Online Scroll Saw Class - Incredibly Fun Adventures in Scroll Sawing #7: Cutting Inside Corners and Angles

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-20-2011 08:59 PM 15089 reads 10 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Cutting Sharp (Acute) Outside Corners Part 7 of Online Scroll Saw Class - Incredibly Fun Adventures in Scroll Sawing series Part 8: Lesson 8 - Cutting Inside Curves and Swirls »

So far we have looked at how to prepare our wood, choose a blade, cast on and off a piece and cut outside curves and corners. Now it is time we do some inside cutting.

Most people associate scroll sawing with cutting fretwork. At first many people don’t understand that in order to cut fretwork pieces, you need to drill entry holes in the ‘waste area’ (or the part of the pattern that drops away when you finish your cut) and thread the blade through that drilled hole to cut out the inside piece. This is why it is so important to many scroll sawyers to have a scroll saw that uses pinless blades, or blades that have flat ends and attach to the scroll saw by a chuck or a screw squeezing the blade tight to hold it in place while you are cutting.

Many older and industrial saws used pin ended blades. . These are blades have a small pin going through the end of them and look kind of like a ‘t’.

The end of the blade rests in some sort of channel on the end of the arm of the scroll saw and the tension is then tightened to hold the blade in place. While this is an effective way to hold the blade in the saw, it is not always the most practical when doing decorative and delicate scroll saw work.

The pins at the end of the blades mean that in order to thread the blade through the wood, you would need a much wider entry hole in order to do so. This may be acceptable if you are doing larger pieces, such as fretwork brackets for shelves and trim work, but if you are doing smaller items such as ornaments and other delicate work, you will find that having to use pin ended blades will severely limit the scope of the work you can do. It is for that reason that I highly recommend using a saw that uses pinless blades. Most of the newer saws on the market today fall into this category.

I often am asked questions as to where to drill the entry holes in a project. While you can certainly drill them anywhere convenient in the waste area, there are usually some better choices that will minimize the time and effort in making a piece.

When I have a piece with lots of sharp corners, I like to start cutting fairly close a corner. For the same reasons that we started in a corner when doing an outside cut, I feel that it is also best to do so when making an inside cut. The place where we enter and exit our cuts sometimes makes a small bump, and I feel that by starting in an inconspicuous area near a corner, even if there is a small ridge where we enter and exit, it will be very difficult if not impossible to see.

For this lesson, I have prepared a practice pattern that has lots of sharp inside cuts. You can download the pattern at my Google Documents file here:

Lesson 7 Practice Sheet

This is part of a pattern for a self-framing plaque that I designed. It is a pattern that I sell on my site, but I enlarged it a bit so that it would be a little easier for you to practice on. For this lesson, we are only going to work on the frame of the project so I only included that part on the pattern. Next time we will be working on the inside cuts and I will have that part of the pattern for you to download. (You will need to come back for that!)

Begin by preparing the piece as I showed you in previous lessons, with blue painter’s tape and then applying the pattern. (Or use your own favorite method) Cut around the perimeter of the piece so that it is a comfortable size to work with. Place a small drill bit in your drill press and drill out the holes in the waste are of the design. From the picture below you can see that I marked some suggested starting places you can drill.

Of course they don’t have to be exactly where I indicated – any thing close will do.

Drill using the smallest bit that will fit your blade through it comfortably. By ‘comfortably’ I mean that you shouldn’t have to struggle to push your blade through the hole, as this could result in bending the blade – especially if you are using a small blade. But you want to keep the entry hole as small as you can. When you are finished drilling the holes, be sure to sand the back of the plaque with some sand paper. Otherwise the bumps from the back of the drill holes will interfere with allowing your piece to sit flat on the scroll saw table.

After drilling and sanding, we are now ready to cut.

For my own piece here, I am using 1/2” (Maple) and a size 2-reverse tooth scroll saw blade. You can use anything similar and get the same results.

Begin by cutting toward the nearest sharp corner. Aim for the pointiest part of the corner. Remember to let up the pressure as you approach it so you don’t overshoot the cut. This is a common mistake that beginners make. (you can go back and review lesson #4 HERE if you want to refresh yourself about not putting too much pressure on the blade and getting not over cutting.) When you reach the end of the point – STOP:

Back up the saw blade slightly (perhaps a quarter of an inch or so) WITHOUT TURNING IT – simply pull the piece slightly back through the saw:

Now cut forward again toward the line, only this time go slightly to the LEFT of the line your just cut. Again you are going to stop as you get to your line:

When you are at the line, you should pivot your piece so that you can cut back to meet the tip of the point.

