How to Cut Small Pieces on a Scroll Saw: 3 Tips and Tricks

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how to cut small pieces on a scroll saw

So, you’ve recently become interested in scroll saws, and you’d like to learn a little more about how to use one. If that’s the case, then you’ve come to the right place.

Learning how to cut small pieces on a scroll saw can be challenging, especially when it comes to using patterns.

However, most Scroll Saw Patterns can be used by any person that has enough patience and willpower to try. 

So, how do you cut small pieces on a scroll saw? Cutting small pieces on a scroll saw takes some technique, but the specifics on how to cut depend largely on the specifics of the cut you need to make and your situation. When Cutting thin and close cuts, you may need to drill perpendicular to the wood.

Since there isn’t a lot of information available on the Internet today covering how to cut small pieces on a scroll saw, we created this article to help you out.

Below we’ll discuss how you can make cuts with a scroll saw by covering drilling and cutting, cutting long pieces, removing dust, cleaning up, and removing pattern adhesives. 

Using a Scroll Saw for Drilling and Cutting

Whenever you start using a scroll saw for drilling and cutting, you’ll need to study the pattern you’ll be using first.

Once you do that, you’re ready to move onto the drill press. Make sure you look over any long cuts you’ll need to make in the pattern, as well as how durable the wood is.

Keep in mind that the strength of the wood can affect how you scroll. It’s also a good idea to plan your cutting before you begin. Make sure you start closer to the center where it feels like it might break.

That way, if you do break the wood, it happens early in the process, rather than when you are far into scrolling.

#1 Making Thin and Close Cuts

thin and close cuts

You’ll also need to look closely at any patterns that feature small cuts that are too close together.

If you are using a design along those lines, you’ll need to make sure you use your drill bit perpendicular to your wood, and also make sure you move when you saw.

As you cut the patterns, the wood will begin to lose its strength the more you cut. So, you’ll need to remember that and use your saw appropriately.

Whenever I use thin and close cuts, I prefer to cut my patterns using Flying Dutchman Spirals. Also, I usually use a 2/0 and drill holes on a #68 bit for thin and close cuts.

Smaller bits work well when you are trying to add a lot of detail to your design. However, keep in mind that when you do this, you might wind up with wood splintering along the bottom.

When that happens, it becomes difficult to change your blades.

However, you can avoid the problem of splintering wood entirely if you plan for it. All you’ll need to do to prevent creating this problem is run the drill bit over the hole another time, and you’ll cut it back to clean wood.

Remember that once you start cutting, the pattern you are using works as a guideline and not a rule book. So, you can make changes as you see fit, thickening lines, removing specific cuts, etc.

You’ll also need to pay careful attention to the blade tension on these smaller, more intricate patterns. Blade tension becomes essential here because you want the blade to be able to react once you’ve moved the wood.

I typically prefer using a setting that’s around four to four and a half with the tension. However, you don’t need to use the same configuration as me necessarily.

You can pick a tension you are comfortable with applying if you’d like.

#2 Cutting a Small, Long Piece without Breaking It

When using a scroll saw, cutting smaller, long pieces of wood without breaking them can sometimes pose a challenge, especially if you are new to using a scroll saw.

If that’s the case, don’t worry. We’ve got some information that should help you out, and you’ll be able to avoid breaking your smaller, longer pieces from now on.

Sometimes, people use a spiral when they cut with a scroll saw. Keep in mind that if you are using a spiral, you don’t have to turn the wood to move around the blade.

In that case, you’ll be able to use your blade like it is a pencil and trace out your pattern’s lines with the whole 360-degree area of the spiral’s cutting surface.

However, if that’s not the approach you want to use, don’t worry. You can use another method and change your directions as you cut.

For example, when you follow the line around, you’ll probably wind up with a long piece that hangs back into the cut out that lacks the support it needs so it won’t break.

So, you’ll need to be careful when changing direction and cut across the waist area instead of into the hanger.

After you slice it, you’d continue with your regular outline so you won’t lose any additional pieces. Don’t rush your movements and let the blade do the dirty work for you.

