Flying Dutchman Scroll Saw Blades - Fine Scroll Saw Patterns
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Scroll Saw Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Safety First - As far as powered woodworking tools go, the scroll saw is among the safest. However, do not be fooled -- Any power tool can be dangerous. You'll want to wear your safety goggles as usual and have good ventilation and a mask. 

Keep your fingers clear of the blade and mind the reciprocating arm of the scroll saw as it can easily break a finger or even worse.  Most scroll saws are equipped with a spring in the arm so that when a blade breaks, the broken top half does not fly down into the project or your hand.  Regardless, it would be nice to know whether your saw will react this way or not. 

Use the work piece guard to hold down your project snugly, while still allowing it to move freely. As you become more experienced, you may decide that the guard is not necessary or that it even gets in the way.  As a beginner, you should use the guard.

The scroll saw is a great tool for young woodworking students to learn.  It cuts slowly, so there's less "quick-thinking" to do. If you ever get stuck, you can just shut the power off and relax. You should always remain alert while working with any machine -- and good lighting is essential.

Choosing a Scroll Saw - There are many features to consider when choosing a scroll saw which you might not think about before you know the hobby, but once you do know the "ins and outs", you may quickly wish you had thought of these things prior to your purchase:

Blade Suspension -The blade suspension mechanism you choose will determine how you operate the machine, what projects you can do, and blade availability.  Read more about Pin-End and Plain-End blades below, as this is the main differentiation with regards to blade suspension systems -- they accept one of these two types of blades.  It is a common theme in the world of scroll sawing that the Plain-End (that is, pin-LESS) blades are the best way to go.

Quick-release blade clamps and a forward-mounted tension adjustment mechanism makes it much easier to both change blade types and to thread blades through the stock for making inside cuts -- something you will be doing quite often.

Two types of blades - All scroll saw blades have several characteristics in common, but there are also many different varieties of blades.  Here we'll only discuss the general features. You should not listen to any one source to make up your mind.  You should try many kinds of blades and decide for yourself what works best for you. Our Scroll Reverse  INTRO-PACK  is a great package to start with you receive one dozen of six different blades sizes.

All scroll saw blades are very thin. Some look like pieces of human hair! All blades also have numerous teeth, cutting surfaces, just like any cutting tool must have.  The number of Teeth-Per-Inch (or T.P.I.) depends on the purpose of the blade. A general rule of thumb to go by is the more TPI, the smoother and more accurate the cut, but also the slower and more fragile. 

Scroll saws will accept one of two types of blades: Pin-End blades and Plain-End blades (flat blades).  Plain-End blades are what you would imagine when thinking of a generic cutting blade.  This type of blade is totally flat and is pinched in place between the jaws of small clamps on the scroll saw.  One clamp is above the work table of the scroll saw, one is below the table, and the blade is threaded through a cut in the table so it may reciprocate up and down freely. 

The Plain-End blades are more widely available and are considered the standard for most long-time scroll sawyers.  Many different varieties of Plain-End blades are available from many different stores, so you'll always be able to get them. 

Pin-End blades, on the other hand, have a tiny cross pin in each end.  The cross pin is the main difference between the two types of blades. These pins rest in a hook-like holder. The upside and main selling point of Pin-End systems is that they are much easier and quicker to change.  The downside to Pin-End blades is mainly two-fold: there is less availability and, as you get more ambitious with your choice of projects, the Pin-End blades (because of the pins) may not be able to be threaded through very small holes required by these projects.

Seeing is Believing - Never buy a tool without seeing it run first. A well-balanced tool of any variety will not vibrate very much, if at all.  Your scroll saw should run smoothly and quietly. 

If there is a blade installed, it should appear as a crisp, thin black line as it goes up and down -- if it is blurred, something is out of whack (maybe it is easy to fix...maybe it is a permanent flaw).

Variable Speed - Some people will swear that you must have a variable speed control on any worthy scroll saw.  As we've said before with regards to blades, you should consider and make your own mind up. Some projects may require a slower cutting speed than others. 

A high speed (1,200 - 1,800 Strokes-Per-Minute) may be needed to cut a very hard wood or get a fine cut.  A low speed (400 - 800 SPM) may be used to cut a softer wood.

Some saws have one speed, others have two, and still others are totally adjustable to most any SPM.  It is our opinion that a two speed scroll saw -- slow and fast -- is the best choice for the beginner concerned about cost, as it will allow you some flexibility without really paying for it.  

