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Types of Wood

Woods are increasing in cost, and depending on the project, this can get expensive. Fortunately in scroll sawing there are a fair number of options. The favorite has been Baltic birch plywood. This wood has almost no voids in the layers, and is reasonably stable against warp age or breaking. Often it is desirable to get the effect of more exotic woods. This can be achieved by gluing veneer to Baltic birch plywood. Small scraps of veneer are available from various suppliers, and local wood working shops.

Other options are MDF (medium density fibre board) which is easy to saw because it has no grain, but has an undesirable finish unless finished in paint or other covering. For items that will be painted, MDF is a very good choice. It is also a good choice for “print-on” patterns. These patterns are printed from the computer printer in color and glued on permanently. Then when the item is sawed out, it is already prefinished. Scraps of wall paper can be glued on MDF to get a multitude of effects. This is a very cost effective way to dress up a project. For those who want to get a more exotic look that is labor intensive (but not too costly in material) one can construct multicolored material. There are a number of ways to do this but the basic concept is to glue multiple sheets of colored construction paper (or similar) together in alternating color patterns. This could be done on top of MDF, or if done thick enough could be made into a solid block of its own. It can then be sanded at an angle to expose multi colors, or in the case of the solid block, could be sawed (resawed) on a band saw at an angle to expose any desired effect. We have also included a download on the web site of a “rainbow” pattern. The rainbow effect can then be glued on before the pattern (or on the reverse side) to achieve a prefinished rainbow effect.

Prefinished hardboard is another option for some items. This type of hardboard is commonly used in bathrooms and kitchens. Some patterns available include floral arrangement and other tile effects. This material is a good choice for items such as table place mats. It is durable, easy to clean, as well as prefinished.

Paper, plastic, and thin metals may also be used as material. Paper is best stacked and sawed between two pieces of scrap wood to sandwich the paper and hold it tight. Other materials and combinations are also possible, limited only by your imagination, and the size of your saw.

Thickness of Wood

It is important to consider the pattern when picking the thickness of wood to use. The two biggest concerns are warpage and breakage. The size of the pattern and complexity will determine the thickness requirements. If the wood is multi-ply (plywood) it generally can be thinner with less concerns about warpage or breaking. If solid wood is desired, then it is best to go thicker to help avoid problems. You will have to use your judgment and experience to help make the best choice.

Printing our Patterns

All patterns from this web site are printed on letter size paper.

These patterns are best if pdf is printed “as image” to better maintain the size and quality. And most importantly this ensures a consistently sized printing from one pattern to the next. This is especially important for multi page patterns.

Attaching Patterns

There are many ways to attach a pattern to wood to scroll saw it. If the pattern is not complex it can be traced with tracing or carbon paper. However for soft woods this can leave marks and the grain sometimes makes it hard to follow the lines exactly. With other methods attaching is a balance between a strong enough attachment to avoid the paper lifting during sawing, and the ability to remove the pattern from the wood. If a person owns good sanding equipment, and is not working with thin veneer, then a practical method can be to attach the pattern with a glue stick. This is quick, not messy (like spray adhesives), allows you to attach only the areas necessary, and can be worked with immediately with no drying times. Of course it sticks very well and you do not get any lifting of the pattern during sawing. However the compromise is that you need to sand off the pattern, and if you have a wood has large pores you may need extra sanding to remove glue that maybe in the pores.
Spray adhesives are commonly used by scrollers. The strength of the bond can be adjusted by the drying time before application of the pattern. The compromise is you need to setup a spraying area, becuase it is a bit messy, and you need to be consistant to ensure the pattern is attached properly.
Next there are combination methods. One can put a tape down on the wood such as painters tape, or packing tape. (Both come in various widths) Then attached the pattern to the tape pernamently using a glue stick. This has the advantage of good attachment so it does not come loose during scrolling, yet becuase of the consistancy of the tape, it can be removed from wood without requiring sanding.
No matter what method you use (there are lots) have fun,and remember there is no right way or perfect way. The way you want to do it, is the way that is right for you.

Reducing Fraying

To help prevent fraying on the bottom side of a item, place a backing underneath the wood. The backing can be another piece of wood, or thin cardboard such as from a cereal box. This is especially useful to prevent a pre-printed paper coating from fraying on the bottom side. Fraying generally only occurs on the bottom side of the sawing action, so when an item is stack sawed, the advantage is there is no fraying in between the stack layers.

Raised, Recessed or Flush Wood

The technique used to raise for recess wood is to place the scroll saw table at a slight angle.

Angle required depends upon:

    blade thickness
    wood thickness
    desired amount of raising or recess

The direction of cut (i.e. CW or CCW) will determine if the wood is raised or recessed (along with table tilt direction). With the table tilted uphill left to right, a CCW sawing direction around the outside of a pattern will result in raised wood.

