The scroll saw is an interesting tool, allowing you to cut complicated shapes in all manner of different materials, and create beautiful craft projects for your own delight, or to sell. The machine itself is very safe, and relatively uncomplicated. There are hundreds of choices available, so finding the Best Professional Scroll Saw shouldn’t be too difficult.
Unusually, the problems don’t surface from there being big differences between these machines. On the outside, they can appear quite small. Nevertheless, those differences are important. So Bestpowerandhandtools got on the case to help you learn about the characteristics, and to provide the information you seek to make the right buying decision.
Each of the tools we recommend exceed the standards we set for performance and practicality. For those who’d like to know about what makes the best scroll saw, we’ve assembled a buying guide to help you establish what’s important.
Large, foot-powered scroll saws have first been used in the 1700s. Commercial electric models made their appearance in the 1920s, but it’s not until the mid-1970s that scroll sawing started to become popular with hobbyists.
How a commercial scroll saw works
A scroll saw is actually, a powered fret saw or duplicating saw. A short blade runs through a hole in a work table. The blade is reinforced at the top and bottom by an arm. The arm moves up and down at a very high speed, producing the sawing action almost like a jigsaw. The wood is pushed into the blade, steered by the operator’s hands.
Mid century scroll saws were operated by foot, using a treadle system. These machines were big, as much as four or five feet tall, used for commercial sawing of veneers, inlays and attractive moldings.
Modern scroll saws, is powered by electric motors, and is much more compact. They all have very similar parts and almost identical layouts. The devil is in the detail.
FOR YOUR SAFETY
Scroll saws are moderately safe, but you should still wear safety glasses. Keep away from loose sleeves or neckties. Long hair should be tied back.
Choosing the best professional scroll saw
So what do you need to look for?
The following are key areas:
- Arm type
- Blade clamping
- Additional features
Even though single speed machines were once familiar, changeable speed motors are now the standard.
Variable speed is important because it allows you to tackle the job at the speed you feel comfortable, and lets you alter speed to suit different materials.
The best professional scroll saw machines provide a range of approximately 400 to 1600 spm (strokes per minute). Motors show almost no variation in power output from one manufacturer to the next, usually graded as 1.2 or 1.3 amps.
Some hardwoods can get burned by the speed of the scroll saw blade. A layer of clear packaging tape on the bottom of the wood prevents this by oiling the blade as it cuts. Remove the tape once finished.
This is the controlling mechanism that controls the blade movement, up and down.
There are three sorts of arms:
- A C arm has a single turning point at the back, so this type of saw cuts in a small arc. These scroll saws cut very aggressively, and tend to “go on” when the blade stops. It’s a commercial design, and it’s improbable you’ll come across one.
- Parallel arm is the most regular type. Each pair has a pivot, forming a parallelogram and provides an almost vertical cutting action. Safety is excellent, because when a blade stops, the saw comes to a complete halt.
- Parallel link (or double parallel link), is a rather recent improvement of the parallel arm. It’s an intricate linkage that adapts a horizontal to vertical motion, creating a slight vibration in the operation. Because of part prices, it’s normally only found on superior scroll saws.
An extra feature on some scroll saws is the capability to lift the upper arm, making blade changing quicker.
Vibration is the opponent of precise scroll sawing. Even though most scroll saws pretty light to be moved around without trouble, they are best constantly mounted, moreover to a stand or a workbench.
Two points define the ability of your scroll saw, throat depth and density of cut.
Throat depth is the length from the blade to the frame at the back of the saw. A few scroll saws begin at 14 inches; the bulk of basic level saws are 16 inches. This is ample for plenty. If your saw is cutting 16 inches from the middle to one edge, you indeed have a realistic maximum of double that: 32 inches.
Premium saws may have 18, 20, 24 or even 30 inch throats, allowing you to cut big pieces of wood. In truth, way above the demands of many – though there is a certain pleasure in using these extraordinary machines.
Maximum thickness of cut differs little, and is generally around 2 inches.
Never push the work into the blade. If it’s not cutting effortlessly, the blade needs to be changed. Blades are not expensive. If you want to manufacture accurate, quality work, you need to change them frequently.
Though scroll sawing frequently require working with small, delicate pieces, a large table surface makes it more convenient to manage large work pieces. Our priority is for cast iron, which adds to the entire stability and helps tone down vibration. Steel and aluminum tables are also available.
Most tables can lean 45 degrees in one direction, so you can make angular cuts. Some even tilt left and right. On one or two it’s the arm that tilts instead than the table, making control of the work piece simpler – though these are unique. A scale is usually supplied so you can set angles rapidly. It’s nice to have a clear stop, so you know when you get back the table to its original position.
Scroll saw blades are one or the other, pinned or pinless (also called plain-end). Pinned blades position more positively, and are mostly preferred by newbie’s. Experts tend to choose pinless, which can be changed faster, and are often higher quality. They also come in a larger range of sizes. Most superior scroll saws can adapt to both types.
