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beginner question

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  • beginner question

    Hello gang,
    I'm new to the site, and this is my first post. I've had an itch to do some wood working in the shop so i went and got a scroll saw. Nothing fancy, just a hitachi that was on sale at my local Lowes. I dabbled with it for a bit, and it got pushed to the back burner. Still had the itch, and wasn't happy with my scrolling results from my previous attempt, so I found the wonderful world of pen turning. This, went much better for me, turned into a profitable, or as i like to call it self funding hobby.

    That said, now i want to try my hand again with the scroll saw. I'm willing to just forget whatever i may have learned by dabbling in the past, and start from scratch.

    I understand the TPI and reverse teeth and such, my question is what is a good wood to work with?? for a straight out of the box saw and operator.. what do you suggest I use?

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    A lot of people go straight for the pine because it's cheap. But better is poplar. It doesn't have the extreem variations in grain like pine and will provide a more consistant cutting experience. The growth rings in pine go from soft to hard to soft, and so on, and can be frustrating to the newbee.

    Oh and by the way, Welcome to the greatest place for scoll sawyers on the net. Lots of great folks here. I know you'll enjoy youself ...

    The limits of the imagination are imaginary.
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    • #3
      I will check into poplar and see if my Lowes or Home Depot carries it. Whats a good thickness to work with also? Forgot to ask that.

      Thanks again!


      • #4
        Joe thickness will depend on the project. Welcome aboard.
        "Still Montana Mike"

        "Don't worry about old age--it doesn't last that long."
        Mike's Wood-n-Things LLC


        • #5
          The thickness does depend on the project but the range of what works best is about 1/4" to 3/4". Anything thinner than 1/4" doesn't offer enough resistance to even the smallest blades and makes it harder to control, especially if you are just starting out. Anything thicker than 3/4" starts to get hard to cut. Of course the type of wood you use will affect this quite a bit... 3/4" poplar shouldn't be too hard to cut on a scroll saw provided you use an appropriate sized sharp blade. (I would probably use around a #9 size blade)

          With the type of work I do, I try to stick between 1/4" and 1/2" since the projects I do involve a lot of detailed cutting and I need to use smaller blades to be able to do the small details. (#2/0 and #2 blades mostly).

          Pine is hard to work with for the reasons mentioned above and also it is too brittle to do any detail work on. Poplar is definitely much better but it is still somewhat fragile. The woods I most often use are maple and birch since they are tight grained and cheap around here.
          Keith Fenton
          Scroll saw patterns @


          • #6
            Hi Joe,
            Go to my web site and click on Selecting a Blade and Q & A. You might find a lot of help.
            FD Mike
            SD Mike


            • #7
              I like to cut most North American hardwoods. Some of my favorites are walnut, cherry, maple, red oak, even sassafrass, but most all of them are pretty decent for scrolling. Just remember the harder (think hickory) and thicker the wood, the more difficult it will be to scroll and you will have to choose your patterns and blades accordingly.

              I often let the pattern and the look I want to achieve dictate the wood I end up using. I often mix contrasting colors on projects like clocks. There are also a number of imported woods that are pretty popular, but sounds like you want to stick to the basics for the time being.

              Another good alternative, depending on the availability in your area, is baltic birch plywood. You may have to source it at a local full service lumber yard, one that caters to cabinet and furniture makers. Or you can get it in smaller pieces from various internet sites. I usually avoid plywood from the big box stores, because of the general poor quality, but some folks have good luck with them. I typically use BB plywood in projects 1/4" or less in thickness, due to the added strength & stabiliity the plywood offers on very delicate patterns.
              Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter. Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."


              • #8
                One of my favorite hardwoods is Walnut. I used 3/4 -7/8 in. thick wood for stand up puzzles. It cuts fairly easily (go slow) and always gives a nice finish. I always sand the wood, up to 320 grit prior to cutting, then the final sanding, smothing the edges after cutting. It makes life a little easier. With poplar or pine make sure you apply a conditioner to the wood prior to staining or painting. It helps make an even coating and not become blotchy. Have Fun!


                • #9
                  if you are going to use pine look for select pine it works much better and gives a great look


                  • #10
                    Free wood is always the best and if you watch for it it'd everywhere. You will be surprised by what you will find.
                    Last edited by oily; 09-07-2011, 06:34 PM.
                    May the wind at you back .....
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                    • #11
                      They call that dumpster diving at contruction sides.
                      FD Mike
                      SD Mike


                      • #12
                        buy 3/4" and then you can resaw it with a bandsaw or tablesaw and then you can have 1/4" also which is the best overall size for scrolling.

                        welcome from someone that was in your shoes not to long ago.

                        + + I Love The Smell Of Sawdust In The Morning + +


                        • #13
                          Poplar isn't a bad choice for starting out, I use mostly N. American hardwoods, a few exoctics, and plenty of baltic birch plywood. As far as softwoods go I like cedar; cuts easily, consistant, inexpensive, and great smelling as well!
                          Alex Pierce


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