If you are a woodworker looking to create curves with intricate designs or patterns that require fine details, then you probably have invested in a scroll saw. This saw is perfect for these kinds of projects, and it gives you the versatility of creative options that knows no limits.
Though you may already have this tool, you may be wondering, what wood is best to use with this saw? That is an excellent question, and one we will be looking at in this guide. We will also be answering some very vital questions about the tool itself. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
What is a Scroll Saw?
This woodworking tool is an electrically powered saw that uses a foot pedal for its operation. It is similar to the band saw, but it doesn’t cut using a consistent blade loop. This means it gives you more mobility and flexibility. The scroll saw uses a reciprocating blade that moves vertically to allow for more intricate cuts.
Best Scroll Saw Wood for Projects
Now that you know what the tool does and understand a little bit about its design, let’s talk wood. There are a few options, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Before we get into the actual types of woods, let’s talk about building your skills.
In regard to which wood you should use while learning, it is highly suggested that you use softwoods. Using the softwood will give you a better chance to get comfortable with your saw.
Then, once you have somewhat learned how to use your saw, you will want to begin considering what wood will work best with your project. Softwoods will bend more, and it will be more difficult to maintain a detailed pattern, as they will flake easily.
Hardwoods, on the other hand, are more durable and will allow you to carve with great detail. However, they do chip and smoke more if you are not using the right speed.
Now, we will look at individual categories for some suggestions on the best wood choices for your scroll saw.
Scroll Saw – Softwood
Because they break so easily, you may think that softwoods are a bust when it comes to woodcutting. However, the only wood that is in this category that absolutely should be shunned is pine. Other than that, there are quite a few softwoods that work well with a scroll saw.
As we mentioned above, using plywood, birch, or cedar, which are all softwoods, is a great idea when starting out. Some that say that poplar is the best option to use to get a grasp of your saw’s capabilities. Poplar is a good choice, because it has a lot of grain, which allows you to use even speed and not have to change out blades.
The decision on whether to use softwoods is really up to you. If you do decide to use softwoods, here are a few things to note:
- Plywood has good strength and offers better stability than other softwoods. However, it will cause you to have to change the blades quite frequently.
- Typically, when doing woodwork, you want to be able to shine a spotlight on the natural beauty of the wood.
- If you are not concerned with that and are working on a large project, plywood may be a good choice.
In the end, hardwoods are usually more preferred for intricate woodworking projects, so let’s look at them now.
Scroll Saw – Hardwood
Hardwoods are the best when it comes to maintaining patterns without chipping or flaking. There are, of course, woods that are better than the others, but here are a few options we think would be great to consider for your projects:
Cherry is softer than other hardwoods and can be a little gentler on your scroll saw blades. However, it does not hold up well to excessive weight after completion of the project. It does have a nice rich color and an even grain that is easy to cut. Cherry does darken and may warp if it dries out.
This is by far one of the most favorite woods used by woodworkers in North America. Because it is so easy to work with and to find, it is also one of the most budget-friendly options, as well.
Maple has a nice even grain, and it offers a pattern in this grain that many feel is hard to finish when they are done with the project. There are two types of maple, one being soft and one being hard. The softer variety is easier to cut and will allow you to go through fewer blades than other hardwoods. If you are taking on a project that needs a thicker, more durable wood, then you may want to choose the hard variety.
This wood comes from the only dark wood on the North American continent, and it offers a rich brown to a purple-tinted wood that has a grain with swirling patterns. This wood is slightly harder than cherry and definitely not as durable as maple, but it can be used for pieces that won’t hold much weight.
For a hardwood, ash is extremely lightweight. It is just as hard as oak or birch and doesn’t give you a lot of forgiveness in regard to your saw blades. Many woodworkers that are working in exceptional intricate pieces will steer clear of ash due to its unique grain pattern.
This wood is a lighter wood and offers a curly grain. Its hardness level is on par with maple, as well as its color and the ability to work with it. The curly grain does sometimes cause issues with irregular finish absorption, which can lead to uneven staining.
