Scrollin’ for ideas

There are lots of different types of woodworking out there. Cabinetmaking. Furniture making. Turning.

And then there is scroll saw woodworking. I mean, it seems like magic watching a talented scroll saw operator (Verna Schulz and Bill Murphy are two friends who are very talented with these saws) take plain old pieces of wood and turn them into gorgeous works of art with impossibly small, fine details.

Verna working with Iggy at her scroll saw

Well, with my new project, there will be a deal of scroll work. I am planning on cutting out Sydney’s (yes, I spelled the name wrong in my sketch) name and other decorative details on a piece of contrasting wood to glue to the face of the medal rack.

The only problem is that I don’t have a scroll saw.

Should have thought this out before I came up with the idea, right?

A scroll saw doing its thingOK, I’m looking over my options on how to make this happen.  The first thought would be to stroll down to the nearest purveyor of tools and land myself a new model. From what I have heard, the new scroll saws on the market are tricked out babies, with air vents to blow the sawdust out of your way, easy blade change features and a wild assortment of blades.

The problem with this idea, though, is that from what I have been told, a quality scroll saw that is a joy to work with could easily run me in excess of $500. There are a bunch of scroll saws available for $200 or less, but they are sorely lacking in the power and precision department.

Fine bandsaw cuttingWell, I do have a sweet Laguna band saw. Equipped with a narrow blade, the band saw is an excellent tool for doing scroll cutting – on the exterior of a project. Unlike a scroll saw, the blade can’t be threaded through a starter hole, meaning that interior cuts are a big no-go.  However, I will be using the band saw for the exterior shapes for sure.

Jig Saw ScrollingA jigsaw can do that kind of work. Some jig saw blades are made narrow enough to fit into starter holes and maneuver pretty deftly, and high-quality blades can make very clean cuts. It’s just that the jigsaw’s reciprocating action can shake thinner pieces of wood to the point where they break apart, and I plan on doing the scroll work on a piece of wood probably no thicker than 3/16″.

A fret saw can do the job...Another option that would be open to me would be to get my hands on a fret saw. These saws look like coping saws with a very wide frame. Their blades are held in quick-release holders, which allow them to be unhooked from the frame, threaded through a starter hole and then reconnected to do the inside cuts. Many of the newer saw frames actually use scroll saw blades, giving you all of the options that scroll saw operators have available to them.

A router with a milescraft design kit can cut scrollworkOne other thought that I could use would be my small trim router. The DeWalt I bought earlier this year is very small, maneuverable and I have a 1/8″ down spiral router bit. That should be able to do the job for this design. Paired with a Milescraft router design kit, a router can cut some fretwork-looking projects… Of course, since the bit is round, I won’t be able to get sharp corners, but I would hope I could do a little bit of hand filing with some tiny needle files to sharpen up any points that I miss.

Of course, that design cutting part is still a little ways off. But, it pays to start thinking about this in advance, and, of course, if you had any suggestions, I’m all ears.


7 thoughts on “Scrollin’ for ideas”

  1. Since I have a scroll saw, it wouldn’t be a issue for me but, in your case, I would try any and/or all for your own suggestions. A lot depends on the size and complexity of your design as to what would be the best.
    Actually the best would be to send a full size pattern to Verna or me or maybe even someone closer to you who has a scroll saw for some help. There is no shame in asking for a helping hand when you need it and as you very well know woodworkers are always happy to help out anyone.


  2. I have the DeWalt model shown above.
    My daughter can make that thing whistle.
    (me, not so much…ha ha)

    Do you mean your friends at Bell, Infinity, Tormek, Bora or Laguna don’t know somebody who knows somebody?… 😉

  3. I too have been thinking of buying a scroll saw. While they have a number of saws for under $200 there is the option of haunting your pawn she untill a candidate come in. I have seen some prime candidates for under $50. Then there is always Craigslist. I have seen some $500 dollar saws like a dewalt for under a $200. You just got to wade through a lot pf garbage to find that gem of a tool.

    Personally I would go with Craigslist.

    Good luck.

  4. Here’s an idea for ya Tom. Come on over to my house and use my RBI Hawk. Not only would you be able to get your work done, but you could have a chance to try out a good saw and see if you enjoy scrolling. If you need a couple of nights, no sweat! I’m busy on other projects right now anyway. I’d welcome the company.

  5. Mike is giving you some good advice. Even with the best scroll saws (Excalibur, DeWalt, Fox), learning to use one takes a while. If you have never tried scroll sawing, your first project is NOT the place to start the learning curve.

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