7 Cool Things to do With a Scroll Saw

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Things to do With a Scroll Saw

cutting intricate curves and designs, the scroll saw excels.  There so many cool things to do with a scroll that saw that an entire website is devoted just to projects and ideas. 

No matter your skill level or your interest in woodworking, your scroll saw has a place in your plans. 

We will investigate some of the cool things you can do with a scroll saw and point you to some great websites where you can get more detailed information about the techniques and find a multitude of plans for projects.

Seven cool things to do with a scroll saw. When it comes to making intricate designs, cutting curves, or working with the thin material, the scroll saw shines.  Some of the more popular types of projects that woodworkers find a scroll saw useful are:

  • Intarsia
  • Inlay
  • Fretwork
  • Marquetry
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • 3d puzzles
  • Toys and games

Some of these types of projects may be familiar to you. Look at all of them.

If they pique your interest, explore the links we will provide to learn more, and see detailed plans for using your scroll saw for these cool things to do.

A Word About Scroll Saws

Before we start with projects and ideas, it’s a good idea to talk a bit about your scroll saw. 

Before you begin some of these projects, the authors and designers assume a few things about your understanding of your scroll saw, how it works, and how to use it.

Setting up your Scroll Saw

Most of the links to the projects and plans assume that you are familiar with the proper setup and maintenance on your scroll saw. 

If you are just getting started with your scroll saw, now would be a good time to review the manufacturers manual that came with your saw to make sure that everything is as it should be before you start.

Choosing a Blade

Depending on the type of project you choose, you will need to select the proper blade for the material and detail of the plan. 

Your manufacturer’s user manual is a good place to start. Some excellent guides and charts will help with blade selection all over the internet.

Good Shop Safety

Keeping a clean and safe shop is one of the keys to successful woodworking, no matter what tool you are using. 

Having the proper safety equipment like a good pair of safety glasses, a fire extinguisher, and good work apron are the start of good shop safety practices. Maintaining the guards and safeties on your equipment is critical.

With those words out of the way, let’s look at the cool things you can do with your scroll saw.

Intarsia

Intarsia

Intarsia is an ancient craft using various types of wood and other material fitted together to form intricate shapes the create an illusion of depth. 

Intarsia can be challenging, but the technique is not beyond the skill of the novice scroll saw user.

The wood pieces must fit together precisely to achieve the best look on an intarsia project. Creating tight-fitting joints is where the scroll saw can perform.

Here are some tips gleaned from some of the best scrolls saw intarsia artists in the country.

An intarsia project is creating a picture using wood for your color and texture pallet. 

For most intarsia projects, you will need a variety of different kinds of wood from which to select the proper pieces to make your project come alive.

Blade Selection and Sawing

Blade selection is the key. Keep these things in mind when selecting the blade for your project.

  • When sawing both hardwoods and softwoods up to 1 inch thick, select a reverse skip-tooth blade.  The best size to use is No. 5 scroll saw blade.  The 12 teeth per inch and the reverse skip-tooth design on the blade will ensure smooth, even cuts without splitting or chipping in the edges.
  • Work the material though the scroll saw slowly.  If you work slowly, you have better control, and you minimize the chance for blade wander or vibration.
  • Kept the blade tensioned properly.
  • Make sure the blade is perfectly square with the table.  Checking the square of the table and the blade will make fitting the pieces together much easier and save a lot of finicky sanding and fitting.

Choosing a project

Before you dive off in the deep waters of intarsia, you should consider finding a pattern or plan. 

Most of the patterns and plans available on the internet are tested and proven designs that come with pattern drawings that you can download, print, and apply to work.

If you are a novice scroll saw user, you can find designs meant especially for your skill level that will help you build your experience and saw techniques.

The links below have hundreds, if not thousands, of scroll saw intarsia patterns and plans that will fit any skill level.

  • These are some great intarsia patters you can download with many beginner and intermediate level projects from JGR Intarsia.
  • Scrollsawparadice.com offers several free scrolls saw patterns for download.  Visit their website for more information
  • A few good beginner intarsia patterns are available at Sawbird.com.

