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  • Next step for newbie?

    Greetings all. I am new to scrolling and I'm as rough as new cut lumber. Heck, I still got some bark on me but I hope to get as slick and smooth and satin stained cherry one day.
    I've been playing around for about a month with a free scroll I came into, I believe it's a Delta ss-250 or so but it works great for me at this point. Its variable speed too, High and Low. I've collected a few blades and all are reverse tooth. I have some 2/0 crown tooth, 2/0 cheeth, 2r,5r and spiral.
    I bought a book with wildlife patterns in it and started with the easier patterns and worked my way up. I have cut them all out of Luan because its cheap and I'm new, or maybe I'm cheap its new. Anyway, The finished cut products have increased in quality along with my knowledge of do's and don'ts. I know a spiral blade isn't for me yet and ya' can't turn tight with a 5r blade. When a 2/0 blade breaks when cutting on high it scares the crap out of me every time.
    I'm new to scrolling but not woodworking in general. I'm proficient in the finishing process, i.e. sanding, staining etc. I feel I'm ready for the next step, or just impatient, and that is scrolling with hardwoods. I cut one pattern out of 1/4" oak craft board I got from Lowe's and it went ok.
    Instead of writng my questions (sentences) out I'll list then below.
    1) Which hardwood would be the best to start with? One that is a little forgiving, not very expensive and will not eat up all my blades. In forgiving I mean something that won't "self-feed" like Luan at times, cuts with enough resistance that it won't get awy from ya'. Luan cuts like butter and its easy for it to get away from me sometimes.
    2) Will I need to take a different approach to scrolling with hardwoods as opposed to the Luan, generally speaking? I know the Luan hasn't burned but my craftboard wanted to when the blade got dull and the lines were a little easier to stay on, plus it smells better.
    3) If I use a #2 on 1/4" oak, can I use it on any hardwood or will I need to go up a size on the harder stuff?
    4) Is say, 3/4" oak more forgiving than 1/4" oak?
    5) I've found it easier to cut on low speed (? rpm) than it is on high (? rpm). I have more control and can stay true to the line better on low. When cutting on high speed my work has a tendency to want to drift. Is this a good thing working on low. Am I more liable to have burn this way? Will I eventually get tired of slow and go to high?

    Well that's all I can think of to ask right now but I'm sure I'll think of something else later. I'm wanting to start cutting things and finishing them with backing, plaques etc. The Luan just isn't going to pass for quality work much more. My wife says they look great but I can't wait to throw a big walnut dragon in her lap, well, maybe a little poplar squirrel but it'll be nice nonetheless ~
    Whatcha think?
    The Obediant Young Grasshopper
    Capt. Weasel
    Last edited by Capt Weasel; 10-25-2005, 03:37 PM.
    Confuscious says, "The cautious seldom err".
    Confuscious didn't own a scrollsaw either.

  • #2
    Next step for newbie

    Welcome to the Form Capt. Weasel,
    It is always fun to cut plywood and I know that you will enjoy cutting some hardwood.
    It sounds like you are getting a good start with your scroll sawing. That is the way most of us got started. The only advice that I can give you is find a pattern that you want to do, and go from there. If you should mess up hopefully you will learn from it and will try to do a better job next time. Just always remember that Babe Ruth Struck Out more often than he hit Home Runs. Take your time and have fun. Read as many books that you can find on scrolling and subscribe to some scroll saw magazines. Scroll Sawing is a lifelong hobby that can give you many hours of enjoyment. Try different woods some will cut better than others, but you will learn from you experience better than someone telling you what you should cut.
    Again welcome to the form,
    Greg H.
    In Houston


    • #3
      First, Welcome Aboard!!!

      Now switching from plywood to hardwood--I think I would actually practice on "softwood" first--my first several hours of scrolling was spend cutting straight and curvy lines on a piece of 1 x 8 pine (knots and all) It's inexpensive as far as wood goes, and I really got a feel for thicker wood. Once you can make sharp corners with the pine, you can make sharp corners with almost any wood. While pine doesn't burn badly, if you practice your techniques, you should be able to avoid most burning in the long run...Pine will also give you a feel for when the blade is getting dull--but won't wear your blades out as fast as hardwoods!

