Beginning Scroll Saw Cuts. Craft scroll saw

How to Use a Scroll Saw

This article was co-authored by Josh Goldenberg. Josh Goldenberg is a Residential Remodeling Expert and the Co-Founder of 5blox, based in the Greater Los Angeles area. With more than seven years of experience, Josh and his team specialize in luxurious and sustainable home renovations. 5blox is fully licensed and bonded.

There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Scroll saws are used to cut intricate designs in wood and metal craft projects. Draw your design onto the material first, before putting on your safety gear and adjusting the settings on the machine. Start cutting out your design by testing the scroll saw on a piece of scrap wood, choosing the right speed, and carefully guiding your project through the blade. Make gifts for your friends and family to practice using different types of wood and new designs, and watch your scroll sawing confidence grow!

Setting Up the Scroll Saw

  • Positive space is where the wood is still intact and negative space is where the wood has been removed.
  • The bridges are the positive spaces on the wood that connect the different parts.
  • Stick to a simple design if you are just beginning to use a scroll saw. For example, practice making a leaf or a flower first, with only a few areas of negative space. [2] X Research source
  • There are many scroll saw patterns for beginners available online.
  • Tie back your hair if it is long before you use the scroll saw.
  • You can also wear a dust mask if you prefer.
  • Make sure that you aren’t wearing baggy sleeves or long jewelry that could get caught in the blade. [3] X Research source

Check that the scroll saw is secured correctly on your work surface. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for your scroll saw to learn how to bolt, screw, or clamp the machine onto the surface. Follow all of the instructions fully.

  • Smaller blades tend to cut through the wood more slowly. This also means that you have more control when you are using the scroll saw.
  • Intricate designs are more accurately cut with smaller blades.
  • If you are going to be cutting more than 1 piece of wood, consider how thick the overall stack will be. Although the individual pieces of wood might be thin, you will need to use a larger blade.
  • The right tension of the blade is about finding the balance between having the blade tight enough so that it doesn’t cave and is accurate, but not so tight that it snaps. [6] X Research source
  • You can also check the tension of the blade by plucking it like a guitar string. A blade that has the right tension will make a sharp ping noise.
  • Generally, the larger the blade the higher the tension it can withstand.
  • Some scroll saws don’t come with a light source. If this is the case, get a bright lamp and position it so that you can see the saw and your work fully. You can also purchase specialty lights that can be mounted directly onto a scroll saw.
  • If your machine has a dust blower, switch this on too. This will remove the dust from your work as you use the scroll saw so that you can see your design clearly.

Cutting Out Your Project

  • Practicing on a piece of scrap wood first will also let you make sure that the lighting is sufficient.
  • Stick to a slower speed if you are just beginning to use a scroll saw, as this will give you better control as you learn. [9] X Research source

Choose a faster speed if the wood is a softwood. Softwoods such as maple require faster cutting speeds when using a scroll saw than harder types of wood. If you are just beginning to use a scroll saw, test out the different speeds on a piece of scrap wood first to make sure that you feel confident operating it at a higher speed. [10] X Research source

  • Keep an eye on your fingers and the blade at all times to make sure that the blade doesn’t get too close to your hands. [11] X Research source
  • Keep both hands on the wood at all times. Otherwise this might cause the scroll saw to jump and to make a jagged cut.
  • Stick to the speed of the machine. Never rush the wood through the machine faster than the speed that the blade is cutting, otherwise your fingers could slip or your design could be crooked.
  • You don’t need to worry about removing the wood and turning it if you are using a spiral blade. These can cut in all directions, so you simply just need to turn your project as necessary. [12] X Research source
  • If you aren’t going to be using the scroll saw again soon, detach it from the workbench and store it away.

Community QA

A small hole is drilled, then the blade is removed and placed into the hole. Cut around it, then remove the blade once you’re done.

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Never put your fingers in direct line with the blade. Always hold the wood down tight. Never push the wood into the blade, only gently push the wood.

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beginning, scroll, cuts, craft

It all depends on your project. The thinner the blade, the easier it will be to make tighter and quicker turns, which are good if you need to cut out small things. Thicker blades are the opposite. They make it difficult to make quick and tight turns, but they are good for cutting out thicker pieces of wood.

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Beginning Scroll Saw Cuts

So you’ve gotten your scroll saw dusted off, or out of the box, and you’re ready to make your first beginning scroll saw cuts. Go back and read the getting started with a scroll saw post if you haven’t yet.