The secret is to use a test piece of wood to verify the desired effect. If you keep the direction of cut, blade thickness, wood thickness the same, then you can have full control over the desired amount of effect, by table tilt only.

Requires the use of a small hole to minimize the visual effect. Also it is best if the location of the hole is picked at a corner. A small manually turned drill often works best for drilling these type of holes.

A tight fitting flush wood effect can also be achieved by a small table tilt (i.e. small raised effect) and then sanding the reinstalled wood perfectly flush. This is useful if the cutout piece is stained a different color to accentuate the difference.

Stack Sawing

Stack sawing has the obvious advantage of sawing more items, with basically the same effort. A second benefit is the wood does not fray in the stacked layers. However the compromise is that as the thickness of the stack increases there is some error in the cutting angle from the bottom of the stack to the top. This makes it important that the table be square with the blade, and that no sideways pressure is applied during sawing. Tight blade tension helps reduce blade bending. The more detailed the pattern the harder it becomes to stack saw, as the accuracy with in the stack will become more important.
When nailing to build up the stack, nail around outside edge and cut the outside last. Alternate methods of building the stack are taping around the outside, and double sided tape between the layers.

Compound Sawing

Compound Sawing is a technique of sawing from 2 or 3 different sides, to produce an item that has a 3D effect to it. The normal approach to this is to take a 2D printed pattern and fold it at the corner of the wood, so that once attached to wood results in two aligned patterns at right angles. Compound scroll sawing is easier with softer woods. It is also of benefit to ensure the wood has square sides, and the table is square with the blade. Also remember that thicker woods need blades with fewer teeth per inch, and it is helpful to slow the speed of the saw down.

Picture Frame Windows

The problem with picture frames, is how do you mount the glass and the picture? An easy way around this is to use thin plastic, such as those available from some cardboard product packages such as toys. The picture and plastic window can be simply be stapled to the rear of the frame that has been scroll sawed. Alternately a 2nd outline can also be sawed (or even stack sawed) so the picture and plastic window may be sandwiched between the layers. When stack sawing the rear portion, it is desirable to separate the stacked layers before sawing out the inner portion. This will allow a perfect outer match, but still give the rear plate an area of complete backing where the picture is.

The second problem is what if you want to place it on the desk instead of hanging on the wall? Wall hanging only requires a hole to be able to hang it and most patterns already have a convenient hole already to do this. For desk viewing of a picture a simple method to support the pattern is a dowel (or two) mounted near the bottom from the back side. The height from the bottom will determine the desired amount of leaning.

Coaster Tips and Options

- Mount pattern on reverse side (especially when using Good One Side wood(G1S).
- When stack sawing put the best side to the inside.
- Trim corners to make smaller if the object is large. This will allow easier rotating of the wood.
- When performing a lot of fretwork, it is often not necessary to remove the blade entirely for each hole. Often it is only necessary to remove the top connection to the blade. Pull the wood off the top, and reinsert into a new hole. As long as the wood is not a large piece, or the hole is close to the outside edge, this is not too hard an operation.
  - Felt on bottom side of pattern
   - Glue the felt on before sawing
  - stack saw felt back to back facing the inside, so no felt is on the outside of the stack.

- Some napkin and paper towel holder patterns have a pin to hold the coasters. This pin length can be adjusted to hold almost any number of coasters. So it is best to decide how many coasters you are going to make for your set before determining the pin length.

Scroll Machine Saw Setup

-The most important operation (for thick sawing) is squaring up the scroll saw table to the blade. This is done with a small metal square. An alternate method is to use a tall block of wood, (like from a 2x4) and saw a test mark. Then turn the block of wood upside down and saw a second test mark over top the first one. If the marks line up exactly the saw is perfectly square to the table (assuming the board was not warped) If the marks to not line up the table angle will need to be adjusted, and the test repeated.

-The selection of the speed of the blade can be used to help you gain more control over the sawing action. This will vary from user to user, so experiment with what works for you. However the thicker the wood the slower the speed you will need to use

-Dust collection should be used. Especially with some exotic woods whose dust is more toxic than others. An excellent dust collection system can be made from an old furnace blower assembly and a low speed motor. The low speed motor helps ensure quiet operation, while with the over kill of furnace blower you can still get enough dust collection capability. It is possible to design this right into a scroll saw table. This is also great for scroll sawing in the house or apartment when you do not want dust to collect anyway.

Blade selection

The brand is a matter of personal preference. The blade size selection is basically a trade off between the ability to cut straight and the ability to make tight corners. Bigger blades can cut straighter while the smaller blades perform tighter corners. The larger the blade number the larger the blade. Smaller blades are required for the tighter corners. When purchasing blades also look out for the thickness of the blade. Thicker blades are generally stronger, but will not make as tight a turn. A general kit for scrolling may have blade numbers 9,7,5,3,and 2.

Have Fun Scroll Sawing!