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Scroll Saw question

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I have a Delta single speed scroll saw that I have never had out of the box in over 3 years that I have owned it. Now that I am getting deeper into building I will be needing a scroll saw but am not sure if this is the best one for me. Would I be better off with a variable speed saw? Are there advantages to it? I have a friend that wants my NIB old one and I am happy to give it to him if it's worth replacing.

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I have an old craftsman. I bought it used about 10 years ago. I find I always use it at full speed and use a vacuum instead of the blower (your going to vacuum all that dust up later anyway).


Invest in some good blades. It really makes a difference. I use Olson Precision Ground Tooth blades. The ones the big box stores sell do not last. Even Olson's cheaper blades don't last as long as their good ones.



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How close and precise do you need to cut? Are there a lot of inside cuts?


If there are few inside cuts - that you can afford to do with a hand fret saw and sorta close - will finish with disk or drum sander is your situation:


An alternative tool is a 9" or 10" bench band saw.  A Rikon 10 can be had for $220 now.   The generic 9" are less.  This only gets you halfway - to be able to do sharp curves or turn 90 degrees or more at a spot - a Carter Stabilizer for scroll cutting is sort of necessary and that is another $80.  What is available from Carter will limit your generic options.  I have the 9" model that MicroMark sold for a while and fortunately I was able to adapt the Stabliizer using K&S telescoping brass tubing.

You are pretty much limited to an 1/8" blade.  The teeth have set so getting too close to the line will not work.  The cuts are only in the down direction - so the work piece does not vibrate.   It can go fast - depending on wood thickness and species.


You might be able to do some resawing (as well as cross cutting) in addition to the scroll work  but I figure 2" thick and significant sanding because the blades for this class of saw have set and leave there presence known on the cut face.

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Check the home DIY stores like Lowe's and Home Depot.   I, personally opted for the 18" long bed as I have need for this saw to be dual purpose... home stuff and ship stuff.  I also started online using their websites and scrutinized the reviews carefully.   Some reviews will blast it and some will praise the product but one needs to read deeper and see the "why?".  For example, I was looking at a bandsaw and the one with great reviews wouldn't handle the wood thickness I wanted to cut.  So it's a matter of perspective.

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Jaager, I will be doing some scratch building so frames and such. Whatever will be required for a scratch project. I will probably use a hand jewelers saw for really small intricate work. I got pretty handy with it cutting the details on coins.


I will see what the local DIY stores have. One thing I would like is dust collection. It sure helps keep thing cleaner.  

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Do not buy a Dremel


Haven't seen you around for a while, Geoff! Are you still working on model ships? 


FWIW, I do have a Dremel. But I have to say - I have never used any other scroll saw besides the Dremel, so I am not speaking from any position of authority here. The Dremel seems to work OK and does what I ask of it. It does seem rather imprecise and difficult to control, but i'm not sure whether that's a problem with the tool or whether I just don't have the skills.


What do you think is wrong with it, and would I benefit from upgrading to a better scroll saw? 

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I actually like my Dremel saw. It is permanently attached to my work bench with a fish tank pump attached. It cannot compare with proper scroll saws and has lots of vibrations especially if you crank the speed up but it is very cheap and has performed well for me. It is also built well. 

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I do POF.  I am developing a method of frame assembly that involves cutting out the individual timbers.  I do not need to be precise in cutting to the line - in fact, some distance is necessary.   My 9" band saw does the job as well as I could ask and with the Stabilizer, it tracks quite well. Since only the back edge is controlled by the apparatus - the blade can pivot as needed - it does not bind - there are no guides.  The total cost is low enough to keep the 9' pretty much dedicated to scroll cutting.  I think most 9" saws have a 1 1/4" vac connection, which I adapted to my 2 1/2" shop vac.  Once I followed the advice here and placed a cyclone trap in line - I have avoided the problem of the vac filter clogging up and can cut and thickness sand as long as I wish.


With POF - want to have control of my timber supply.  I make do with an old Emco 3 wheel band saw with a Wood Slicer blade for resawing - it is under powered (3/4 HP).  Were I younger and not space limited - condo - and if I has wired 220V outlet, I would replace it with a 2HP 14" band saw..  This big saw could be used for scroll cutting - an 1/8" blade fits fine,  but changing band saw blades is not fun and it is worth it to me to have paid for the 9" not to have to.


I have a 10" table saw, but it scares the hell out of me.  I have found that except for cutting large plywood sheets, my band saw does everything better and is safer.  Saw horses and a hand power saw that can cut 3/4" would work as well as the table saw for plywood.  The full size table saw is a tool I would not buy were I starting over.


My thickness sander is a tool I can not do without.  When I started out, the only way to have the tool was to make it myself.   Talk about saw dust!   I made my own dust collector --  a bottomless box - 3 layers of Amazon box cardboard laminated using PVA wood glue - inside corners re-enforced with 1/4" x 1/4" Pine/Fir cut from a furring strip. Mounted a 2 1/2" hose connection on the top and the shop vac gets almost all the dust.


A 5" disk sander is another tool I depend on.  The MicroMark model that I use - pre-Byrnes - does not come with a method for dust collection - so I used my Amazon cardboard to enclose the underside of the table and cut a slot opening for a small crevice tool attachment and extra hose and use a Sears Magic Blue vac - it gets all the dust.


If you can afford it, a Byrnes table saw is worth the cost.


