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Scroll-Saw Basics

A scroll saw can be used for everything from making intricate puzzle pieces to cutting through metal pipe.

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It's often confused with a jigsaw, but a scroll saw is more heavy-duty and may be used to cut several materials. The scroll saw's ability to make intricate cuts is due to its small blade. Blades are measured in TPI (teeth per inch), and the more teeth per inch, the more intricate the work a saw can do. The greater the TPI, the faster a blade can make turns.

Modern scroll saws have a knob that permits a machine to be adjusted to different speeds. Most scroll saws can make between 400 and 1,800 strokes per minute. The saw's table tilts and may be locked into place at various angles for cutting bevels.

Its foot allows the user to hold the work piece securely to the saw. (You can do away with the foot once you get familiar with the tool.)

When making a cut with a scroll saw, make sure the tension is set properly. To do so, place a piece of wood at the front of the blade. Tighten the blade until it can move only about 1/8 inch. Scroll-saw blades tend to veer over to the side, so when making a straight cut, the wood must be fed into the machine at an angle from the right. To cut out a corner, put a little pressure on the side of the blade, and spin the wood around.

Scroll-saw blades are inexpensive -- costing from 15 to 75 cents each -- and easy to replace. To remove a blade, unlock the tension, pull down the chuck and pull out the blade. Clean blades with turpentine or steel wool.

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