At this point, the little triangular piece should fall out (as indicated by the grey area in the illustration):

You are then going to turn your piece so that you will be cutting in a clockwise direction and following the line to the next corner. When you get to the next corner, stop again:

You will then back your blade up just as you did before (approximately 1/4 of an inch or so) without turning the piece or the blade:

Now just as we did on the first corner, we are going to cut to the left of the corner and stop at the line:

And after the small triangle falls out, turn your piece so you can continue in a clockwise direction and continue on to the next corner:

Continue in this manner until you come around to where you started. Be sure to back off the pressure you are pushing on your saw when you are approaching the end. If you push too hard, you will have a tendency to over cut into the piece past your starting point.

For very sharp angles, there is sometimes an easier way to turn the corners – especially when you are using a very small blade. In the second set of pictures, I have a shape with a very acute angle and an obtuse angle (over 90 degrees) to each side of it. In this case, I drilled my entry hole near the obtuse angle, and began cutting from the hole to the corner of it.

When I reached the line, instead of backing up the blade and cutting a small triangle out like I did in the last example, I simply turned the piece and began following the line in a clockwise direction and continued cutting:

I am able to do this because of the large angle. Depending on which size blade you are using, you should be able to turn most obtuse angles in this manner and still have a nice sharp corner. Remember when you are turning to pivot on the corner and slightly lean your piece to the back of the blade to insure that there is no forward moving while you pivot. Continue along the line until you reach the point of the acute angle.

When you reach that point, you will once again back up your piece about 1/4” and then pivot your piece (toward the waste area)

Now you will back all the way into the corner:

And from that point you will continue cutting in a clockwise direction:

I hope this gives you a clear idea of how to cut corners. Of course, if you are cutting in a counter-clockwise direction, you will just cut the little triangle out from the opposite side and continue accordingly. Once you get the hang of the process, it will be fairly easy and come second nature to you.

You will find that as most of the time with scroll sawing, the process is a matter of judgement calls. You will learn by practicing which way of turning is best for the particular area you are at. The thing we are aiming for is to have nice, sharp defined corners without ‘spin holes’ which are rounded areas made from turning the blade. Crisp and clean angles will make your piece look professional and nice.

Your homework for this week is to finish cutting all the inside cuts of the frame piece provided. This will be really
good practice for you and by the time you are finished, you should be feeling a bit more comfortable in doing the process. Next lesson we will learn how to do other types of inside cuts and later on we will learn to bevel cut the piece to make a self-framing plaque.

Below is the video that will demonstrate these three types of turns that I just explained. I think it will help clarify the steps that I showed you in the drawings above.

Of course, there are other ways that you can turn too. I am sure that others will have some good input as to other methods that work well for them too. As with most of scroll sawing, there are several correct ways to do things.

I would suggest you use a board approximately 1/2” thick and a #2 reverse tooth scroll saw blade. If you have something else available, I am sure that will work fine too. Try to use the smallest blade you can and still have control and not have to work too hard moving your piece through the saw. If you have to push hard, or if your blade is wandering too much, try going up a size. You will soon get a feel for what is right for the type of wood you have.

Feel free to ask questions if there is anything that I missed here. I will be finishing up editing the video and getting it posted here as soon as it is done, so be sure to check back later. But for now, this will get you started.

Thank you again for participating in the class. I hope you are all having fun!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

29 comments so far

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3528 days

#1 posted 08-20-2011 10:46 PM

Edith found that when there is a point on one of those inside cuts, she prefers to drill the entry hole just off that point then she can saw to that point and continue around and finish from the other side of that point. Example; In your third picture there is a place where there is a curved piece that ends as a point, drill there. It is just something she prefers but I think it is really a matter of what you are used to. Overall you get a gold star on your forehead for excellence in this class tutorial!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3430 days

#2 posted 08-20-2011 11:58 PM

Thank you very much Erwin. That is another good way to address the corners. I appreciate the input and am glad you like the lesson. ;)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Vicki's profile


1118 posts in 3854 days

#3 posted 08-21-2011 03:44 AM

Wow! You out did yourself this time. Fantastic job explaining this in such an understandable way. I find the diagrams and video VERY helpful and they couldn’t have come at a better time. I think I mentioned I’ve been on sick leave and doing a lot of scrolling due not being able to lift stuff. I’ve made nearly 30 items already for an upcoming craft fair.

