One of the first power tools I bought and taught myself to use was a Scroll saw.  What is a scroll saw?  A scroll saw is a small saw with a reciprocating blade that moves up and down. It can be used for cutting small curved shapes. The blade is so small; you can drill a hole and feed the blade through the hole thereby allowing you to cut a shape on the interior of your project.  Operating a scroll saw feels much the same as operating a sewing machine.

Scroll saw

Getting Started Using a Scroll Saw

I became interested in learning to use a scroll saw after visiting a local craft fair and seeing the amazing work some people had on display.  It is a fairly simple tool to learn how to use and very safe.  To get started, you need a scroll saw, some thin wood and a pattern.  The best wood to start with is Baltic Birch Plywood. It is very easy to cut, doesn’t chip and is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. Having said that, you can use any wood that suits the project you are working on. The thickness is what is important.  The thinner the wood, the easier to cut. I rarely use wood any thicker than 1 inch. My favorite wood, if I can find it is cherry.

How to Scroll Saw

A wide variety of patterns are available on the internet or from books.  Print them or photo copy them to the size you wish to make.  I use a spray adhesive available at any craft supply store to adhere the pattern to the wood. Then I drill holes, the size of the blade, in all the interior spaces that need to be removed. Now I am ready to begin.  I thread the blade into each hole and begin cutting. I recommend you use the safety foot available on most scroll saws to hold your work piece flat on the bed of the saw until you become comfortable with the process.

My final cut is the outside shape.  I then remove the pattern from the wood by sanding if necessary.  Depending on the project I sand the edges of all the cuts just enough to remove any sharp edges or splinters


Thunderbird – Cherry Wood

You Can Use Many Things with a Scroll Saw

There is a wide variety of items you can make with a scroll saw. You can make wood art that you can frame, wooden Christmas tree ornaments, wooden boxes or chess pieces!  The variety is endless and the results can be amazing. One of my favorite projects on a scroll saw is making decorative forms that contain a clock face.  These clocks are both decorative and useful and make excellent gifts for friends and family.  In addition I really like cutting decorative forms that can be framed.  I have a favorite of mine hanging on the wall in my living room.

Framed Native in Profile – Cherry Wood

Unicorn – Cherry Wood

Compounding Cutting using a Scroll Saw

In addition, there is a technique called compound cutting. This is where you have a pattern on the side and top of your wood, usually a block. I cut out the pattern on the side. Using clear packing tape, I wrap the block with tape so that no pieces are removed and recut the same block using the pattern on the top. I then remove all the tape, and take apart the block. What results is a 3 dimensional piece. This is the technique I have used to make a complete chess set and various other items like letter openers using scrap wood of various types.

Letter Openers – Compound Cut

The Scroll Saw can be used for many purposes

The scroll saw is very easy to learn.  I cut out my first piece in roughly 2 hours the first night I had a saw. In addition, I use my scroll saw countless times when working in my workshop to cut small pieces when I am making or repairing furniture.  I have to say it is probably one of my most used and favorite tools in my shop.

The first scroll saw I bought was a used saw I bought off a friend. Once I had taught myself to use it and determined that I would probably use it a great deal in the future, I sold the old saw at a garage sale and bought a new model. Most important to me was to have a saw with a Quick Release option for changing the blades. This made the saw easier to use, quicker to complete a project and generally more fun.  I would never go back to using a scroll saw without this feature.

Scroll Saws can be used to create Wood Art

Some woodworkers specialize in scroll sawing only and develop this craft to a high level of art. It is a great way to get started and develop confidence using a power tool and impress your friends and family at the same time. I find it fun and relaxing.