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A scroll saw is a small electric and pedal operated saw useful for cutting intricate curves where a jigsaw or coping saw is not appropriate; it is capable of creating curves with edges. It is operated using drill bits from the drill saw and the way to produce circular shapes from it is to insert a hole saw. It is somewhat similar to a band saw, but unlike band saws, in which the saw blade is a continuous loop, scroll saws use saw blades similar to those used by coping saws and operate through a quick reciprocating up and down motion.
Scroll saws are referred to by size. The size is the distance from the blade, to the rear frame of the saw. It determines how large of a piece of wood can be cut with the saw. The smaller saws have a throat of as little as twelve inches, while the larger commercial saws are approaching the thirty inch mark. They range in price from under a hundred dollars, to close to two thousand dollars. The more costly ones are generally much more accurate and easier to use, as the vibration in the machine is minimal. While it's not necessary to buy an expensive machine to enjoy this tool, it's recommended to use a machine prior to buying it.
It is important to check the ease of blade changes, as this is a function that will be done very often. Almost all scroll sawing uses a pierce cut, which is a small hole through which the blade is fed. If you have to fight with the blade every time, you'll quickly tire of your new saw. The other detail that should be checked is the amount of vibration in the saw. Vibration has a major effect on the quality of the saw's work. It also reduces blade life, and often the interest of the user in continuing this hobby.
Scroll sawing is a very popular hobby for many woodworkers. While there are many reasons for this, one of the main reasons is the creativity this tool enables. There are so many scroll saw plans and projects to choose from, a person could go a lifetime, and never make it through all the available plans. A second reason is the small amount of space required to use one. You could actually use it on your kitchen table! There are many scroll saw projects that require little more that the saw itself, eliminating a huge investment in tools. These saws are almost a self contained shop, for some projects. One main purpose for using a scroll saw is the ability to cut intricate curves and joints, very quickly, and with great accuracy. They can also be used to cut dovetail joints quickly.
There is no better tool for cutting intarsia and inlays for veneer projects. The ability to stack cut veneers is a great technique for creating complicated, but beautiful pictures within veneer work. Using a very fine blade, the saw kerf is all but invisible. By stacking different variations of veneer, cutting results in perfect fitting pieces, in woods of different colors, and create very detailed pictures. Another would be the fact that other members of the family, including children, with adult supervision, can enjoy creating crafts, and realizing the pride generated by making something.
There are many different brands of scroll saws on the market today. Notable ones include Excalibur (made in Canada), RBI (made in the USA), Hegner (made in Germany), Eclipse (made in the USA), and DeWalt (originally made in Canada, but now made in the Far East). There are also a number of less expensive scroll saws made in the Far East including: Delta, Dremel (Bosch), Craftsman, Ryobi and others.
There are different types of scroll saws. The most common design is the parallel arm in which a motor is attached near the back of the arms, and the two arms always remain parallel to each other. The C-arm has a solid "C" shape with the blade being mounted between the two ends of the "C". The parallel link, used by Excalibur and DeWalt, has rods in the upper and lower arms that are "pushed" by the motor to move short (about 4 inches – 100 millimetres– long) articulated arms and the end which hold the blade. The rigid arm scroll saw, which was very popular up until the 1970s, but is no longer made, has a single-piece cast iron frame. The blade is attached to a pitman arm on the bottom which pulls the blade down, and a spring in the upper arm pulls the blade back up again. This resulted in a significant weakness in that tension on the blade changed with every stroke of the blade. Modern scroll saws are all "constant tension" saws. Uncommon and larger industrial type scroll saws, included spring or vacuum sprung scroll saws, didn't have arms. Instead they had the reciprocation mechanism at one end of the blade and a tension device on the other to return the push stroke, their advantage being the tension/spring device could be hung from the ceiling of a building and large parts that otherwise could not be cut on arm-style scroll saws could be cut, e.g., aircraft frames of the past.
Scroll saw blades come in many different types. With the exception of blades made for very light duty saws, typical blades are five inches long. The major types are:
Blades come in many different sizes ranging from #10/0 for making jewelry (about the size of a coarse hair) to #12 which is like a small band saw blade.
There is also a variation called a reverse tooth blade. On reverse tooth blades, the bottom 3/4" of the teeth are reversed (point up). This helps reduce splintering on the edges of the bottom of the cut. It does not clear sawdust out of the cut as well, making the cutting slower, producing more heat in the blade which reduces blade life, and making burning of the cut more likely. Reverse tooth blades are especially useful when cutting softwood, and plywood such as Baltic birch plywood.