How to Use Your Scroll Saw: Getting Started

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A scroll saw is a stationary machine equipped with a fine blade which moves up and down. The rapid movement of the saw blade on this type of machine lets the user cut wood quickly and intricately.

The precision that comes with using a scroll saw is a result of the blade’s small size. Although similar in set up to a band saw, a scroll saw is used for more intricate woodwork and cutting.

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What Can You Use a Scroll Saw For?

​Using a scroll saw is actually relatively simple, and that is one of the things that make them a great saw for beginners. Before getting started in using your saw, though, you need to understand what projects you can use the scroll saw for.

Wood Projects

​You can use a scroll saw for a number of woodworking projects, including:

  • Angle cutting
  • Dovetail joints
  • Curve cutting
  • Creative wood crafts
  • Intricate designs

​When you’re considering the wood project, think in terms of tight, intricate turns. A lot of people enjoy making detailed coasters and Christmas ornaments, while others add gorgeous finishing pieces to their furniture.

Other Material

While scroll saws are mostly used on wood, you can also use a scroll saw to cut through all sorts of materials, including:

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Scroll saws can also be used to craft letters for certain areas of your home (garage, porch, etc.), to build portraits, cabinets, desks, and more. A scroll saw is a versatile tool which is a must-have for any creative DIYer.

How to Use a Scroll Saw

To use your scroll saw, you will first have to determine the type of blade you will be using. Once your blade and material are decided on, the cutting can begin. 

Getting Started

A few things you should keep in mind before getting started include:

  • Do not place your material or wood against the scroll saw before turning it on.
  • When cutting through the wood, hold the wood firmly but not too firmly.
  • Push the wood as the blade cuts through it, but do not move the wood into the blade.
  • Always have safety gear in place.
A portable scroll saw sits on a table

Steps for Using the Saw

Here are the steps for how to use a scroll saw:

  1. First, place your wood. Place the wood down just a few inches away from the actual blade and always be sure you have both hands on the wood at all times. Most scroll saws come with foot pedals which allow you to turn it off and on.
  2. Turn the scroll saw on and adjust the blade speed if the model you are using has variable speeds. Keep in mind that generally the harder the wood, the slower the speed should be. If you are cutting through softer woods, you should use a faster speed.
  3. Depending on the type of cutting you are doing, you may or may not be able to finish all the exterior cutting in a single pass. If your workpiece has straight lines and corners, you will likely be able to cut through it all in one go. If your piece has curves, it will take more time.
  4. Aim the blade of your scroll saw so it is in line with the first line you are cutting and guide the wood slowly into the blade. Use your forefingers and one thumb to move the material through the blade. Go back once more through the line that has been cut and remove the wood once you turn.
  5. Turn the wood so that the saw blade is positioned above your next line. Guide the blade onto the line to meet with the first cut. Back out the blade from the line you have cut and turn the material to prepare for the next line.
  6. Work your way slowly along the edges of the piece until you have cut through all the outer lines.
  7. If you are making internal cuts, you will first need to drill a hole in the wood to make room for the saw blade to go through. After creating the hole, you can pull the blade out and place the piece of wood over the clip. Then, put the blade back in through the hole.
  8. Lock the blade back into place and make the cuts. Just be sure the blade is not being held against the wood before or while you turn it on.
  9. If you are doing internal cuts and need to remove the middle sections, be sure to turn off the blade after you have finished. Once you have finished doing the inside cuts, turn off the scroll saw and pull out the blade.
  10. Once you have finished everything, you will notice that it will likely have some rough edges which need to be sanded. Smooth out the edges using sandpaper to make it look crisp and clear.

Types of Scroll Saw Blades

types of scroll saw blades
Photo credit: Alex Gilbert on Flickr / CC-BY

There are a lot of great options available for your type of project, and we provide our favorites in our scroll saw review article. But any guide that walks you through how to use scroll saw would not be complete without an overview of the various types of scroll saw blades you can use.

The type of blade you will use depends on the project you are doing, the thickness of the material you are using, and the intricacy of the design or pattern you are creating. If your design is intricate and complicated, you will need to use a blade that is small and can fit into tight, small spaces.

The different types of blades you can use on a scroll saw include:

  • Regular tooth blade – Basic scroll saw blades with high teeth-per-inch (TPI).
  • Hook tooth blade – Blade with a positive rake and aggressive cut. Hook tooth blades are generally used on thicker material.
  • Skip tooth blade – Similar to regular tooth blades, but with half the TPI (teeth-per-inch). Skip tooth blades also cut slower.
  • Double tooth blade – A mixture of regular and skip tooth blades. The teeth on this type of blade come in groups of two with gaps in between them.
  • Reverse tooth blade – Similar to a regular tooth blade, however the last inch of this blade’s teeth point in the opposite direction, making for clear cuts. This type of blade also reduces sanding time after a cut.
  • Full reverse tooth blade – Similar to reverse tooth blades, except every third tooth is pointed in the opposite direction.
  • Crown tooth blade – Every second tooth is pointed in the opposite direction.
  • Spiral blade – Blades which have been twisted into a spiral, creating teeth on each side.
  • Reverse spiral blade – Spiral blade with every third tooth in the opposite direction. Makes for clear cuts and less burns.
  • Metal cutting blade – Have higher TPI specifically for cutting through metal.

A general rule of thumb is that the thicker or harder the wood you are using, the bigger the blade you should use.

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Another general rule of thumb is that you should use a blade that you are comfortable with. This means you may have to play around with a few different types of blades to get a feel for what is the most comfortable for you.

Comfort and ease of use will come with time and practice. Once you become more comfortable using a scroll saw, you will be able to determine the type of blade that works best for you.

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Tips and Tricks

It’s not difficult figuring out how to use your scroll saw. However, mastering the process can take awhile.

There’s more to using a scroll saw than just cutting intricate designs on your Santa Claus intarsia. There are certain tips and tricks you should know to get the most out of your scroll saw while maintaining safety precautions.

Here are some tips and tricks to follow as you learn how to use a scroll saw:

  • Avoid putting too much pressure on the wood or the blade.
  • Never have your fingers in line with the blade. They should always be on the side.
  • Blades have a tendency to curve to the right, so keep an eye out and prepare yourself for this.
  • Be sure to keep dirt and dust out of the cuts.
  • Always wear your safety goggles.
  • Keep loose clothing and jewelry away from the blade.
  • In the event your blade breaks (this is common, so don’t panic when it does happen), be sure to clean up the mess before changing it.
  • Ensure that the teeth on the blade are facing down and toward you when you are inserting them.
  • Always work in a comfortable setting and position.


​Figuring out how to use scroll saw is not difficult. You just need to know what type of project you have in mind as well as the type of blade you will be using. One of the best ways to become better at using a scroll saw is through practice.

Use scrap wood and your own time to practice working on your scroll saw skills, and soon enough you will be making intricate pieces that are unique and creative.

Of course, it is also extremely important that you always follow the proper safety precautions and that you are using a safety dust mask, some safety goggles and safety gloves when necessary to ensure that you do not get injured.

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Practice your skill and hone in on the type of woodwork you want to do. This will help you decide the type of blade or blades you should use and will make you more comfortable with the entire process.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.