One of the more budget-friendly hardwoods, hickory, is easy to find and has a lot of great qualities that many woodworkers find desirable. When your project is built, you will find hickory is a durable and strong wood, which means it has a great weight capacity. It is difficult to cut, and, therefore, it may be best to steer clear of if you are a beginner. This also means it is hard on blades. It stains well and has a consistent grain, which makes it perfect for large scale projects.
Scroll Saw - Polywood
Though this is not a traditional wood, but rather a man-made option, it still bears some consideration. This material made its appearance in the '90s and is comprised of plastics of many varieties. This material is cut into blocks and planks to mimic traditional lumber. This is a replacement option to wood, and it is easily cut by your scroll saw, as long as it is no thicker than 2”. This is a great option if you are looking for an eco-friendlier option than wood.
Things to Consider…
When you are thinking about what wood to choose for your project, there are a few things to think about that will help make the decision easier. Here are the factors that we feel you should consider when choosing your project’s material:
Scroll Saw Wood Thickness
Scroll saws can effectively cut wood up to 2” thick, but it is optimal to work with thicknesses of 1⁄4” to 3⁄4". The thicker the wood, the more challenging detailed and fine curves will be difficult to execute.
If you are looking to cut wood pieces that are larger than an inch, a band saw may be the better way to go. It can’t execute the fine details as well as a scroll saw can, but it will make cutting the thicker wood easier. This is why most woodworkers use hardwood. The cuts and thickness tend to fall in the appropriate range, since you want to see the patterns better, and, with hardwood, those intricate cuts last for longer periods of time.
You will need to think about blades in different ways when it comes to considering the different types of woods. The first is you need to make sure you have chosen the right blade. Having a dull blade, or the wrong blade, can cause you some serious issues.
The other thing to think about is how the wood will affect the blade. Some wood uses up more blades than others. By considering these factors, you will be able to make sure you have the right blade to get the job done.
Speed of Saw
Much like the blade consideration, you will need to think about this in two different frames of mind. The first is the actual build of the tool. You will want to look for one that has variable speed. This will allow you to adjust as you move through your piece. Also, it will allow you to adjust for different woods, as well.
The second thing to consider is the speed you will need to cut the wood you are working with, as well as the speed needed to execute those intricate designs you are wanting to do.
Scroll Saw FAQs
Now that you have a good idea about the best wood to use with a scroll saw, let’s look at a few questions about the tool itself that may help you with your overall woodworking capabilities. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions:
Are scroll saws easy to use?
Like with every tool, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to the saw. Once you have calibrated and selected the right blade, it is imperative that you practice. Before you do that, you need to make sure you have the right safety equipment.
This should include goggles, a face mask or respirator, and a set of noise cancellation headphones to protect your hearing. Then, it becomes all about practice. Start slow and then build up speed. Now that you have this down, you will find this tool very easy to use.
How to Use a Scroll Saw
Each saw will have different controls and instructions, but these steps are universal across the board:
- Make sure you are wearing the proper safety gear, as we talked about above.
- You will want to make sure the wood is cut to the right size for the project you will be working on. You should also sand the wood to get rid of rough edges, and then get the pattern transferred to the wood.
- Next, you will want to secure the saw to the workstation, and then insert the right side of the blade for the project.
- Now, you will turn the saw on, as well as the light and the blower. Test the saw on a small piece of the wood to make sure it is the right one.
- Now, you can begin to cut. If you are using a thick hardwood, you will want more speed.
- Once the pattern is done, you will want to turn the saw off, and then return to your sandpaper to get rid of any rough edges.
How to Change Scroll Saw Blades
Knowing how to change the blades is an important part of the process that will be important in dealing with different woods. Here is how you do that:
- Start with safety procedures. Make sure that your saw is unplugged.
- Now, you will want to loosen the bolts that hold the blades in place. Make sure to use the user’s manual to help you throughout the entirety of this process.
- Once the bolts are loose enough, you will want to carefully remove the old blade.
- Now, you will want to make sure you choose the right blade and then place it in the open slot.
- Next, tighten the bolts until the blade is securely in place.
- Finally, you will want to test it, so you will want to plug it in and then turn it on.
Now that you have a good understanding of both the scroll saw and the wood that works best, you will be better able to choose the appropriate wood for the appropriate project. This means that your end result will be a woodworking project you can be proud of, and one that will be able to effectively do whatever it was built to do.