Scroll saws are interesting tools that perform some of the most specialized kinds of woodworking.
Anyone who has much experience at all with scroll saws knows that blade life on most scroll saws measures in minutes.
Knowing how to install a blade on a scroll saw becomes almost second nature to the experienced scroll saw operator.
For the not so experienced, learning how to install a blade on a scroll saw is an important skill.
This step-by-step guide should give any scroll saw user a general understanding of the steps required to install or change a scroll saw blade.
How to install a blade on a scroll saw: a step-by-step guide. Installing a blade on a scroll saw is dependent on the type of blade used in the saw and the manufacturer’s design. Generally, the steps in changing a scroll saw blade are:
- Unplug the saw.
- Release the blade tension
- Remove or loosen the blade mounts
- Remove the old blade
- Replace the new blade
- Tighten or replace the blade mounts
- Re-tension the blade
- Plugin the saw
- Perform a test cut.
Each manufacturer’s design will vary, which may require different intermediate steps or special tools.
The first thing you should always do when performing maintenance on any tool is to consult the user manual that came with the tool.
Before You Begin Installing the Blade
The first step in changing the blade on your scroll saw is to be thoroughly familiar with the recommendations of the manufacturer of your saw.
These recommendations are part of the user manual that accompanies your saw.
If you can’t find your user manual, most manufacturers now make the manuals available online as a free download.
You should locate and have at hand any of the special tools that came with your saw that are required to change the blade.
Having the correct tool in the appropriate size will make the job of changing the blade on your scroll saw much easier.
Once you are familiar with the recommendations from the manufacturer, you have the proper saw blade in hand and the tools for the job, you are almost ready to install or change the blade on your scroll saw.
Need to Know Terminology and Parts
If you aren’t familiar with the parts of your scroll saw, this is a good time to begin learning.
Knowing the correct terminology and where to look for the parts on your scroll saw will make understanding these step-by-step instructions for changing or installing a blade on your scroll saw much easier.
Some manufacturers may use different terminology for the parts of their scroll saws.
Don’t despair. With a little work, you will be able to identify the parts readily and do the translations without any problem.
The upper arm of your scroll saw is the topmost portion of the saw.
The upper arm has the upper blade mount attached at the forward end of the arm.
I should also have the material hold down the foot and a blade guard attached as well.
Some scroll saws may also have accessories attached to the upper arm assembly, such as a sawdust blower hose and a work light.
Many saws will also have the on/off switch and the variable speed control located on the upper arm.
Most manufacturers locate the blade tensioning device on the upper arm.
Beneath the worktable is the lower arm assembly.
The lower arm is the driving arm of the saw and, with the attached motor, causes the blade to reciprocate up and down.
Attached to the fore-end of the lower arm assembly is the lower blade mount.
All scroll saws have a means of adjusting the tension between the upper arm and the lower arm.
This tension is what keeps the blade cutting straight and true. An improperly tensioned blade will wander, vibrate, and break much sooner than normal.
The type of tensioning device and its location varies from one model of scroll saw to another. Some have knobs while some use levers, usually located on the upper arm assembly.
The knob or lever may be at the front or back of the upper arm assembly and should be easily identifiable.
Most scroll saws have a larger opening in the worktable that is necessary for the blade to operate.
A table insert comes with the saw and fills in this opening to make a work surface that allows the material to be supported as close to the blade as possible.
The table inserts are removable to allow easier access to the lower arm assembly and the lower blade mounts.
The physical connectors that hold the blade securely to the arms of the scroll saw as the blade clamps.
The style of blade clamp is a function of the style of blade you scroll saw is designed to use and the technique for attaching the clamp to the blade.
On some saws, the blade clamps are removable and, after being attached to the blade, snap back into holders on the upper and lower arm assemblies.
In some cases, the blade clamps are fixed to the arm assemblies.
A few scroll saws offer combination blade mounts that will allow you to use either style of the scroll saw blade.
Styles of Blades
Scroll saw blades come in two types, pinned and pinless.
