editors at Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts have worked closely over the years with some
of the world's leading scrollers. We're happy to share these tips with you!
If you have a "tip" of your own to share, please feel free to email
us any time.
Tip from the Editors of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts
Protect your fingers while sanding—Kathy Wise
Color code your cut lines when stack-cutting a layered piece—Dave Parsons and Dave O'Brien
A visible difference: substitute blue painters tape for clear packaging tape—Sue Chrestensen and Linda Creator
Only Dry Wood—Air-drying boards is the best way to go. Jerry
has tried blowing air over the wood with fans, and even microwaving. Air-drying
is the only way to go.
Direction to Your Advantage—Study your pattern and consider grain
patterns that would work well to convey a particular effect or highlight. Then
look in your wood collection for pieces that have that general grain pattern.
Piece Accurately and Squarely—Cut so the pattern line disappears,
and check the square of the cut frequently.
for Cutting Success: Footswitch and a Magnifier—“If you
can’t see it, you can’t saw it,” is a favorite Jerry-ism,
and he’s right. More important than the light, though, is the foot-operated
on/off switch. It gives you unbelievable control.
When You’re Cutting—As your body fatigues, it affects your
ability to keep pushing the wood directly into the front of the blade. Take
frequent breaks to refresh your body and your mind.
Pieces at the Same Time—To ensure smooth transitions between
pieces, use sanding shims and double-side tape to keep pieces next to each other
as you contour.
Sanding with Worn Sandpaper—When
the grit is gone, rubbing sandpaper on the wood merely burnishes it. You can
still use the worn paper, however. It is perfect for sanding sharp, fragile
In” When You Glue Down—Beginners often work their way from
the top of piece to the bottom as they glue pieces to the backer board. A better
strategy is to glue down three or four outside pieces first, then glue the remaining
Mineral spirits and similar products are hazards not to be ignored. Piles of
rags soaked in volatile liquids have been known to spontaneously burst into
flames. You should follow all of the manufacturer’s guidelines when using
any type of hazardous materials. The most common practices would include using
gloves, and eye protection in a well-ventilated area. Make sure you dispose
of the rags in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
for a 90-degreeCutting Angle
When stack cutting, make sure your blade is cutting straight up and down. To
test this, take a piece of scrap wood and make a short cut in it. Pull the wood
back from the blade. Place the wood behind the blade, turning the piece so the
cut is facing the back of the blade. Slide the wood across the table so the
blade goes into the cut. If the blade fits smoothly, your blade is square to
the table. If the blade doesn’t, you’ll need to adjust the table
until the fit is smooth.
or Reducing Patterns
Decide how large you want your finished pattern to be. Measure it exactly in
either 10th of an inch or in millimeters. Then measure between the same points
on the 100% (magazine) pattern. Divide the dimension you want by the 100% dimension
to find the percentage of increase or decrease.
A) The magazine’s
100% pattern is 12.0" measured between two points. You want your new plan
to be 16.0" between those two points. Divide the dimension you want (16")
by the pattern as designed (12") = 1.333 = 133%. Copying the pattern from
Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts at 133% will give you that pattern at the scale you want.
B) The 100% pattern
is 252 millimeters. The size you want measures 191 millimeters between the same
two points. 191 millimeters divided by 252 millimeters = 0.758 = 75.8% or 76%
on your copier.
If you’re using a drill press to drill thin
pieces of wood, such as 1/4" or thinner plywood or solid wood, it’s
helpful to use a scrap piece to prevent splitting. Simply place the scrap piece
underneath your project piece for reinforcement.
Scrolling is a great hobby. If you’re just getting into it, keep these
thoughts in mind and your enjoyment of the hobby will increase. Completing a
project will always take longer than you think. Relax and have fun; it’s
the surest way to decrease cutting errors. And if you do make a mistake or two,
don’t point it out to anyone! You’re the only one who knows how
the pattern was supposed to look.
For any holes that are to go all the way through a board, do not drill the hole
all the way through from one side or it may splinter the wood when it breaks
through. Instead, drill down until the point of the bit just breaks through
the bottom surface of the wood and then stop. Turn the wood over and finish
drilling from the other side.
