Scroll Saw Primer: Things You Need to Know About Your First Scroll Saw
For anybody new to the world of woodworking, a scroll saw is the perfect tool to begin with and to get a feel for the thing. Scrolling is a highly enjoyable and rewarding pastime and it can very well be a profitable vocation if you are able to achieve some degree of mastery in time. However, first things first, you need a good scroll saw to begin with---which means you'll need to make some primary investments. This basically involves the scroll saw and a few optional accessories.
Now, as a beginner, you really don't need to invest in the best scroll saw out there. You can get very good quality and dependable scroll saws around the $150 mark. If you can find a used one which is still in good shape, even better! However, there are some basic things about a scroll saw---such as blade types, saw speed, accessories---that you need to know before you buy your first ever scroll saw.
So, here we talk about these basics and guide you through them so you don't go remiss on your first purchase of a scroll saw.
The first thing to know about saw blades is that there are two basic varieties: pin end saw blades and plain end saw blades. Pin-end blades come with a tiny cross pin at each end of the blade. This makes it easier to handle for first-time scroll sawyers. If the need arises, you'll also be able to shift quickly between different blades when you are using pin-ends. However, plain-end blades are the standard in scrolling and you'll never get as many varieties in pin-ends as in plain-ends. So, for long time purposes, plain-ends are a must. As for scroll saws, most good machines will allow you to clamp both these basic varieties. So, you just need to make sure of it when you make your purchase and then you are free to experiment with different varieties and use whatever you feel most comfortable with.
A saw speed is referred to by SPM or strokes-per-minute. 400-800 SPM are considered low speed while high speed falls in the range of 1,200-1,800 SPM. Basic scroll saws will only have one speed and others will have two. However, if you ask any experienced scroll sawyer, he will insist that a scroll saw with variable speed control where you can set the speed at any SPM you wish is a must. Now, we won't like to contradict that and if you find a scroll saw with variable speed at a reasonable price, nothing can beat that. However, we'll still like to maintain that a scroll saw with two speeds must be good enough for a beginner and you'll be able to finish a great many varieties of projects with that.
You will find scroll saw blades designated by numbers---from 1 to 12 covering the full end of the spectrum. Now, these sizes or numbers refer to TPIs, i.e. the number of teeth a blade has per inch. The more teeth-per-inch, higher the blade number. Typically, you need the higher number blades to make fine cuts or when working with hard wood whereas thinner stocks are best worked with smaller blades. Normally, when you buy a saw, the package will include a blade pack with a number of different sized blades in it. However, keep this in mind that these blades may not always be of very good quality and consequently, you may have to make some separate investment in order to acquire good quality blades.
Scroll saw blades also come in different designs such as Reverse Teeth, Non-Reverse, Spiral Teeth, Double Tooth and Skip Tooth. For beginners, however, a Reverse or a Standard/Non-Reverse blade should suffice. The standard teeth blades are the ones which have all their teeth in one direction while a reverse teeth blade will have few of its blade teeth arranged in the opposite or reverse direction. For first-time sawyers, we recommend the reverse teeth which will get them a smoother cut and will require very little sanding.
The few accessories we recommend for a beginner are:
• A blower: A blower is a basically an air hose that you can position at the point where the wood stock comes in contact with the blade. The hose will blow the sawdust away and will make the task easier for you as you go along the cut.
• A foot-mounted power switch: This is a very helpful device for the beginners since it allows him to power on/off the device without having to use his hands (which may be needed to hold the wood stock in right position).
• A light and a magnifier: Lighting is always important when you are sawing, so the magnifier & lamp accessory is one we deem important both for beginners as well as advanced practitioners. The magnifier makes it easier to follow the pattern lines as you go along the cut.
Some and other of these accessories will at times come combined with a model itself. So, keep an eye for them when you read different scroll saw reviews before making your purchase.