Prep Scroll Saw

Wax the table with paste wax. The wax prevents rusting and also helps your material glide more easily over the surface. Be sure to use a furniture/woodworking type wax and not an auto wax with silicone.

Use a paper towel to scoop out some wax and spread it over the table liberally. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and feels a bit tacky. Use clean paper towels to buff the wax in circular motions. The table should be smooth and shiny. If there are cloudy areas, continue to buff.

Install Scroll Saw Blade

Follow instructions for your specific scroll saw for installing the blade. Likely there are tightening screws for the top of the blade and the bottom, under the hole in the table.

Install the blade so the teeth point down. On smaller blades, where it’s harder to see, try lightly running your thumb lightly over the teeth to see which direction drags or catches more. Or try this technique over a pant leg and look for which direction provides resistance.

Set Scroll Saw Blade Tension

Tension, or tightness of the blade is important for getting clean cuts and avoiding blades breaking.

The best way to recognize good tension is to watch a few YouTube videos. You want a kind of high pitched sound when you “pluck” the blade from behind like a string.

On my DeWALT scroll saw I usually keep the tension at 4 or 4.5.

Remember to loosen the tension anytime you’re changing the blade though!

Scroll Saw Speed

Scroll saws will usually have either a high and low speed setting, or an adjustable dial. When starting out, it’s nice to keep it at a fairly low speed while you get the hang of sawing and following patterns.

As your experience builds, you can increase the speed to get through projects a little quicker. Cutting practice lines is a good time to experiment with some different speeds too, to see how they feel to you.

Cutting with a Scroll Saw

The most important thing I learned when starting with the scroll saw was to let the saw do the work! Your job is to hold the wood down to the table, and guide the pattern line, but don’t push the wood into the blade.

Forcing or “hogging” the wood into the blade can cause it to overheat, bend, or break. Setting the speed higher will allow the wood to be cut faster and you can guide it faster.

Scroll Saw Practice Sheets

I designed a 3 page printable template that you can just print on regular printer paper.

Use this form to get the printable PDF emailed to you

Attach scroll saw pattern to wood

MDF is mostly what I cut, but even if you plan on cutting hardwood, MDF is a great material for practicing. A 2×4 feet piece of 1/4 inch MDF is about 25 at home improvement stores. You will need to cut it down at home with a miter saw or jigsaw. OR, you can have it cut down at the store. You’ll need pieces that you can maneuver through your scroll saw.

Cut a piece of clear Contact paper to cover the MDF. Spray a light layer of Spray adhesive on the back of the pattern and press it down on top of the contact paper.

After the cuts are complete, the contact paper peels up super easily from the wood, whereas a paper pattern glued right to the wood would be much harder to remove.

On practice cuts where you’re not actually using the cut shapes, you can skip the contact paper step.

Types of scroll saw cuts

Patterns that you find or design will have these different types of cuts that all require their own practice.

Straight cuts

Straight cuts are when you’re cutting the side of a rectangle, or of a capital letter. If the blade starts to drift, it can be hard to get it back on track. On your specific saw, you may even feel like you have to guide the wood at a slight angle to keep a straight line.

Curve cuts

Curved cuts are needed on shapes like circles or on script letters. It takes practice to see how quickly to turn the material to get it to follow the correct curve line. A sharp curve needs to swivel pretty soon while a large curve will turn more gradually.

Inside cuts

Inside cuts need a hole drilled first so the scroll saw blade can be threaded through. I always cut the inside cuts first, so I drill all the holes before taking the material to the saw.

Loosen the tension and then release the top of the blade and pull it out. Thread it through the back side of the wood and then tighten it back in place. Reset the tension.

Cut out the inside shape, following the inside line. When I get to a point, I just curve past it and come back from other directions to get into the point.

Kid’s Name Plaque Beginner Scroll Saw Project

When the cut is complete, turn off the machine, loosen the tension, and remove the top of the blade to take the wood off and thread it into the next inside cut.

By cutting the inside parts first, you have more material to hold on to as you work. Then move to the outside cuts.


For an outside corner, I will cut straight off pass the end, then spin the wood around to make a small circle and position the blade to come right back in a straight line on the other side of the corner.