You switch blades a lot when operate a scroll saw, so you want it to be as easy as possible. On inexpensive scroll saws you often need a couple of extra tools, which some find annoying. High-end units offer toolless blade changing, thus expediting up the process.
Scroll saws have a tiny, plastic add on around the blade, removed for blade changing. These can wear easily. You can make use of your scroll saw to cut your own substitutes from acrylic sheet.
- Your scroll saw must come with a hold-down or base, which assist in keeping your workpiece secure against the table area as you cut. Expert scroll sawers often remove them, but you’ll want to take advantage of it at first until you get comfortable with your saw.
- The up and down movement of the arm is also used to handle small bellows hidden inside the machine. This blower makes it possible for you to have a small tube that blows air across the work surface, cleaning dust from the cut line, so you can see it better.
- Some scroll saw manufacturers include a flexible work light.
- A dust port is a nice attribute, so you can connect an extractor or workshop vacuum. Anything you can do to handle dust makes your environment a more pleasurable and safer place to work in.
- If you operate your scroll saw plenty of times, you might consider spending on a foot control. This enables you to switch the saw on and off while holding both hands on the workpiece.
If you struggle to notice fine detail, think about investing in a magnifying lamp. Those based on the design of angle poise are especially flexible.
Scroll Saw Prices
There are two primary issues that crop up regularly with low-cost scroll saws:
- Too much vibration has a negative effect on accuracy, and soon makes the machine terrible to work with.
- Blade clamp failure. Clamps break or lack to tighten adequately, making the tool worthless.
That doesn’t imply a good scroll saw has to be costly, but we would suggest you spend around $100 for a beginner-level, 16-inch unit. You’ll find a wide range of very similar machines, from well known brands, in the $100 to $200 price tag. Most are proper selections for those buying their first scroll saw.
The next step up is the semi-pro tier. These are good-quality, 18- to 20-inch saws. It’s likely you’ll spend around $350 to $500 for one of these, but for your investment you’ll get a scroll saw that should last you for many years, and is competent of cutting just about any project.
A professional scroll saw are only really for the full-time expert or truly dedicated hobbyist. These range from 18-inch to enormous 30-inch machines, and it’s not difficult to splash out $1,500 or more.
DID YOU KNOW?
Instead of using pricey hardwoods, many scroll sawers make use of plywood. Nonetheless, it’s essential to purchase good quality (like Baltic Birch). Inexpensive plywood has voids that can spoil your project, and you won’t know until you found one.
- Mastering the scroll saw takes time and perseverance. Start cutting gradually, speed up as you become confidant with your machine. Most blades won’t cut flawlessly straight because of a burr on one end, made when the blade was branded. It’s not a fault, but you do need to know how to compensate.
- You’ll spend plenty of time switching the machine on and off, changing blades, and fine tuning tension. When selecting a scroll saw, make sure those control mechanisms are easy to reach.
- Scroll saws produce fine debris which can be both a fire and health hazard. You should always wear a mask, and use dust extracting units or a shop vacuum to gather it for disposal later.
Novices may choose to stand when they start scroll sawing. It provides more freedom of movement than sitting, and makes executing the work flow easier.
Q. Blade tension seems crucial. Is it complicated to set?
A. No, but it takes a short amount of practice. Don’t be worried if you break a couple of blades as you learn – everyone does. Tension is altered with a mere knob. The trick is to figure out the right amount. Regretfully, each blade and saw combination is somewhat different, so you’ll need to get used to your machine.
When you put in a new blade, add some tension, take note of the number of turns. Attempt a test cut on a piece of scrap wood. If it strays, tighten the blade a bit. Experiment until it’s cutting well, making a note of the full amount number of turns. Keep in mind that as the blade wears it will stretch slightly, so you might need to fine-tune the tension again. If it unexpectedly goes “ping,” you’ve over tuned it!
It’s a big hit or a miss, and primarily that’s true. It soon becomes second nature though, and once you’ve got the nick, changing blades takes just a few seconds.
Q. But why is blade tension so important?
A. blade that’s too lax will divert as you try to cut. It’s also expected to break often. A blade that’s too tight is not much of a problem, but again, will obviously break more often than a blade that has the correct tension.
Q. Can I cut sheet metal on a scroll saw?
A. If you get the correct blade, yes. Cut speed will be far slower than for wood, but you can cut aluminum, bronze and even brass. We don’t suggest cutting steel. With the correct blades, you can cut various materials like bone, composites, leather, plastics and rubber.
Q. Where can I get good scroll saw patterns?
A. Many carpenters use free clip-art which, with a bit of alteration, can be used to create engaging patterns. There are several books available, and an extensive amount of scroll saw websites, many of which deal in patterns you can download. Patterns vary from easy to incredibly challenging, so whatever you’re level of expertise, you’re likely to find something you fancy.