Those links should keep you, and your scroll saw busy for a while.  Intarsia is one of the most popular forms of woodworking performed with a scroll saw. 

The intarsia technique can produce impressive and visually stunning work, and the skill levels are easy to acquire. 

Inlay

Inlay

When it comes to cool things to do with your scroll saw, nothing fits the bill better than doing inlay work. 

A scroll saw can make this artistic and beautiful technique easy and produce stunning works. 

The inlay is the technique of inserting different colors and types of wood into depressions cut into a base material to form artistic patterns that are flush on top. 

The materials don’t necessarily have to be wood, but for our scroll saw projects, creating intricate inlay patterns, designs, and even pictures are possible.

Like intarsia, inlay requires precise joints to create the overall effect. 

The goal is to have a seamless look in the pattern or picture between the pieces of inlay and the base material into which the inlay sits. 

Unlike intarsia inlay work does require a few more woodworking techniques that just the scroll saw. 

Creating the depression on the base material requires some carving or chisel work. If you want to expand your woodworking skills past the scroll saw, an inlay is a good technique to learn.

Setting up your Saw

The actual step by step techniques of doing inlay work with a scroll saw is, in many instances, dependent on your scroll saw. 

If the table on your scroll saw will tilt both left and right, there is a different technique than if your table only tilts one direction. Referring to your scroll saw manufacturers user manual is always a good place to start.

It may be a good idea to craft a zero-clearance table insert for your scroll saw to make your inlay work easier. 

Creating a zero-clearance table insert is as easy as using masking tape to close the gap between your table insert and the blade.

Many inlay woodworkers suggest that you file the back of your bandsaw blades to make it easier to craft tight turns in your work. 

This technique requires careful application of a fine file to the backside of your bandsaw blade to reduce the width of the blade.

Different Saws, Different Techniques

One of the techniques most used for doing inlay work is to build a stack of your materials. 

This technique is particularly good when you are only using two types of wood, one of the base materials and a contrasting color for the inlay material. 

Stacking reduces the number of cuts that you need to make.

Other techniques require you to cut away the depressions in the base material where the inlay pieces will fit. 

Removing the waste material is done with carving knives or chisels and requires a bit more skill. The inlay pieces fit into the depressions in the inlay material and.

Learn More!

These links will take you to experts in the art of inlay, where you can learn in more detail the techniques and practices for doing great inlay work.

Making inlay projects can become almost an addiction. As your skill level increases, the intricacy of your designs will also increase. 

There is no limit to the artistry possible in working a few simple techniques with a selection of fine wood.

Fretwork

You have seen fretwork and not known what was.  Victorian houses often are decorated with fretwork and the furnishing and accessories found inside.  

Fretwork is the intricate and delicate geometric patterns seen on wood and metal decorations on many objects. The finest fretwork looks more like delicate lace than wood or metal.

On the surface, fretwork looks complicated, and that scares some woodworkers away from trying their hand at the craft. 

With a scroll saw, fretwork is relatively easy. Proper blade choice and understanding the material with which you are working are the two keys to successful fretwork projects.

Fretwork is a project that only a scroll saw can manage among the power saws. 

A removable blade that passes through a small hole in the material on which you are working is the key to fretwork. In the past, this was all done with a handsaw. 

The appearance of the scroll saw made it possible to produce fretwork with much less effort.

The ability to stack cut also makes fretwork attractive, especially when you need to reproduce several copies of a pattern onto one project. 

The scroll saw makes the problems of matching patterns exactly a breeze.

Back to Blades

If you haven’t figured it out yet, blade selection for any project probably has the most impact on the success or failure of your project. 

The internet abounds with information about how to match a scroll saw blade with the material you are using and type of project. 

Most experienced fretwork scroll saw woodworkers use a #5 or #7 reverse skip-tooth blade for their projects. 

Smaller and more detailed patterns may require smaller blades, and there are specialty blades available made for fretwork, but some of them have a learning curve attached because of their design.

Among these specialties, blades are spiral blades.  Imagine taking a standard scroll saw blade and giving it a couple of twists along the length of the blade.  The describes a spiral cut blade perfectly. 