Now, this technique won’t work if you’re cutting something like a puzzle, where all the pieces need to fit next to each other when you’re done. But turning sharp or right corners like that can be practice for another day.

Beginning scroll saw projects

Once you have done a bit of practice and feel like you’re starting to get the hang of it, go ahead and jump into your first project! And remember that every time you’re cutting, it’s good practice!

My suggestion is to start with typing out your name in a script font – size it to fill a page and print it out. Attach to MDF and practice cutting it. Then tuck it away in a drawer and pull it out to check your progress now and the. It’s quite satifying!

After that, start looking for or designing your own simple projects. You can make this modern scroll saw fox pattern that is just simple shapes and no inside cuts.

Type out names, or download SVGs even to print out. Look for shape outlines or draw your own. Print larger designs by increasing the design to fit on multiple pages then cut the paper to line them up on the wood.

Other things to consider when looking for beginner scroll saw projects are:

  • Designs that don’t need to fit together – each piece is cut out separately, and this is particularly helpful if you mess up on a single piece and need to recut just that one.
  • Shapes and fonts that can look hand-drawn. When you stray from the pattern line it’s not as obvious as if it were a completely precise design.
  • Just start cutting! Each project is practice piece too.

Have fun making your first scroll saw cuts and let me know if you have any questions! Read the next post on broken scroll saw blades.

Scroll Saw Craft Ideas

I have found a great new hobby, it is called photo cutouts. I have had a pile of pieces of acrylic taking up room in my garage. So the other day while I was moving the pile once again, I asked myself, “What can I do this stuff?”. Then it hit me, I remembered a long time ago there was a store that sold photo cutouts, that is where you take a photograph glue in onto the plastic then cut out the main subject with a scroll saw.

Well I took it one step further I printed two copies of the same photograph. One on just regular paper, the other on glossy paper, I glued the plain paper photograph onto a blank piece of wood, which I found at a garage sale for 50. Then I cut out the photograph on the glossy paper and glued it to the one on the wood blank, and presto I have pop out photograph which looks 3D.

Hope you enjoy. Oh by the way, the pitcher in the photograph is my grandson Brady McCoy from Sedan, Kansas.


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Craft: Duck Push Toy

This duck is sure to delight the little ones. It is a wood project, and does require either a scroll saw or a jig saw, but the smiles of those little ones is a great reward in return for time spent on the project.

Craft: Magnetic Teddy for the Fridge

This little wooden bear has a magnet to be used for displaying a child’s drawings. Made of wood, but this pattern could also be used with craft foam.

Making a ‘Honey Do’ Hammer

This woodworking project creates the perfect gift for Father’s Day or dad’s birthday. This is a page about making a “Honey Do” hammer.

Stacks on stacks. #charcuterieboard #scrollsaw #handmade #woodworking

Making Trees Using a Scroll Saw

This is a page about making trees using a scroll saw. A scroll saw allows you to cut intricate curves in wood more delicately than using a power jigsaw.

Scroll Saw

Scroll Sawing or Fretwork has been a woodworking craze in the United States since the early 1800’s. It came to other countries like Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, and England centuries before.

The essential difference between yesteryear and present-day is how we scroll saw. In the early years, they used a fret saw frame that was made of wood with some metal reinforcement. The blade was put in the saw and you worked it in an up and down motion.

Olson Reverse Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Reverse Tooth blades have the same performance as characteristics as our skip tooth fret saw blades with the added benefit of reverse teeth for a smooth, splinter free finish on top an bottom sufaces. Excellent blade for eliminating tear-out.

Olson Single Skip Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Olson Skip Tooth blades are available in many sizes, offering a range from #3/0 for finest cutting, to the #12 for sawing of thicker materials. For hand and machine sawing of wood, plastic and fibrous materials. Skip tooth blades cut fast.

Olson Precision Ground Reverse Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Olson Precision Ground Reverse Tooth Scroll Saw Blades If you are looking for high quality scroll saw blades, you need some of these olson precision ground reverse tooth scroll saw blades. These scroll saw blades are made of the finest carbon steel.

Walnut 1/8 x 8 x 24

Despite being one of the hardest woods to carve, Walnut is also one of the most beautiful, thanks to their natural beauty. Treat yourself to some of the best lumber available for fine furniture, boxes, instruments, scroll sawing, and other woodworking.