Throat Capacity -This is the amount of space between the cutting edge of the blade and the front of the reciprocating arm swivel or mounting point.  The throat capacity determines how large of a work piece the saw can handle.  As you begin to push the work piece into the cutting blade, it starts to move toward the back of the saw where the arm swivels.  At some point, unlike on a table saw, the wood will not be able to go any farther.  This is inherent in the design of all scroll saws.  A great throat capacity is about 18".  Unless you are a true professional with unique needs, a saw with 18" will seldom cause a problem.  It should be noted that the scroll saw is a specialized tool and not made for every job, rather a specific one.  

Stand-alone or Table-mounted? -- Both usually have the same throat capacity and features.  The advantage of stand-alone models is their (usually) built-in dampening effect.  Vibration is reduced due to the design of the stand (or at least should be).  Table-mounted saws may vibrate more, depending on what they are mounted to -- if you opt for table mounting keep this in mind.

Optional Accessories - You can go wild buying all sorts of extras for your scroll saw.  As you might imagine, some things are more useful than others.  Some are gimmicks and some have actual value.

Blade releases / Quick Clamps -- In the past, most scroll saws required a hex key or special wrench to operate the blade clamps.  Today, more toolmakers are offering models already equipped with blade clamps you can release or tighten with your fingers.  If your saw isn't already fitted with these, you can probably update as many aftermarket parts are available.  Highly recommended! 

Blowers- Just like it sounds, these devices are air hoses that can be positioned where the blade contacts the wood stock, blowing away the sawdust that builds up.  Not really necessary, but expect a workout for your lungs if you don't have one.

Magnifiers / Lights - A magnifier and lamp are often combined and both are very useful as you get into more ambitious projects.  This accessory magnifies the pattern lines making them easier to follow and cut.  Head-mounted units are also available.  Lights are more important than the magnifying aspect.  Good lighting is essential!

Foot-activated Power Switches - These devices, as their name so aptly describes, sit on the floor and allow the operator to shut the machine down by simply tapping the toe. Tap it again to start back up.

A Little More About Blades - We've already discussed the two main blade types, Pin-end and Plain-end.

Now let's talk about which kind of blade to use for specific types of woods and projects. We've already discussed T.P.I. (teeth per inch) - and depending on what you're cutting, the optimum TPI will vary.  The general rule, again is, the fewer the TPI, the more aggressive and rough the cut is going to be, while the more teeth, the slower and finer the cut.  Blades are designated by numbers, odd numbers: 1's, 3's, 5's, etc. 

There is no such thing as a concrete blade guide which will tell you exactly which blade to use for each application -- it's really up to the user, but for a quick example:

1/4" birch = No.3 blade

1/2" poplar = No.7 blade

1" oak = No.9 or No.12 blade.  

As you become more accustomed to the scroll saw, you will learn the blades. Here we are giving you the general information, but while a No.7 blade might be recommended by one scroll sawyer for 3/4" oak, another scroll sawyer will tell you a No.5 is better, and yet another a No.9 or 12.  Use the info herein to get you started, but we highly recommend you experiment.  

Standard Blades - Standard blades have teeth in one direction. 

Reverse-Teeth Blades - Reverse-teeth blades, like the Flying Dutchman we offer, have most teeth in one direction just like a standard blade, but they also have a few teeth going in the opposite direction so when the blade slashes back up through the wood a smoother cut is made.  These blades will cause you a little less sanding time.

Spiral Blades - These blades have teeth all around the blade.  Imagine a cylindrical shredder that can cut in any direction.  They sound great, but problems are often reported such as: breaking, difficulty in controlling cut, dulling quickly, and poor cut.  Try them for yourself maybe. Regardless of which blades you choose, you should make the decision as to which are best for your style of scrolling. 

You don't need a huge supply of blades to make nice projects. Starting with a set of No.3's, 5's, 7's and 9's is great.  There is a lot to know and learn about scroll saw blades, so just jump in and get started feeling out what works best for you.

A Few Quick Tips - A makeshift blower can be made out of an aquarium air pump which can be obtained at garage sales or a local pet store relatively cheaply.  Put a soft metal (copper) tube at the end of the hose (where it will blow from) and crimp the end in order to increase the velocity of the airflow exiting.  Adjust the hold-down so it applies enough pressure to keep the wood on the table, but not so much that you can't feed the stock through. Many scroll sawyers will remove the guard all together once experienced. 

Before cutting, turn on the saw and make sure the upper arm isn't hitting anything.  Make a test cut to see that it cuts properly before starting on the "real" work piece.  

 When working with hardwood or thick pieces, set the saw at a higher speed.

When working with thin or softwood it is good to use a slower speed. 

Be mindful of letting the saw run w/o moving the wood, too, as you may end up with burns.  The feed rate is very important.  Never push the wood through too fast.  Work slowly with a gentle pressure. If your blade is bowing under the pressure, you're moving too fast!  

The best tip of all: Take your time and enjoy the tool -- have patience!

Welcome to the wonderful hobby of scroll sawing.



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