      From there, Greg had it right--experiment and find out what you like best. I've cut Baltic Birch, pine walnut, oak, cherry...and liked them all. The cherry was tough because it tends to burn, but a little tape over or under the pattern usually clears that up.

      Bob Duncan
      Scroll Saw Workshop


      • #4

        Welcome to the board Capt. Weasel!! There are a lot of fine folks here willing to share tips and information. The luan is OK for some projects; however, it has a lot of voids in the laminations which detract from a good cutting job. Baltic birch ply is good and Finnish ply is better. I suppose the type of wood to use depends on what you want to make. I started with 1/4 inch oak simply because it was readily available locally. I've made several jewelry boxes with it and a couple of clocks. I also use a lot of poplar in various thicknesses. The choice of blades is also a variable. Depends a lot on type of wood, thickness and how intricate the cuts will be. I've had great results with #2 and #5 FD reverse tooth blades cutting 1/4 inch red oak. You should get a lot of helpful replys to your questions from the folks here who use a lot of different woods. I do mostly segmentation portraits and poplar has become my wood of choice so I will defer to those who can give you a lot better advice than I can regarding wood. Just remember that when it comes to scrolling experience is the best teacher!!
        If it don't fit, don't force it....get a bigger hammer!!


        • #5
          Welcome Captain Weasel!
          As Bob said, regular construction grade softwood - like from your local DIY store) is the best way to get into thicker or harder woods - it doesn't have to be pine - whatever they are selling as 1 x 6 or 1 x whatever you like lumber will be a great transition for you. Then try some real hardwoods - and my current favorite (because it is not too expensive, and is readily available at Home Depo) is poplar. It has a lot of variety in the grain patterns, and comes in up to 1 x 12 s which is really handy for most projects. All that pretty green and pink or purple grain you see in the raw wood tends to just turn to dark brownish when oiled, but it is still attractive. I have also seen it in 1/4" stock at home depo. I have also found Birch at some stores. It cuts pretty nicely, without eating up blades. Although lots of folks love oak, I have found the garden variety available in DIY stores to be a bit stubborn - the blade wants to follow the grain sometimes, dulls blades and occasionally it wants to burn (avoid that with the tape trick) and it is not easy to sand to a nice finish because of the open pores. It does look great if everything goes as planned though. It is more expensive than the poplar and birch.
          We'll all be interested in hearing about your poplar squirrel and your walnut dragon, (or your cherry chipmunk or your aspen unicorn...)so keep us informed.
          Again, welcome!


          • #6
            Welcome Captain.
            Don't be afraid to try cutting hardwoods. I used pine for years and switched to hardwoods a couple of years ago. I haven't made anything out of pine since. You could try using aspen or poplar to get your feet wet then move up to oak.

            There's a fine line between woodworking and insanity, I'm just not sure which side of the line I'm on!


            • #7
              I like the pine idea and to be honest I hadn't even thought of it. I guess hardwoods in a sense intimidate me as a beginner because I don't want to butcher it up and and have to throw into the "use it someday" pile. I guess I'm looking for something like a "soft" hardwood that I can transition from Luan to the hard stuff. Be like a good learning curve. Maybe the pine might do it.
              I do like the poplar. I helped a friend build church furniture the first of the year and all the pulpit stuff was poplar and I really liked it for its color,weight and ease of working. Its fairly cheap at "SLOWE'S" but all they have is the 1/4"x 1" x 2' or 4' craft boards and the the 1" stuff 6'-8' long. I don't have a planer so I have use the 1" stuff or order precut online.
              How would you rate the workablity of the various hardwoods from easy to tough? Wood such as oak, cherry, walnut, mahagony, hickory, poplar, aspen. My wife loves the look of paduk and bubinga too. Got some plans for some baskets and she wants them out of those. I might just try it with pine to start and hope it passes muster. Probably not.
              Thanks for hearing me out and sharing ya'lls well earned knowledge. I'm one of those people that when I get into something I try and seek out all the info I can so I can do the best I can. Ya' live and ya' learn but others can help the process become alot easier.

              p.s. Yes "ya'll", I'm in the South ~
              Confuscious says, "The cautious seldom err".
              Confuscious didn't own a scrollsaw either.