I want to say that I am now a fan of the #2R from Olson. I don’t think I ever used anything smaller than a #5. I was too leary and didn’t understand how much the right size blade matters. Now I finally get it.

I’d like to know how long a #2 tends to last you. I fine that the 2 and 3 break faster than the 5’s did. Not sure if it’s operator error or blade thickness. I’m tone deaf so can’t tighten my blade to a C note, plus when it’s threaded through the drilled hole it really won’t “Pine” anyway. I follow the tip that the blade should only move 1/8” either way. A blade seems to last around 10 – 20 min. A time or two it broke after 5 minutes. I’m not pushing HARD, but maybe I’m pushing too hard for the tiny blade? I know it has to do with experience as much as anything, but when I used bigger blades and did few inside cuts, the blades lasted longer.

One last thing I’m trying to understand is: should the “save” piece be on the left or right side of the blade? I know some that say on the right, but I thought you said the left. From watching your videos I’ve seen you do it both ways. So maybe it doesn’t matter that much? I know the teeth are sharper on the right and cut a bit more agressively on the right. I kinda like have my ‘save’ piece to the left of the blade, but can do it either way. I find I cut better all if I stick with one or the other. Maybe keeping the ‘save’ on the left is contributing to more broken blades? Just thought of that.

Sorry this post is so long, just trying to describe it clearly.

Thanks again for all the helpful info.

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3430 days

#4 posted 08-21-2011 03:58 AM

Hi, Vicki:
I am so glad you liked the class and video. I try to present things in an organized way where you can understand it.

I find that blades last me quite a while for some reason. My partner Keith is always teasing me because he goes through several more than I do. I don’t really know why though.

If you are dulling blades quickly, try putting an extra layer of packaging tape over the pattern before cutting. The adhesive in the tape tends to lubricate the blade a bit and not only does it prevent burning, but it also helps the blade run cooler and last longer.

If you find they are dulling faster than you think they should, try moving up one size. They will also get dull quicker if you are using wood that is moist and not completely dry. Plywood also tends to dull the blades a bit more because of the glue used in the manufacturing process. All these factors come into play.

As far as the save side, I do cut both clockwise and counter-clockwise and don’t think much about which direction I go in past what works best for the design. I think that it is important in learning that you try to learn to feel comfortable in either direction because more than likely your design will need to to cut both ways in the long run. I honestly don’t think that having the save side on the left of the blade or the right of the blade would make that much difference in breaking blades. Just be sure that you aren’t tightening them too much, but from what you say you probably aren’t.

As you see, there are a lot of variables to consider. I suppose the best thing I can tell you is to try trial and error and see what helps you get more life out of a blade. Another blade that I really like is the Olsen Mach blade. It comes as small as the #3 size and although it is slightly bigger than the #2 I used with this project, I could have certainly used it with good results. If you can get hold of some, give them a try and let me know what you think.

I hope this helps you. Let me know how things work out and never be afraid to ask a question. I enjoy helping if I can and I am sure there are many others here who have some good advice too.

Take care, Sheila :D

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Vicki's profile


1118 posts in 3854 days

#5 posted 08-21-2011 04:37 AM

Thanks so much for the helpful reply. I will try each tip one by one to try and figure out my problem. I agree with what you say about needing to be able to saw on either side of the ‘save’ piece. I’ll quit worrying about that and just saw. I am guilty of overthinking things at times. lol I just finished watching a few other videos I found online and both men sawed on both sides, but mainly kept their save piece on the right. While surfing around I did read that you can tighten the bigger sized blades a bit more than the small sizes. That may be part of my problem as well, since I mainly used 5’s and 7’s before. If I figure something out that helps me I’ll share it with the group.
Thanks again,

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 3432 days

#6 posted 08-21-2011 10:35 AM

Very good and well demonstrated! Just curious about the grain orientation, will this make a difference whether you start cutting from a crosscut direction? Using a fret saw or coping saw, I start cutting from crossgrain direction to avoid split up, then make the wedge recess the same way you do. Will this be also applicable and must be given attention using scrollsaw?
Thanks Sheila for the lesson.

