strobe like flicker shadow of the moving arm from above anywhere near the blade cutting point on your project. This flicker can be very hypnotic when you are trying to see the blade cut through this flicker. I presently have two LED lights on goose neck shafts, one on each side of the blade, and this is working better than any of my lighting methods tried before. These are in addition to my general shop overhead lighting. These LED lights are positioned above and ahead of the blade, between my head and the blade, but off to the sides and pointing downward at about 45 deg toward the blade cutting area. I recently bought these lights at Lowes for about $18 each. They come attached to a spring clip for table mounting , but I removed these clips and fabricated a mounting bracket that extends to the sides of the upper arm of my DeWalt 788 scroll saw. The base of each LED goose neck light is attached to this bracket, one on each side of the upper arm of my saw. If the goose necks are pulled straight the lamp portions will almost reach the front edge of the saw table, but in use they form a long shallow arc at about ear level on me, but slightly forward of my head so I can move my head side to side without hitting them. Previously I was using two 40 watt halogen drafting board lights, but I kept burning my forehead on the lamp housings. These LED lights are just as bright, much smaller, and much cooler than the halogen lights. I gave up on the original DeWalt light because it wasn’t bright enough for me and the goose neck was too flexible and the light would not stay in the position that I put it. I had purchased a second DeWalt light for the right side, but never installed it because I became unsatisfied with the original included light.

I always wear 3X drug store glasses while scroll sawing. The bigger the view, the better. Occasionally I can find 3.25 glasses and these are even better. I’ve tried arm mounted magnifying glasses with and without included lights and none have been satisfactory for me. The drug store type glasses have worked very well for me.

When cutting, try to avoid any side pressure on the blade. Use only forward pressure and keep this pressure toward the blade teeth moderate, just enough to feed the wood into the blade teeth. The pressure should be just enough for the blade to cut. Too much pressure and you will find it difficult to keep the blade cutting in the direction that you want. It will tend to wander. Use just enough constant downward pressure to keep the work from chattering against the table and just enough forward pressure to move the work toward the blade teeth, while steering the work to follow the lines of the pattern. There are no teeth on the sides or rear of the blade, so pushing in those directions accomplishes nothing, with one slight exception. When making very tight turns it sometimes helps to put reverse pressure on the blade to keep the blade from cutting while you make a tight turn. Once you have turned the work to the desired new direction you can begin feeding the work toward the blade again.

I hope these suggestions help. Reply to this post if you have any other questions.


View chancey's profile


36 posts in 556 days

#10 posted 09-21-2015 02:22 AM

Thanks everyone for all the great advice. We have been busy with a birthday for our daughter but tonight i got her back out in the shop and she made a reindeer head out of 1/4 oak plywood. The huge smile and her sense of accomplishment is just the best. If you can’t tell our daughter got a hold of the plywood first. I know that you all help us to start to figure this skill out and we still have a long away to go but thank you so much.

View CharleyL's profile


190 posts in 2787 days

#11 posted 09-21-2015 03:54 PM

A finished project is a great feeling of accomplishment. I hope she, and you, will have many more.

Pencil lines will come off easily with alcohol and some rubbing, if the lines are from standard pencils. A light sanding will remove it too, but be careful with the sanding or you will sand through the face veneer.


View CharleyL's profile


190 posts in 2787 days

#12 posted 09-21-2015 04:09 PM

With some practice you will be making things like these. The reindeer are 3” high and are the largest of the 3 sizes that I make. All cut out on my scroll saws.


View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 843 days

#13 posted 09-23-2015 01:58 AM

Good job, Chance! Looks like you’re getting things figured out, boss! Keep up the good work!

-- Sawdust703

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