Be careful about
exerting excessive sideways pressure on the attachments as you work. The drill
press was designed to withstand up and down pressure, not pressure exerted from
Finish with a Lazy Susan
A Lazy Susan nail fixture allows you to rotate the project as you spray from
each direction. To make your own, drive nails through a piece of plywood spaced
about 1" apart. Mount a Lazy Susan bearing between the nailed board and
base. The bearing makes it easy to rotate the work instead of having to walk
around the project to spray all the edges. The biggest advantage is that you
are looking at the project from the same angle to the light source, making it
easier to see the variations to the finish. Once you have applied the finish
to one side, it can be flipped over and applied to the other side. Generally
the points of the nails do not damage the finish.
to Spray Adhesives
Sometimes using spray adhesives is a hassle. They’re a bit messy and getting
the proper amount of adhesion can be a hit-or-miss affair.
An alternative is using a glue stick to attach the pattern paper to the wood.
Avery makes a “Removable Glue STIC.” The pattern peels off the wood
with ease after you have finished making the cuts. These glue sticks can be
found at most office supply stores or contact Avery at www.avery.com.
Source for Sugar Pine
Diana Thompson gets her sugar pine from Paxton’s Wood Source in New Orleans,
Louisiana, but for folks living in other areas, try searching the Internet for
“pattern sugar pine.” Another idea is to check with foundries in
your area. They use sugar pine to make patterns, and she often gets scraps from
a local foundry for free. If they don’t have scraps, maybe they would
share their source for pattern sugar pine.
Discard Your Cutouts
For any detailed fretwork project that has large cutout areas, save the pieces
you have cut out, and place them back in the cutout. Do not glue them; they
simply hold the shape of the cutout space to give fragile pieces some support.
Routers are dangerous tools. You are wise to do whatever you can to make your
shop area a safe place to work. Choosing the proper bit size is critical, too.
When selecting a size for a round-over bit, choose a bit that’s less than
half the thickness of the wood. For example, use a 3/8" bit for 3/4"
It is important to take care of your blades. When blades are stored for long
periods of time they tend to rust. We recommend spraying them with a light coat
of oil or with WD40 to prevent rusting. We know this trick works first-hand
because we use it frequently: we buy all of our blades for the year at the same
Don’t Have a 1 3/8" Forstner Bit
All is not lost if you don’t have this particular bit which can be a little
pricey at around $8 to $10. You can cut the hole for the clock on your scroll
saw. Cut slightly inside of the line and sand or file gradually to fit the clock.
Pour a solvent-based stain into a shallow foil or metal tray and submerge the
pieces into it. Using a lint-free cloth, rub along the grain to wipe away excess
buildup from smooth surfaces and exposed edges. Compressed air is ideal for
blowing out clotting that forms in tight crevices. Spray with your choice of
satin or gloss finish.
With just a little effort, you can make a very functional drip platform. Get
a piece of scrap plywood and some 3" or 4" box nails. Create a pattern
for the nails, making sure you allow equal spacing between them. Apply a seal
coat to both sides to prevent warping, then install the nails according to your
Your Wood from Burning
To prevent hardwood from burning while you cut it, put clear packaging tape
over the top of the pattern. Press the tape down to prevent sawdust from collecting
underneath it, making the pattern line difficult to see. The tape lubricates
the blade and keeps the wood from burning.
Thin plywoods may warp. But it doesn’t mean you have to throw them away
and buy new wood. Here are a few things you can do to prevent warping and some
things you can do to help get it back to its unwarped state:
• Prevent warping by storing wood in a dry place, on a flat surface with
a heavy piece of wood on top.
• If you have a warped piece of wood, dampen its surface with a rag and
set it on a flat surface with a heavy weight on top for a week or so.
• Many times, if you cut out a pattern from a warped piece of wood, it
will straighten out when you assemble it with other pieces into your project.
to Improve Your Sawing
• Make yourself comfortable before starting. Try sitting down at the saw
instead of standing.
• Use a foot control, if possible. It allows you to keep both of your
hands on the workpiece.
• Relax and let the blade do the work.
• Don’t forget your safety glasses.
• Don’t be afraid of making mistakes! “Mistakes” make
each piece original.
and Storing Blades
Tension is good, as long as it’s in your blade and not in your body. But
too much or too little blade tension causes blades to break frequently. Apply
only enough tension to hold the blade with no more than 18" flex
from side to side. When you pluck the blade like a guitar string, it should
make a nice, clear ping.
With heavy usage,
most blades last about 30 minutes before they become dull or break. Keep an
extra supply of blades close at hand while scrolling. I attach a magnetic strip
to my saw stand, then place the blades on the strip.
