Scroll Sawing is great, but what if you don’t have a comfortable workplace other than your indoors, like an apartment or basement?
Here are some great tips for using a scroll saw in non-traditional places.
Scroll sawing can be done indoors with proper dust collection, fine blades, and low speeds. Dust and noise are really the two items that will make the difference; dust collection takes care of the first one, fine blades and slower speeds ensure that the noise level is as low as it can be.
So, what is the best way to ensure that you’re using a scroll saw indoors in the best way possible?
Scroll Sawing Indoors: Dust and Noise
While Dust and Noise are the main factors making it hard to work a scroll saw indoors, they are not insurmountable issues.
There are several solid solutions
The Dust Problem
One solid reason to keep your scroll saw out of the house or apartment is because you can generate a LOT of sawdust in a short amount of time.
While scroll saws, in general, don’t create large volumes of dust, you can be sure it will create some, so it does need to be addressed.
In reality, sanding is going to be the thing that creates the most dust, so keep that in mind if you intend to relocate your work station in the house.
Another thing to keep in mind about the dust isn’t simply the mess – inhaling too much sawdust is not good for your lungs at all and can lead to serious breathing/lung problems.
Many types of wood, even untreated, can be seriously irritating to our lungs, and some are actually thought to cause some forms of cancer.
As you can see, sawdust is no joke.
A vacuum can capture the vast majority of the sawdust generated and is a very solid solution.
When using a vacuum for dust collection while operating, the best option is usually a Shop-Vac instead of a Household Vacuum.
This is because a Shop-Vac will, in general, have more power than a household vacuum.
In general, household vacuums are not intended to run for hours at a time either.
If you plan to do long stints of scroll sawing, a shop vac is definitely recommended.
How to collect scroll sawdust with a shop vac:
Just having a shop vac isn’t going to be the only answer; you still need a good way to collect the dust while you’re working.
It’s one thing to use the shop vac afterward for cleanup, but the very best option is to ensure you’re collecting as much dust as you can at the source.
To do this, you can use a dust collection jig – either of your own makings or check out some of these options here:
This dust collection jig is specifically for scroll saws, and I thought it was quite ingenious low cost, and as you can see in the video, effective.
Basically it is made from a collection of low-cost PVC attachments and then hooks up to a shop vac or large shop dust collector.
The important thing here is that it is not only collecting from the top, but also the bottom as chips/dust fall off the blade underneath the saw bed.
This option is way more low profile and uses a much smaller hose for extraction.
It is quite a bit more involved to install but doesn’t add significant bulk to your machine.
For the price and performance, it’s quite a solid option if you want everything in one kit
Setting up a filter in the room you’re working in is a definite need, even if you are using one of the vacuum options as discussed above.
This doesn’t need to be super difficult either, and there are DIY options or out of the box options.
Here’s a very simple DIY option that shows one hung off the roof, but could easily be implemented in an upright position as well:
I’ve seen some really complex ones as well, where the creator is using a table saw, a lathe, etc. – in my opinion, it’s way over-engineered.
Essentially what we are trying to accomplish here is simply holding a filter against a fan.
The fan draws in the air through the filter and the filter collects the tiny, sometimes invisible dust particles.
That’s it! No need to go crazy 🙂
TIP: If you have an air return vent in the room you plan to be working in, be SURE to cover it completely or else you will do yourself the “favor” of spreading the dust all throughout the house – or at least clog your furnace filter really fast.
The Noise Problem
While scroll saws, in general, are one of the quietest machines in the shop, there are a few items that contribute to louder than usual noise when using a scroll saw, and also some nice hacks to ensure operating your scroll saw indoors will be as quiet as possible.
If your blade catches the material you’re working with because you don’t have it pressed firmly against the saw bed, you will generate a lot of unnecessary noise.
It’s key to have your workpiece securely controlled and directly against the saw bed with no travel in between.
NOTE: Ensuring you don’t overuse a blade is a big help here too; see our guide for how long scroll saw blades last for more info.
Some folks have added foam underneath their machine, between the saw and the table it rests on.
You need to be careful the saw is securely fixed if you go that route, but that will ensure that the machine itself won’t vibrate against the work surface.
The other thing that can cause vibration is if you’re pushing your machine too hard.
This can cause the blade to catch the wood, pick it up, and drop it down in rapid succession.
That leads us to the next item that makes operating a scroll saw a louder than necessary venture:
Most (all?) scroll saws are variable speed. Using a low speed and a low feed rate is the best way to ensure you are not adding extra noise.
While this isn’t necessarily ideal for all projects, the main idea would simply go as slow as you can while still operating at an ideal speed for the material and project you are currently working on.
NOTE: Looking for project ideas? Check out our super long list of free scroll saw patterns here!
The saw itself will just sound louder as it works harder, but the blade will also create a louder noise, so reducing speed scores lower decibel levels on both counts.
The type of material you work with will definitely affect the noise level as well.
The tip to keep in mind here is that harder materials will create more noise.
Of course, as craftsmen and women we don’t always get to pick the material we work with; some projects require MDF, others require other types of wood.
Some folks even cut metal with their scroll saw; this produces a high pitched noise, and you can be sure that unless you have the privilege of living in a rural area your neighbors will come investigating.
Another factor is the thickness of the material. In general, really thin material can be a little bit louder than material that is in the 1/2″ range.
Also, very thick material (3/4″+) will make your saw work harder as well, resulting in louder work.
However, if you’re just using wood, using the regular options like MDF, poplar, and pine, etc. and not over thick pieces, you should be just fine.
Can you operate a scroll saw in an apartment?
Most scroll saws are no louder than a sewing machine; if you can get away with that, then you can likely get away with using your scroll saw in your apartment.
Also, if you run your vacuum for dust extraction, it’s likely you use your vacuum regularly anyway (right?).
The only thing there is people might start wondering if it runs for long periods of time.
Why would someone run a scroll saw indoors?
The main advantage of using your scroll saw indoors is that the climate is much better for the longevity of your saw.
Large temperature fluctuations aren’t good for any machinery.
In addition, it’s a much more comfortable environment to work in!
All of that said, be sure to check out the details earlier in the post to deal with the dust and noise.