A spiral cut blade allows you to cut a fretwork pattern without having to turn the material to keep the cutting edge of the saw blade in line with the pattern you are cutting.

Pick a Pattern and Go!

Fretwork is one of the easiest scroll saw skills to acquire and produces the most awe-inspiring finished work. 

The saw work is straight forward and, when completed, will make most of your friends and family wonder how you managed to make all those interior cuts, curves, and tight corners.

Pick an easy-open pattern and start cutting your first fretwork design.  The more you cut, the better your skills will become. 

As you gain skills and knowledge of blades, blade selection, and technique, the more intricate your patterns will become.

Head to these websites and look at the huge selection of free fretwork patterns that are available for download. 

Choose a few, and get busy. Some of these sites may charge a small fee for downloading a pattern. 

Sometimes it is worth it to get the advice and instructions that go along with the pattern. If you are starting, knowing the order to make the cuts teaches you how to plan a fretwork design when you start drawing your own.

Marquetry

Marquetry

Marquetry is the first cousin to doing inlay work. The difference is in the way the different pieces of a wood affix to the base. 

We know that inlay is, well, inlaid into the wood base. Marquetry is a technique of applying pieces of veneer to the surface of a workpiece to form intricate patterns, designs, and pictures.

These designs, patterns, and pictures can be purely artistic or applied to furniture or other small woodworking projects. 

The material used to produce the marquetry work is not limited to wood. Ivory, bone, turtle-shell, metals, even precious, and semi-precious stones are often part of the marquetry.

The Debate

Some who practice marquetry argue that using a scroll saw for marquetry work is an abomination. 

The argument that properly done marquetry uses knives and other carving hand tools to cut the thin materials that make up the design may be valid from a purely artistic standpoint. 

On the other hand, using a scroll saw can bring the fascination and satisfaction of marquetry work to the home and hobby woodworker without years of practice and training.

Marquetry Technique

With the introduction of the scroll saw, invention and innovation soon took hold. 

As woodworkers experimented, they began to develop different techniques of cutting and making marquetry designs.  A few of the more popular are:

The WIndow Method

Using this method allows you to select the best grain pattern for space. 

First, make the cutout in the veneer into which you want to place a contrasting color or pattern of the material. 

Place the material behind the cutout, or “window” and slide the interior material around until you find the best grain pattern for the inset piece. 

Mark the pattern and cut to fit.

Pad or Stacking Method

Pad or Stack scroll saw cutting is a tried and true method of cutting veneers. 

The good veneers with which you are working are stacked or “padded” together with waste veneer and the securely bound together using take or other fastenings. 

The pattern is then cut. The downside with this method is that the pieces don’t fit tightly together because of the kerf of the saw blade.

Double-bevel Marquetry

The scroll saw makes this technique much more precise than using a manual fretsaw or knives. 

Double-bevel marquetry requires that each piece of the pattern have a bevel, or slight angle, on the edges. 

The beveled edges then nest together to form tight, almost seamless joints. The ability to tilt the table of a scroll saw is the key to this technique.

Artistry in wood

Marquetry is appropriately called artistry in wood. As you look at examples of marquetry throughout history, you can see that the term artistry fits well. 

You may not be an artist, but don’t let that stop you from giving marquetry a try. There are hundreds of patterns and designs for marquetry projects available on the internet.

Visit some of these sites and look at the possibilities. Marquetry gives you the chance to hone your scroll saw skills and, with the help of some downloadable designs, make you look like a real artist. 

Check some of these websites for more information

Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are one of the most practiced scroll saw projects of all. Almost everyone loves a good puzzle. 

Jigsaw puzzles are both educational and entertaining. From the simplest of jigsaw puzzles to the most intricate, they are as much fun to make as they are to play with. 

Whether you are cutting large pieces for your grandchildren or intricate designs to challenge your friends and family, creating jigsaw puzzles are fantastic projects for your scroll saw.

Techniques and Styles

When you start looking at puzzles, you learn very quickly that not all jigsaw puzzles are alike. 

