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New To Scrollsawing - Need Advice

1727 Views 12 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  lowellmk
Hi All -

I'm new to scrollsawing and need advice/suggestions. I just purchased and setup a new Excalibur 21. I also purchased and installed Flying Dutchman blades.

I'm trying to get a feel for the saw and how it cuts but I find that I'm having difficulty cutting to the line of may pattern. I know that I have to develop my skills but I was wondering if blade wander is an issue with tension? Do I need to check alignment of the saw?

I was practicing on 1/8" plywood and 1/2 white oak with #5 and #7 blades.

Looking foward to your thoughts.

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Not enough blade tension could be one reason why your blade is wandering, you have to consider saw speed as well, generally when cutting thin material you should slow your speed down. I would suggest you practice on 3/4" pine first, cutting out simple shapes such as hearts or circles. Dont get hung up on staying on the line. Depending on the pattern, it may not matter, and the only one who will know is you. It's a great hobby, stick with it.
Hi Dave -

Thanks… I'll give that a try this evening. Can you give me a rule of thumb regarding how to properly tension the blade? Not sure how much is enough.


Try clicking on the "classes" tab. I think Sheila has a lot of info on this.
It sounds silly but, if you have to ask if the blade is tight enough it isn't tight enough. (I tell this to my shop class kids all the time, they roll their eyes at me but I am used to it).

also, a scroll saw will not really cut straight ever. something to do with the manufacturing of scroll saw blades leaving a slight burr on the side. to cut a straight line cut what looks like a bit of an angle.

I don't know what type of scrolling you are doing, but if you want to do portriate type things, following the lines is sort of optional. I have students who get upset that they didn't follow the pattern quite right. I filp the wood over to see the back and almost always it looks like the thing they were trying to make.

Have you found Steve Good's blog? he has tons of free patterns that are awesome to start with.
I understand your "if you have to ask…" position but I'm used to heavier wood cutting tools and would just like some guidelines. I haven't used a scroll saw since Jr. High School (they didn't even have middle school back then). So, I have tension on the blade…..short of snapping the little thing…how do I know when enough is enough?

Also, I'm the type that really likes to "dig in" and know as much as I can before I start the "trial and error" process. And since this is a new tool type AND a new saw, I have a number of questions and I'm probably over-thinking/second guessing myself.

I have looked at Steve's blog and it's really informative. I'm going to try a few patterns as skill builders.

Tension? Well I pluck mine and tighten untill I get a nice high "PING". Hey works for me.

When I go home, I'll add tension and pluck! Man, that just sounds so wrong!

Man, just starting in the hobby and you go out and pick up an Ex 21. I'm jealous. When I started it was with a 16 inch skill! Now I'm using a 16" porter cable. Anyway, proper blade tension is the biggest learning curve when it comes to the scroll saw. As you break your first couple dozen blades, and learn to "feel" your scroll saw while you're pressing the tension lever, you get a feel for it.
When I tension a blade I look more for how much you can push the blade to one side than tone when I pluck it. With bigger blades (#5 or more) using significant pressure (I know, how much is significant pressure right?), if I can move the blade more than 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch it's not tensioned enough. With smaller blades I generally go with a little less tension. Too much and they like to break in the middle of a tight turn and scare the crap outa ya with a nice BANG and horrific rattle. It's great!
As far as cutting a straight line, a straight line is the hardest line to cut on a scroll saw. Pushing the work straight into the blade results in the blade wanting to cut to the right. Like MrsN said, the manufacture of scroll saw blades creates a burr on the back edge of the blade. Once that burr enters the kerf it pushes the back edge of the blade over and out of square with the line you are trying to follow, and you get blade drift. To compensate you have to turn your work slightly to the right so it seems like you're cutting at an angle. What I, and many others do, is shift my stool slightly to the right so when I feed the work into the blade, from the angle I'm sitting, I am pushing straight into the blade. How much to compensate depends on the blade. Again, after a little while you'll get a feel for how much to adjust, and in no time at all it will become second nature.
Enjoy you're new hobby, but be careful, it's extremely addictive! Once you see the beautiful pieces of art you can make with this wonderful tool, you'll never turn back.
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Go to Scrollsaw Woodworking and Crafts website. Click on techniques header and then on the article Maintaining Maximum Control. There is a download there called practice board pattern. It will give you lots of practice on different types of cuts.

While doing these check how much pressure you're putting on the blade by lessening your pressure slightly and watch to see if the workpiece springs back, if so you're using too much pressure. You can play with speeds along with watching your speed of feed while using this practice board. It won't take long until its much easier.
Hi StayinBroke and thanks for your guidelines! Thanks also for reinforcing that I spent a lot of money on a good saw! I try to buy quality and only buy it once. I know that the PC is a good tool and hope that you are happy with it.

I'm looking forward to getting "addicted"! I've seen a bunch of things that I want to attempt. I like to take "skill builder" type challenges and work my way up the food chain. I've seen a lot of great work on these forums and that is very inspirational!!!

I generally like to saw standing up so I'll sift my body a bit to compensate for the drift. I had a few moments after work and torqued the blade tension until the white tension lever flipped up. I then backed off the tension a bit - the blade "pings" and I have much better control over the cut. Phew!

Thanks to all for your great advice and the friendly way in which it was generouslly offered!
I have to agree with Rich(above). Check Sheila Landry's classes here on LJ. She is an excellent teacher. Also check out her You Tube Video's. She is under Scrollgirlcanada. There is a video on how to tension an Excaliber. Also while there check out Steve Good's video's.
Good luck and happy scrolling!
Thanks all!

I'm going through Sheila's courses on this site. She is great and certainly has a nice way about her.

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