#3 The Difficult Straight Cuts

Typically, the hardest types of cuts you’ll make will be the straight ones. The longer the straight cut, the more difficult the cut will be.

However, if you need to make cuts like this, one great way to handle it is by using speed. Speed will make a difference, and you should attempt to make straight cuts as quickly as you feel comfortable with doing so.

When I feed wood into the blade for straight cuts, I double my rate when cutting straight lines.

While this might sound a little odd, you’ll discover that if you speed up how quickly you feed the wood, it becomes much easier to cut a decently straight line.

You can also use the spiral if you need to sand out some of the little areas and make the line appear as straight as possible.

If you want more support as you complete your cutting, you can use clear packing tape over the wood’s top and bottom area.

Using packing tape will give your wood the extra support it needs, and some extra strength.

That will make it easier for you to move quickly and cut straighter lines without breaking the wood.

#4 Finishing Techniques When Using Small Cuts: Removing Dust

removing saw dust

Keep in mind that while you are making your cuts, you’ll need to do some clean-up for an appropriate presentation before you move onto your next piece of wood to cut.

To adequately cover this, we’ll talk about removing dust, cleaning up fuzz, and pattern adhesive and removal below.

As you are making your small cuts on one piece of wood, once you finish, you should clean that piece of wood before you move onto making cuts with your next piece of wood.

Some experts recommend using some of these cleaning techniques between your small cuts as well to improve your accuracy when you cut.

While that decision is up to you, we can say that the less debris you have on your wood, the better your cuts will be.

Since small cuts typically require a lot of precision, cleaning in between your small cuts is always a good idea.

When it comes to eliminating dust, you’ll want to use an air compressor. Make sure you still have the pattern attached to your wood.

Then, grab your air compressor and get the dust off both the back and front parts of your piece.

If a piece is very fragile, you can keep it apart from the stack when you blow it. Or, if you wish, you can simply leave everything together and blow it clean that way.

To make the process more straightforward, grab an old window screen and place it behind your cutting area. After that, you can blow out the dust.

If you use the screen, you’ll notice that the sand and air will pass right through your filter.

However, adding the screen into the mix allows you to provide more support for the wood, which prevents you from blowing pieces out that you don’t want to lose.

You’ll also need to make sure you turn down your compressor’s pressure to around 40 PSI for the wood.

#5 Cleaning Up Fuzz after Making Small Cuts

When you use a scroll saw, you’ll wind up with unwanted fuzz whenever you use a spiral.

So, you’ll want to learn how to clean up fur so that your pieces look great when you are done.

Whenever I have fuzz to clean up, I place the item I am cutting up against some scrap wood that is large enough to cover the original piece.

Place the backside so that it faces you and then grab a plumber’s torch.

With the torch, you’ll be able to burn off the fuzz similar to the way people used to burn pin feathers from a chicken that’s been plucked.

However, whenever you use this process, you’ll have to remember a few essential rules, which we cover below.

When you use the torch, keep in mind that you’ll need to turn it down quite a bit. You’ll also need to ensure the scrap wood you are using completely covers your original piece.

By making your cuts with a solid piece of scrap wood behind your movement, you’ll be able to reduce any scorch marks you might have made.

You’ll need to keep moving the torch fast and use several passes. Also, never hold the torch in one place for too long. You’ll wind up burning through your wood.

If you wind up finding some charring on your wood, there are ways you can deal with this. Get a piece of 220 sandpaper and fold it. Then, run it through the cut over the piece’s front area.

By doing this, you’ll see the worst scorches disappear. After you finish this process, grab your air compressor and blow away the charred fuzz. You may need to repeat this step a few times.

However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to use this process if you want both sides of your cut object to be viewed.

However, it’s pretty standard to use another piece of wood behind your original article as you cut. If you remember to do that, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

#6 Mounting Backer Board after Making Small Cuts

If you’re going to use a scrap piece of wood as your backer board, you’ll need to know how to set this process up. Some people like using felt as a backer because the texture is helpful.

