How to Set Up a Scroll Saw | Table Sawz
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How to Set Up a Scroll Saw

How to Set Up a Scroll Saw

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?

This article will teach you how to set up a scroll saw.

Read the manual

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.

Familiarize yourself with the parts of the scroll saw

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.

Mounting the scroll saw

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.

Expect a scroll saw to come with mounting holes and appropriate hardware like bolts, jam nuts and hex nuts. Refer to the instruction manual on how to mount the scroll saw to the benchtop.

Getting the correct tension on the blade.

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.

Moreover, if the scroll saw blade breaks right after you started using it, you can be sure that the tension is too much. If the scroll saw blade wanders, then the tension is too little.

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.

How to setup a scroll saw

Squaring the blade to the table.

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.

Setting up the hold down and the blower

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?

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