What is a scroll saw - the one stop shop for all the answers | Table Sawz
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What is a scroll saw - the one stop shop for all the answers

What is a scroll saw?

An extremely small and compact gadget, a scroll saw is basically a tool to cut intricate curves and patterns into a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, plastic, shell, bone etc. It can be both manual or pedal-operated, or electric/battery operated. It works with a blade, the size, type and quality of which will determine the use of the scroll saw.

The delicacy of its cutting ability comes from the fineness of the scroll saw’s blade, which makes it a perfect alternative to a power jigsaw or a hand coping saw, both of which stand at a marked disadvantage as compared to a scroll saw. While using a hand coping saw can be somewhat complex, and causes stress on the hands, a power jigsaw lacks the finesse of the scroll saw.

The origin

In use for the past several centuries, a scroll saw gets its name from making scroll-head designs as in sculptural ornaments and from making traditional scrollwork. In its earliest documented form, it can be traced to the 1500s, when a German craftsman made a tool to develop fine narrow saw blades. This was followed by the invention of a frame, by a French workman, to hold these blades together for cutting intricate patterns. What the Frenchman developed was a Buhl saw—a frame that’s quite like the fret and coping saws used today.

Even the use of thin blades in a reciprocating machine, as is done in the modern scroll saw, dates to before 1800s. In fact, the first recorded patent for such a machine was reported in 1892, when a Mr. M’Duff received it for his machine, which was found to cut out Buhl-work with “more facility and accuracy.”

How it works

A pivoting table is what makes a scroll saw deliver all those beautifully intricate lines, patterns and designs, which can easily become your neighbor’s envy. The pivoting table helps create curves along the edges, giving any material an amazing depth and beauty.

The reciprocating blade used by a scroll saw makes it possible to remove the blade and place it through a pre-drilled hole, which means you can actually use a scroll saw to make interior cutouts without going through an early slot.

Amazing variety

Yes, surprisingly for such a small little tool, the variety a scroll saw comes in is quite amazing. The basic classification of scroll saws relates to the throat size—the distance between the blade and the rear frame. Eventually, it’s the throat size that determines the size of the wood or other material you can cut with the scroll saw.

From commercial use to hobby

An interesting facet about a scroll saw is that it is as widely used for commercial cutting of intricate patterns as a hobby tool. Since it’s small and compact, affordable, and takes very little space, besides not requiring too many accessories, a scroll saw can actually be put to excellent use by someone who simply enjoys wood cutting as a hobby. The inherent accuracy of a scroll saw as a cutting tool makes it perfect for a beginner.

Types of scroll saws

Apart from the blade type, the main attribute that defines the type of a scroll saw is its arm. The parallel arm design, which has two arms that are consistently parallel to one another with a motor attached to their back, is a common variety. Then there’s the C-arm type, in which the arm is shaped as “C” and the blade is fixed between the two ends of the “C.”

Another common type is the parallel link scroll saw, which is fitted with rods in the upper and lower arms, pushed by a motor. Though there was another earlier type—the rigid arm scroll saw, which was made of single-piece cast iron frame—that’s now become defunct.

The scroll saw type also depends on the blade, which may be skip tooth, double skip tooth, crown/two-way, spiral blades, metal cutting blades, diamond blades etc. The weight of the blade also makes a difference to the type of the scroll saw and its function.

You may also come across a reverse tooth blade, in which the bottom ¾” of the teeth is reversed, preventing reduction in splintering on the bottom edges of the cut. The modern version of it is the ultra-reverse, in which the blades are configured in such a way that 4-5 teeth are down, followed by one up, with the same pattern repeated through the length of the blade.


Safety is yet another attractive feature of a scroll saw, which makes this tool one of the safest for its purpose, despite the thin blade that usually comes with it. So the chances of a scroll saw leading to inadvertent injuries are quite small. That probably is an additional reason for the growing popularity of a scroll saw as an artisan’s tool. It also explains why the latest scroll saws come equipped with a host of new features, such as variable speed control to cut through different types of materials. Some of the better models even have a dust clearance pipe to help blow the dust away from the cut point.

The website http://www.am-wood.com/tools/scrollsaw.html offers good insight into the modern features of the new scroll saws on the market. So check it out and see what suits your needs, after taking your budget into account, of course.

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