I prefer to have the tool fixed and manipulate the wood.  A drum sander is a very useful tool.  The spindle sanders I have seen use pre formed cylinders of sanding media - I want to use drums that can mount sheet sand paper so I made my own drum sanding table.  Additional advantages are that I can also mount 1/4" fine carbide burr cutters to quickly eat away material before final sanding of my frames and  I can mount a fence and use the table as an edger since a lot of my wood supply is raw planks straight from a country saw mill - not milled or planed.  The way I control dust is to fix the crevice tool for my shop vac close to the drum.  My background involved a chem lab so I use a cheap ring stand with a finger clamp to hold the crevice tool.

Edited by Jaager
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Thank you for the great information. Let me give you an idea of my situation. I have been a modeler all my life, mostly plastic. I have also always loved maritime history and wooden ships and in the last couple of years have built a couple of kits. I have been buying hand and power tools in preparing for retirement and bigger wood ship kits and scratch building. I will be retiring in just over 3 weeks from now.


I have a 9" band saw still sealed in the box, a spindle sander in the box, a Sherline mill and lathe and 3 weeks ago got my Byrnes Table saw. I have also ordered the Byrnes Thickness Sander and Disk Sander. I think of them as an investment for my years of retirement. I plan to build a couple of more kits and do some simple scratch building until I have more confidence in my skills to do a big scratch project like the frigate HMS Naiad or a Swan Class sloop.


I probably have too many tools already but I have worked a long to be able to do what I want when I retire and this has turned into a passion for me. It's a skill that I really want to develop into an art like so many on this forum have. I may never get there but sure want to try.

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I wish you all the best in your retirement, and yes I agree the tools are an investment in the hobby, you earn it so enjoy it. Take your time. You are going to find at times power tools are a problem where doing it the old way is better, but you will learn that like all of us. So enjoy and takes thing a little at a time. Oh and Welcome to MSW.

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Sounds like you are pretty well set as far as tools are concerned. 

As far as scratch -POF - the only real difference is the framing and any innards you add below the lowest gun deck.

An easy way to get into scratch is to replace kit components with those you make yourself. 

If you get into heavy duty scratch and find that you want to harvest your own wood -  an economical way would be to

make friends with someone who has a big band saw and use their facilities to get logs, braches and firewood into Byrnes saw sized billets.

All it will cost you is the band saw blades - they are not inexpensive and they break or get dull.  The species of wood that we use is a lot tougher

on saw blades than what the average wood worker will use.


The greatest advantage in having the mill and lathe is that they are tools to make other tools. 

Another tool that I use is a small drill press.  The Eurotool DRL 300 works well for me- especially with a generic momentary power foot switch.

The mill will certainly double as a drill press and if you do not use that function all that often, the setup time saved by having a dedicated drill press will not be worth the expense. 

As far as hand drills -  I like the Dremel  Model 8050 Rotary Tool  - especially since they fixed the explode and burn problem.   I just wish it "remembered" the last speed setting.

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  • 3 weeks later...

One thing to consider is buying a good scroll saw off of Craigslist.  Many seem to have been used for a weekend kid's project and then never used again.  


I got a great deal on a Dewalt 788 off of CL a year or two ago.  Guy was a hobbyist furniture maker with an amazing workroom, and had bought the scroll saw on a whim at a show, brought it home and turned it on to make sure it worked, and then never used it again.  Essentially got the saw, stand and light, and a whole bunch of blades, for less than half retail for a practically new machine.  


The Dewalt came highly recommended from the folks here at MSW.  I like it a lot - it's served me very well on a variety of cuts.  


I'm in a similar situation as you, though with many more years until retirement  :(   I don't have as much time to model as I would like given work and family.  I figure when I retire I'll be able to jump into full-on scratch building, but in the meantime, it's still fun to play with machines when I can.  I'd also rather spend the money and buy good quality machines that will last a lifetime - the Byrnes and Sherline machines are really great tools, you'll enjoy using them.

Edited by Landlubber Mike
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  • 2 months later...

For whatever it is worth, here are two suggestions for making a scroll saw a bit better to control.

I bought a used Ryobi scroll saw and added a 1/8 inch thick plywood plate on top of the table. It is held on with double back tape but has a small slot for the blade clearance. It is not exactly 'zero clearance' but darn close.

post-246-0-35879000-1474581139.jpg Obviously the foot was removed for this picture.


Then I made a couple guide blocks out of oak. The picture below shows the idea. 

I have found that this gives me very good control when cutting curved pieces and practically no tear out on the back side.


I might add that when the oak block wears out (or I have to use a narrower blade) I loosen the screw that holds the block to the foot, and resurface the face. Thus far I have not had to replace the block since it only 'guides' and no heavy rubbing takes place, unless I go into tight bends.

Edited by Modeler12
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Olson recommends grinding off the back corners of their blades for a smoother cut and tighter curves. They sell a 'blade finishing stone' together with instructions. I just downloaded the instructions. The way to do it is by grinding when the blade is moving. For very thin blades they recommend doing it while the blade is cutting wood.



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I have a small Sakura I bought used some years back.  This is the saw that was mentioned by Romero in his Warrior Practicum I believe.  It is belt driven but the little saw I have does not have as low a speed as the larger model, therefore you can not slow it down enough to cut brass.  They are sold now under the PS Wood name.  http://www.pswood.com/scroll-saws/ If I had it to do over again I would opt for the large model.


Like mentioned previously, I still prefer the band saw for most cutting even though my band saw is a large Laguna.

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