Thin blades give you the ability to cut very delicate work. That’s the
good news. The bad news: They can be difficult to get used to. Practice and
patience, though, pay off. Keep these points in mind as you give them a try:
Make sure you check the direction of the teeth—they must be pointing down—before
you start the saw. Run your thumb up the front of the blade to assure the teeth
are pointed down and to the front of the saw. These small blades actually can
turn 180 degrees as you tension the blade.
Tension and saw speed are two critical factors that affect any blade’s
use and longevity but are especially important when it comes to fine blades.
Too much tension can snap the blade before you actually begin to cut! Since
the blades are not as rigid as larger blades (#5, #7 and #9, for example), too
little tension allows the blade to flex much more than larger blades. In terms
of saw speed, I find the best success when I run the saw between 1,200 and 1,400
strokes per minute.
Easy Pattern Removal
If you applied the pattern directly to the wood and now you’re having
trouble removing it, loosen it by either heating it with a blow dryer or by
using a rag saturated with mineral spirits or paint remover to moisten it while
gently lifting the pattern. This also works to remove any sticky residue from
the packaging tape.
“Do’s” and “Don’ts”
Always wear eye protection when drilling, cutting, or sanding brass.
The clear packing
tape lubricates the blade, but make sure to tape over the entire cutting surface
for greater stability.
The edges of brass
are sharp and will cut your hands; wrap all edges in tape.
You can double
the life of your blade by creating a higher working surface to take advantage
of the blade’s unused portion.
Turn corners slowly
to avoid catching the brass and lifting it off the table.
Be aware of the
heat that is generated quickly when cutting and sanding brass.
to cut brass without the backer board. As you cut, the blade is creating burrs
on the backside. This not only impedes the movement of the piece as you work,
but will also scratch up your table.
Lumber: What's Up Stock?
When buying lumber for the first time, you may be surprised that when you buy
a 1 x 12 thick block or a 2 x 4, you’ll find that the thickness and the
width are not those actual measurements. The “1 x 12” or “2
x 4” are called “nominal sizes” and are only for general identification
purposes. The actual measurements are usually slightly smaller than those listed.
Round over the back of your scroll saw blade. This will help eliminate some
of the frictional heat caused by the square corners of the blade rubbing against
the material you are cutting. Position a honing stone at a 45-degree angle to
the back of the blade. With the blade moving, lightly touch the stone to the
blade. Turn the saw off and repeat on the opposite back edge.
Buy Plywood In Sheets
High quality plywood such as Baltic Birch is generally available through mail
order in 12" x 12"or 12" x 24" sheets. If you live in a
moderate-sized city, you will probably be able to find it in 5' x 5' sheets
at a hardwood supplier. (Note: generally, home improvement centers do not carry
Baltic Birch and other specialty plywood.) Ask to have the sheet cut in half
so it fits into your vehicle. Once you have it home, you’ll need to spend
a little time cutting it into the size you want.
This trick eliminates the need for messy graphite or carbon paper to make transfers.
Place a photocopy of the pattern you want to transfer onto a smooth tabletop.
Using an ordinary #2 lead pencil, simply trace over all of the lines on the
front of the photocopy. Next, lay the pattern on the wood. With your #2 pencil,
trace the same lines onto the backside of the photocopy. (You should be able
to see the lines through the paper.) You’ve now transferred the first
pencil lines that you traced onto the front of the photocopy directly to the
back of the wood project.
Stacked Pieces With The Nail Method
Common attachment techniques include using glue or clear packing tape. Glue
can be messy, and it takes some time to dry. Clear packing tape works, too.
Simply tape it around your stack to hold the pieces in place. For a tidy and
secure attachment, though, I prefer using nails. Here’s how: Put the stack
on top of a metal plate; any scrap piece will do. When the nails are pounded
through the wood to the metal, the points will mushroom out onto the bottom
of the stack, securing the attachment, and, with the nail points flattened,
they won’t scratch your tabletop.
With just a few hours work and less than $10 in materials, you could probably
sell your projects anywhere from $15 to $20. If you added a little more detail,
say, a little woodburning, maybe you could get up to $35, if the venue was right.
All prices are very dependent on the type of venue in which you’re selling
and in what part of the country. A church bazaar in East Podunk and a high-end
art show in New York City attract very different types of buyers.
Saw Do The Work
Beginner’s tend to want to push the wood into the blade. That leads to
knotted muscles in a hurry. Relax! Less pushing always makes for easier cutting.
Why A Reverse
A reverse tooth blade means that the last three teeth at the bottom of the blade
are going in the opposite direction than all others. This change in direction
helps eliminate burrs on the bottom of your workpiece.