You just got yourself a scroll saw after months of contemplating which model to purchase. It’s understandable how excited you are for your new benchtop machine. A scroll saw is one of those tools that you can benefit from, especially when it comes to cutting wood and other materials in fine detail. It’s something perfect for concentrated woodwork projects.
But the moment that you have the scroll saw on your shop, the next question you would obviously ask yourself is—how do I set up this tool?
Reading the manual of the scroll saw will tell you everything you need to know about the tool, from its parts and accessories to how you set it up, to how you can maintain its good working condition.
Suffice to say, read the entire manual first before you try to set up the scroll saw. You should also refer to it before you make any changes like adjusting the tension.
The typical scroll saw has the following parts—blade, on/off switch, speed control knob, upper arm, air hose, blade tension lever blade clamp thumbscrew, bevel scale, material hold down, bevel knob lock, and table. You obviously should know these parts well so you have a better understanding of how they work together in making your saw effective.
Most scroll saws today are ready for use the moment you take them out of the box. Thus the next important step in setting up the machine, right after you read the manual, is to mount the scroll saw to a bench.
It is generally recommended that a scroll saw is mounted to a solid bench instead of a plywood bench, as the latter can cause noticeable noise and vibration. If you can’t get a solid bench and what you have is just a plywood bench, you can put a soft foam pad between the bench and the saw.
For most owners, getting the correct tension on the scroll saw blade is the toughest part of setting up a scroll saw.
Getting the right tension of the scroll saw blade is important as blades will break if the blade tension is too much, or too little.
The general guideline in finding the correct blade tension is to pluck the scroll saw blade like a guitar. You should hear a sharp ping when you do so.
Of course, not everyone has the “ear”, so to speak, to determine if the scroll saw blade has been correctly tensioned. The fact is that the scroll saw blade would make a sound when you pluck or strum it.
One way to find the right tension of the scroll saw blade is to feel some resistance when you strum the back of the scroll saw blade. When there’s resistance when you pluck the scroll saw blade, you are almost near the right tension of the scroll saw blade.
Thus it can be said that finding the right blade tension is really a trial-and-error thing. You should not really expect to get it on your first try.
Squaring the scroll saw blade to the table is important if you are working on a project where the pieces must fit together. The same goes if you are into stacking cutting or cutting thicker stock.
Most scroll saws these days would only require you to move the table to adapt to 90 degrees. You’ll also have to look into the inserts, and make sure that these fit nicely and not chewed up. The insert must also let you easily square up the workpieces on the table.
Inserts on new saws aren’t really a concern. But these can be a problem when you have an older saw. The easiest way to go about this is to make your own by using the original insert as a template. You may even use the scroll saw to cut its own inserts. You should make sure, however, that the material you are to use would be as thick as the original insert. This would ensure that the top is absolutely level with the table top.
Some of the materials for inserts that you may want to use are soft aluminum alloys, solid wood, hardboard, and clear polycabornate plastics.
Since you want to have smooth cuts when using a scroll saw, it is important to set up and use the hold down and dust blower.
Both parts of the scroll saw play pivotal roles. The hold down barely touches the work surface. It helps keep a workpiece from catching a tooth on a quirky grain, and then jumping off line as you cut. On the other hand the dust blower keeps the marked lines free from sawdust so you can easily follow your pattern.
Most scroll saws today have sawdust blowers. But if the scroll saw you have doesn’t have one, you should consider adding this part. You may even want to improvise. One popular way to do so is to add an aquarium air pump to the scroll saw.
Save for finding the right blade tension, setting up a scroll saw isn’t that complicated. It helps that most scroll saws today can work right out of the box. And you can always refer to the user manual if you are having difficulties in setting up your saw.
Now that you have an idea how to get your scroll saw up and running, why don’t you start setting up the said machine so you can get productive as soon as possible?
Now that’s an interesting question. Not everyone, after all, wants to do intricate designs on wood. Metal is as popular, if not more, for such creations. In fact, there are certain things for which wood wouldn’t really do. A knife is one such example, and if you’ve seen all those awesome knife designs and wondered how you could do such designs yourself, a scroll saw is probably your best bet. So the answer to the question is a strong affirmative. Yes, it definitely can, as long as your scroll saw has the right kind of blades, because, eventually, it’s the blade that does the cutting job, as you’ve probably discovered by now
Finding the right blade
Your battle with cutting metal with a scroll saw is won virtually the moment you find the most suitable blade for the job. For metal cutting, you need a scroll saw with skip teeth that are also ideal for cutting through the insides and the panels.
With skip tooth blades, you can use your scroll saw to cut through virtually any kind of metal—from copper to brass, cold rolled steel, bronze, and aluminum sheet. It is, in fact, perfect for cutting soft metal up to 1/8th of an inch in thickness. And what’s more, you can cut through a single sheet or even a stack of them with such a scroll saw.
You can check out the link for more on finding the right kind of blade for your metal cutting requirements.
Broadly speaking, however, it’s not a good idea to use a woodcutting blade for a metal cutting job because it’s a sure way of ruining the teeth of the blade. For obvious reasons, metal cutting blades need to have hard teeth and are available in various sizes to suit your diverse metal cutting needs.
How to do it
Now that you’ve got the right kind of blade fitted in to your scroll sawright kind of blade fitted in to your scroll saw, the next step is to figure out the best possible way of going about the task of cutting metal. Depending on the type of metal you’re working on, you may or may not need to use oil or lubrication. Aluminum, for instance, is better cut with lubrication while gold, brass and even copper are quite fine when cut dry.
Soft vs. hard metal
Metal, as we all know, comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and more importantly, in a variety of hardness. Quite frankly, a scroll saw is just not the thing you need to cut through hard metal. But if you really have no option, and have decided to go for a scroll saw, then just take care of a few things to ensure that the blade doesn’t break apart during the cutting process. For one, use a slow speed setting. Secondly, the blade should be well lubricated, and finally, let the metal go through the blade slowly.
But even then, there are limits to the kind of hard metal you can use a scroll saw on. For a hard metal that’s more than ¼” thick, you will need to find another saw since a scroll saw is just not going to help you with this one. Of course you can always find a high-end scroll saw with a super high-end blade if it’s a somewhat hard metal that you want to cut through.
Keep an eye on safety
You also need to be aware of the fact that the risk of injury while cutting metal with a scroll saw is higher than while cutting wood, so you should put the metal between two pieces of plywood, which will protect the metal from forming a burr at the bottom while also preventing metal pieces from dangerously flying around.
This relates to the operational functioning of the scroll saw, which can be electrical or battery operated, or even manual. The battery-powered scroll saw is generally found to be more convenient, even as compared to the electrical one, which has a cord trailing it as you cut. How to proceed with the metal cutting process is something you can easily find online.
How to proceed with the metal cutting process is something you can easily find online. Here’s one such link for you to check out. At the end of the day, your success will depend on how meticulously you follow the guidelines.
As you can see, metal cutting is possible with a scroll saw but you need to be careful about a few things before you start using this tool for such a purpose. The metal you propose to cut shouldn’t be too hard, and the blades you use should be ideally suited for metal cutting. If you try to cut metal with a wood scroll saw blade you’re going to end up ruining the metal piece instead of transforming it into an enviable creation.
Then there are the safety considerations which you need to pay attention to in order to minimize the risk of injury, which, unfortunately, is more the case with metal as compared to wood.
And finally, of course, it’s the way you do it that makes the big difference to whether you’re successful or not, and what kind of end product you come up with. You can’t possibly hope to do a great job if you don’t follow the rules of metal cutting, which are somewhat different from wood-cutting guidelines.