Pegas Modified Geometry Scroll Saw Blades

Pegas Modified Geometry Scroll Saw Blades The Pegas Modified Geometry Scroll saw blades are known to be some of the best scroll saw blades on the market. The specific tooth design of the blade makes it extremely proficient. The Modified Geometry.

Cherry 1/8 x 8 x 24

Cherry Hardwood boards feature some of the ultimate qualities for a woodworker. Discover the natural beauty of Cherry Hardwood by incorporating it into your wood project today! All Boards are 24″ Long Our Cherry Hardwood is top of the line Select.

Galaxy Reverse Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Galaxy Blades are top of the line blades made in Germany with the highest quality steel.Galaxy blades are very sharp and do not stretch as you are sawing.Reverse tooth blades feature 6 teeth that point upward, creating a splinterfree cut

Maple 1/8 x 8 x 24

Maple Lumber Maple Hardwood boards feature some of the ultimate qualities for a woodworker. Discover the natural beauty of Maple Hardwood by incorporating it into your wood project today! Our Maple Hardwood is top of the line Select Better.

Eberle Single Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Eberle Single Tooth Scroll Saw Blades Fast cutting high-quality saw blade with large skip volume for cutting economically clean edges and corners on wood and plastic. Blades are 5 inches long One dozen blades per pack Plain End Blades.

Red Oak 1/8 x 6 x 24

This Red Oak 1/8 x 6 x 24 hardwood is perfect for those special woodworking projects! Red Oak Lumber is lumber that has been used for decades for furniture, building, crafts, flooring, and even posts. Its versatility is amazing. Red oak.

Olson Double Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Olson Double Tooth scroll saw blades are preferred by many scroll saw users. They are easy to distinguish from our regular skip tooth fret saw blades as having two teeth together followed by a flat space for efficient chip removal. Double.

Olson Crown Tooth Scroll Saw Blades

Olson Crown Tooth Scroll Saw Blades Unique tooth design allows the blade to cut on both the up and the down stroke.Cuts a little slower for more control, which is especially good for delicate fretwork. Finish is smooth with clean, sharp, splinter-free.

Adding your products to cart

The first power tools came to light in the late 1800’s with foot-powered scroll saws. These included a stool and pedals attached to the work surface of the scroll saw. To operate the saw, you sat and pedaled the saw, making the blade go up and down. It was an exercise and hobby all in one.

Today, many scroll saws are available. They allow superior blade tensioning, variable speed control, and different throat depths starting at about 16 inches and going to about 30 inches. Most scroll saws have tilting tables that tilt up to 45 degrees for angled cuts, dust ports, and dust blowers.

Most scroll saws still feature a parallel arm that makes the intricate scrolling cuts. The pinless blades (regular scroll saw blades) change easily with a moveable upper arm. Cheaper saws feature pinned blades, but they both can make some pretty intricate cuts.

Speaking of scroll saw blades, there are a lot of combinations. Pin End or pinless blades are your first choice and are ruled by what your scroll saw can handle. If you have pinned scroll saw blades, you can get a scroll saw conversion kit to make it fit the pinless blades.

beginning, scroll, cuts, craft

To do a scroll saw project, you’ll need scroll saw blades, a scroll saw or fretwork frame (yes, we still have them), a pattern, a copy of the scroll saw pattern. Then, you’ll either need to trace the pattern on the wood or go ahead and adhere the pattern to the wood. You’ll need wood, a drill, and a drill bit to pierce the interior holes to cut them out.

Think about putting a nice finish on your scroll saw project. Sanding is king; sand your piece with at least 120 grit sandpaper. If you are applying a stain, you will need to sand up to 220 grit.

When you are ready to apply the finish, a spray finish works best. You can sand the flat surfaces between coats to keep the finished piece lovely to the touch.

There are thousands of fretwork projects to choose from. Start with simple ornaments, silhouettes, and shelves, then move up to harder silhouettes, boxes, baskets, and small clocks. When you’re ready, attack those challenging pieces that you’ve dreamed of doing to amaze yourself and your friends. They will know that you are a master scroll sawyer.

Don’t forget there are plenty of resources along the way to help you with your scroll sawing adventure. Take a look at the many woodworking books and scroll saw books that are available. You might even like to take a shot at Intarsia!

No matter what scroll saw part you need, Cherry Tree Toys has got you covered. Add our scroll sawing equipment to your cart today to create the project you’ve always dreamed of.

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