              • #8

                Let me extend my welcome as well. As you already gathered you come to the right place to help with your new found hobby. It is a very relaxing and rewarding one for sure.The advice you were given already is right on and the one piece in there that is uttmost important is PRACTICE. With practice comes perfection. No one just picks up a scrollsaw and becomes great right away. It takes some dedication but with that said it is not hard to learn. As you have already started to experience there are some tricks and techniques that if learned correctly can make scrolling more enjoyable. You have begginers books from what you wrote so I suggest whole hardly try the methods of turning and making sharp corners that were layed out to you because it is possible to use any blade and make a tight turn. Learn to apply presure to the wood with each finger as you turn because as you turn the presure is transfered to different fingers at different times depending on direction of feeding.

                Now to you wood choice. First laun is a good begginers wood but like mentioned as alot of voids and is not a good scrollers wood. Baltic birch is very good but lacks character but at times this is good such as portraits because you do not want grain to detract from the picture. With this said keep in mind scrolling any plywoods will dull blades faster than hardwoods unless they are very dense. This is because of the glue to hold the ply together.

                As far as hard woods go mahagony is probable the easiest of woods to cut even easier than pine. It of course is a little more expensive so do not reccomend to start there. I would recomend poplar over pine because pine has sap in it and will dull blades faster. Poplar has less grain to it so you will not get that pulling effect you will get with heavy grained woods such as oak. This self feeding idea you have is because you have to get used to grain direction changes. There is a differnt feel when cutting with the grain as opposed to against the grain. This is important with hardwoods not so much with plywoods.

                As far as blades go there are so many different styles and each has a purpose. But with that said you can use the same numbered blade to scroll a variety of woods. This come to a matter of choice and getting to know the different blades. Now even that there is no solid forula to say use this blade with this wood example oak, you can get a varying degree of hardness in oak as well as many other woods. Here I would strongly suggest checking out a well known member of this forum and others that sells what I feel is the best blades on the market today. The Flying Dutchman blades. His name is Mike M. and his web site is He has alot of good info about not only blades but about scrolling in general and will have more helpful tips than what I mentioned. Check it out.

                Hope we were of some help to you and keep those questions coming as you progress we want to join you. Good luck and happy scrolling!
                John T.


                • #9
                  Sorry you happen to post this before I posted mine so to follow up on some more point you made. I would stay away from the exotics for awhile till you get the scrolling of hardwoods down a little more. You asked about ease of cutting certain woods. That is hard to answer because some woods have varied hardness to them such as oak and ash. Like I said the easiest wood to scroll is mahagony. The grain is subtle and is a pleasure to work.Walnut can be as easy but also can be a tough wood due to hardness. This variedness has alot to do with location the wood was harvested from, where the tree was growing on a hillside or such. If it has pines it is a soft wood if it has leaves it is a hardwood.

                  The use of exotics which are all tough on blades and burn easily are usually used for accent pieces such as here.
                  The clock on the left is red oak with rosewood trim and the clock on the right is red oak and bloodwood trim.

                  Hope again this is of some help.
                  John T.


                  • #10
                    I didn't know mahagony was that easy to scroll with. I thought it would be hard and tough like hickory or oak. Learn something in every sentence. I think I'll give the poplar a whirl next then try some mahgony. Got a great Dragon pattern thats just itching for some mahgony.
                    Also the grain pattern. I didn't realize that it could be causing me to "overturn" my corners.
                    In regards to blades, what would a guideline for minimums for certain thickness? I see that personal preference is all the teeth configurations amount to in using. Should I use a #2/0 for up to 1/4" , #2 for up to 1/2" etc.? Or does that boil down to preference as well along with crown tooth, dbl tooth etc.
                    Confuscious says, "The cautious seldom err".
                    Confuscious didn't own a scrollsaw either.


                    • #11
                      If you go to Mike's site, he has an article about choosing blades. Also check out Rick Hutcheson's site He has an article about selecting blades and a printable chart of blade sizes and hole sizes needed for a number of blades including Flying Dutchman.

                      There's a fine line between woodworking and insanity, I'm just not sure which side of the line I'm on!


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