The style of cutting the pieces and the way they are designed can become almost overwhelming. A few of the more popular style variations are:

Interlocking

When the puzzle pieces inter-connect, the puzzle is an interlocking puzzle. 

When the pieces of the puzzle are all in place, and you can move the entire puzzle by pulling or pushing it across the tabletop without disturbing the pieces, the puzzle is an interlocking style.

Knobs, tabs, lock or keys

Those little things on a jigsaw puzzle piece that fits into a corresponding place on the adjacent piece are the subject here. 

There are as many types and designs as you care to imagine. There are whole articles and even books written about the types of knobs found in puzzles.  It is truly amazing.

Lines and Patterns

Do your jigsaw puzzle pieces follow straight lines, or do they curve. 

Is there a pattern to the way the pieces lay together, or are they randomly placed? 

The variations that can occur with the lines and patterns of pieces is overwhelming.

Logic or Puzzle within a puzzle

You have seen these, I am sure.  These logic games are small puzzles with geometric pieces. 

Sometimes the pieces are the same color. The challenge is to get the pieces assembled back into the original shape or within the frame. 

A good logic puzzle can be difficult, to say the least.

How do You Start?

The easiest way is to start cutting. If you are doing a picture puzzle, start by gluing your photograph to the wood. 

At this point, start cutting. Some woodworkers’ layout a pattern for the pieces on the back of the puzzle and cut to the pattern. Some start cutting and let their imagination and the saw create the jigsaw pattern on the fly. 

Whichever method you chose, the enjoyment you get from making the puzzle comes back each time you play with the puzzle or watch your children and grandchildren at work solving the mystery.

Figuring Out What Puzzle to Make

Will it be a simple children’s puzzle or a logic puzzle to confound your friends and family? 

There are so many possibilities that you can spend a lifetime in the woodshop without pursuing them all. 

Here are a few websites with ideas and patterns for different kinds of puzzle challenges.

Toys and Games

wooden toys

Finally, on our list of cool things to do with your scroll saw are toys and games.  Toys, especially, are favorites with scroll saw woodworkers. 

The patterns are easy to cut and assemble. The real joy for many scroll saw woodworkers who are making toys is the result when the toys get into the hands of children. 

Smiles and laughter are all the reward most scroll saw woodworkers need for their efforts.

The possibilities are almost limitless. Whether you build boats, airplanes, trucks, or baby doll furniture, the techniques and challenges are the same. 

Plus, you not only get to exercise your scroll saw skills, but you also need to finish and paint those toys.

Scroll saw toy projects and patterns are as simple as a set of wooden building blocks cut in various shapes to intricate marble drops and runs that may involve dozens of shapes and pieces. 

You can easily challenge and grow your scroll saw skills building toys and games.

Some Tips About Toys

When you start building toys and games, there are a few things you should keep in mind.  Here are a few tips about scroll sawing toys.

  • The younger the child, the bigger the pieces. You don’t want to present a choking hazard to young children. If the toy has removable pieces, make sure that they are large enough not to be swallowed.
  • Wood selection is critical. Toys take a lot of abuse. The selection of wood can mean the difference between a toy that lasts for generations and one that ends up in splinters in weeks.
  • Select your finishes with care. The selection of the finish is especially true of toys meant for younger children. Toys invariably end up being tasted or chewed. Your finishes must be non-toxic and suitable for young children
  • Finish, finish, finish. Round over sharp edges and ease corners.  Sand and smooth surfaces. The last things you want are small injuries or slivers in fingers.

Pick your Project

Still at a loss of what kind of toy or game project you want to undertake? 

Never fear, the internet will come to the rescue. There are literally thousands of free patterns for almost every conceivable toy available on the internet. 

Look at these websites for ideas. I’ll wager that in no time you will be designing your own patterns.

Go Have Fun!

Find your project and pattern and get into your sop and have fun. Use that scroll that is in the corner, gathering dust to do some cool things. 

This list of seven cool things you can do with your scroll saw is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Within each of these seven ideas are thousands of possible projects that you can please you from the woodworking and awe your friends and family with your scroll saw skills.

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