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3430 days

#7 posted 08-21-2011 11:55 AM

Glad that you see these ideas helpful, Vicki. There is much that is trial and error, and a little patience. There are many variables to fine tune in the beginning. But once learned, everything comes very easily. Patience. :)

Bert, the grain orientation is inconsequential in a design such as this. Since the pattern radiates in all directions around the frame, there is no perfect way to lay the design our I placed the design with the grain vertical because of the width of the wood necessary.

I have never really noticed a huge difference when cutting into end grain vs. cross grain. Sometimes when cutting a circle or even a straight run you can feel the blade pulling a bit to one side or the other when you are following the grain. The solution for this I feel is to go up a blade size on these types of cuts and use a slightly over sized blade. I usually use nothing less than a size 5 for longer and straighter cuts like this (although now I discover that I really do like the Mach blades in size 3 for this type of cutting. They are incredibly sharp and accurate.) Speeding up the saw a bit also helps reduce the blade following the grain, I find. But you still need to keep it at a speed in which you can handle following the design. I can see how cutting by hand with a coping saw would make it harder to control.

I hope this makes sense. :) Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 3432 days

#8 posted 08-21-2011 12:28 PM

Thanks Sheila,
Next opportunity, I will remember and apply this. A very comprehensive idea in developing one’s skill.

-- Bert

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3588 days

#9 posted 08-21-2011 07:50 PM

Hi Sheila, you know that I am new to scrollsawing. I really enjoyed watching your video and I learned a lot, especially the sharp angles. Thanx, Sheila.

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3430 days

#10 posted 08-21-2011 10:34 PM

So glad you found it helpful, LittlePaw! Now I can’t wait to see what you are going to make! :)

Take care, Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Pdub's profile


926 posts in 3690 days

#11 posted 08-23-2011 10:58 PM

Hey Sheila, it makes me feel good to know that I have been cutting sharp angles the right way. When I first started scrolling, everything I read said to turn as tight a corner as possible . One day I used the method that you demonstrated and have been doing it like that ever since. It’s great that you put this together to help all of the scrollers ,new and experienced (notice I didn’t say OLD). I gonna have to keep an eye on this series and see if you can teach this old dog some new tricks. Thanks!!!!


-- Paul, North Dakota, USAF Ret.

View Vicki's profile


1118 posts in 3854 days

#12 posted 08-24-2011 04:33 AM

I’ve been trying to figure out why my blades were breaking so fast. The piece they were breaking the most on was a bit warped. I didn’t realize it at first, but I wonder if that would make blades break faster?

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

View Mark's profile


1817 posts in 3784 days

#13 posted 08-25-2011 12:08 AM

damn sheila you have this sh!t nailed! points taken!

-- M.K.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9239 posts in 3430 days

#14 posted 08-25-2011 01:58 PM

Thanks again to you all. Vicki – I do think that the warped wood would increase the chance for breaking blades. Whenever I have a warped piece, if at all possible, I place the wood with the warp down, meaning the bow is in the middle and makes the middle higher. That way the piece doesn’t seem to rock as much, which could bend the blades while you are cutting and increase the chance that you break them. I hope this makes sense the way I explained it. Just give it a try when you get the chance next time and see if it helps.

Sheila :)

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Vicki's profile


1118 posts in 3854 days

#15 posted 08-25-2011 03:42 PM

The project I was working on was the little rocking reindeers from one of your patterns. It finally hit me that more #2 and #3 blades broke on the piece of 1/4” poplar than on ply or pine. I did find that a bit less tension than I used on my #5’s helped cut down breakage and slowing my rate and not pushing so hard. I also wonder if these blades dull quicker than #5’s. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the #2’s and notice that prior to breaking they slow down a bit and make a little chatter noise. i.e. the saw sounds a little different then when the blade is new. Yesterday I was working on a piece of 3/4” pine and cutting tiny areas with a #2 and the blades lasted 2 or 3 times longer. Also, as a blade starts to dull is it better to speed up the saw or slow it down to get the last bit of use?

What you said about the warp does make sense.

Thank you for continuing to be supportive. It is a great help to have someone explain these little problems.


PS I hope you saw my posts with my crosses and tinier cuts. They were done with your help. Thanks.

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

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