However, if you are more comfortable with a different material, you can use whatever you’d like to utilize.

Using a black piece as a backer board is a great idea, but in the end, the final decision is up to you. We’d recommend using some Aleene’s tacky glue that you can purchase in a clear bottle.

You’ll want the clear bottle because the glue will dry clear that way. This type of glue is great to use when you want to mount your backer board.

However, make sure you don’t let the glue run into the cut-out areas.

After you’ve finished this process, you’re ready for the next step. Keep in mind that many woodworking experts overlook this last step, so you won’t want to forget about it if you are a newbie.

You’ll need to select a lovely frame to complete your piece. If you have spent a lot of time making your cuttings, then you’ll want to make sure they are treated like real works of art.

Using a frame is a great way to add a pretty, finishing touch to something you’ve spent a lot of time on making.

Related Content: Can You Cut MDF with a Scroll Saw? Find out if you can achieve the desired pattern!

#7 Scroll Saw Pattern Attachment and Removal

scroll saw pattern attachment

If you are new to using a scroll saw, then you’ll need to know a bit about the scroll saw’s pattern attachment and removal process if you are going to cut small pieces accurately on your scroll saw.

We recommend using 3M super 77 spray adhesive whenever you attach a pattern to your wood.

You’ll want to make sure you apply a heavy coat of the adhesive, especially if you discover there are some thin cuts to make in the designs (like feathers, etc.)

If you neglect to use the right type of adhesive for your scroll saw pattern attachments, you’ll experience some difficulties as you cut.

Your pattern will wind uplifting so that you cannot follow it precisely. When that happens, you’ll have to try to guess where you’ll want to stop your cuts as well as how to cut.

Instead, if you use a durable coat of adhesive, you won’t have these issues, but you will need to be careful when you want to remove the pattern.

Removing a Pattern

So, now that we’ve discussed how you’d attach a pattern to your wood so that you can cut it, how do you go about removing a pattern’s adhesive once you are finished?

We recommend grabbing an old Windex bottle and filling it with low odor mineral spirits.

Spray the solution so that the pattern is saturated, and let it sit for five to ten minutes.

As the paper sits, it will look more grey and translucent as the solution starts eating away the glue.

When you see that happening, you should be able to grab the corner of the pattern and lift it away from the wood.

Typically, you’ll be able to remove an adhesive pattern in one piece. However, removing the sticky paper is just the start of the process.

After you’ve removed the adhesive pattern from the wood, you’ll need to spray the wood down again with the same solution you used previously.

However, this time when you spray the wood, make sure you rub the solution gently into the wood with your fingers.

It will feel slimy as you do this, and when you feel the slime, you’ll know there is still residue left over from the pattern.

If you feel the slime, you’ll need to keep rubbing the wood until it starts to feel smooth.

Once the wood begins feeling soft to the touch, you’ll notice you’ve removed most of the glue.

At that point, you’ll want to grab a clean rag or a cloth diaper and start blotting away the excess you have left.

Using Mineral Spirits

You may be wondering if using mineral spirits is a bad idea because it could potentially discolor the wood. However, that’s an incorrect generalization.

The thinner can dry completely, even overnight, if you can allow it to sit for that long, and your wood won’t become discolored.

You should not be able to see a difference between the piece with the thinner on it and a piece that you never put any smaller on in the first place.

You may also be wondering if using the thinner will wind up raising the grain on your wood. However, if you are using thinner on solid wood, you won’t experience any problems.

It’s a good idea to utilize a solvent on your wood that is similar to an oil-based finish, like a stain.

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand how to cut small pieces on a scroll saw, you’ll be able to complete your projects with ease.

It’s a good idea to use a spiral blade along with your scroll saw if you want to reap some of the advantages a spiral blade can bring.

With a spiral blade on your scroll saw, you’ll be able to cut with the full 360-degree surface of your blade. So, you won’t have to worry about turning the wood.

Making sure you can accurately use your patterns and cut with your scroll saw will help you create some of your best pieces yet

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