Pinned blades have a small circular pin fitted crossways through the top portion of the blade and at right angles to the cutting edge.
These pins fit over a blade clamp holding the blade into a groove or notch on the blade clamp.
Pinless blades have smooth ends that slip into a blade clamp, which tightens with a wrench or thumbscrews.
The clamp blocks squeeze and grip the ends of the blade.
On scroll saws designed to use either style of blade, a set of blade adapters come with the scroll saw.
These blade adapters are screw-type blade clamps, which then fit into the pinned blade holder on the scroll saw, effectively turning a pinless blade into a pinned blade.
Related Content: Why do scroll saws vibrate so much? Is it just normal?
Understanding How a Scroll Saw Cuts
One thing that you must always remember is that there is an up and a down on a scroll saw blade.
Scroll saws cut on the downstroke of the blade.
For the scroll saw to operate properly and safely, the scroll saw blade must install into the saw in the proper direction.
On most scroll saw blades, this is easy to determine by looking at the blade.
The rake of the teeth, or the angles at which the teeth set on the blade, should point downward.
On some reverse tooth blades figuring out which is up and which is down may be harder.
Many blade manufacturers will print the blade information on the top portion of the blade.
The blade label is often a good indication of which way a reverse tooth blade mounts in the scroll saw.
Below is a short video about how the types of scroll saw blades:
How to Install Pin End Blades on a Scroll Saw
The step-by-step instructions for installing a pin end scroll saw blade are relatively easy.
We will go into as much detail as possible, but you must remember that every manufacturer has different types of blade mounts and different recommendations on the exact method of installing a scroll saw blade and tensioning the blade properly.
You should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations carefully for the best results, and safe operation of your scroll saw.
Step 1 Be Safe
Saws by the very nature of what they do are dangerous.
The blades themselves are incredibly sharp and require handling with care.
- Always wear proper safety equipment when working around power tools. Eye protection is an absolute must, as is a good work apron. When operating large power equipment, hearing protection is a must as well.
- Disconnect the power before doing any maintenance or blade changes on your scroll saw. Nothing can ruin your day faster than to inadvertently bump a power switch when your fingers are in contact with a sharp blade.
- Keep your workspace clean and orderly, especially the floor around your scroll saw. Loose wood scraps and even sawdust are trip hazards under the right circumstances.
Step 2 Release the Tension On The Blade
Using the blade tension device, release the tension on the blade according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Your saw may have a lever or knob located somewhere on the upper arm assembly.
Your user manual that accompanied your saw will help you identify exactly where the tensioning device is and how to work it to remove the tension from the blade.
Step 3 Remove the table Insert, blade guard, and other safety equipment as directed in the user manual
Remove the table insert to make accessing the lower blade mount on, the lower arm assembly easier.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on removing the table insert.
If equipped, you may also need to remove the blade guard and any other guards that cover moving parts of the saw.
Your user manual will have explicit instructions on what to remove to access the blade mounts.
Step 4 Remove the old blade
You may need to refer again to your user manual to understand exactly how to remove the blade from the blade mounts.
The pins on pinned blades usually ride in a v-groove or slot of some sort on the blade mounts on the upper and lower arm assemblies.
The tension on the blade keeps the pins in the slots or grooves as the blade reciprocates up and down.
Some pinned blade mounts are depressed to allow the pin to slip from the grove or slot.
Some may have thumbscrews that open the blade mount to allow the pin to slip free of the mount.
Your user manual is the best reference on the exact method of releasing the pinned blade from the blade mount on your scroll saw.
Step 5 Insert the New Blade.
Installing the new blade is the reverse process of removing the old blade.
Be sure the blade is right side up and that the teeth are facing downward so that they cut on the downstroke of the blade.
The pins must fit into the grooves or slots on the blade mount.
If the blade mount has a thumbscrew or set screw lock, retighten it according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
If the blade mounts have thumbscrews or set screws, tighten them properly before the blade is re-tensioned using the tensioning device on the saw arm.
Step 6 Replace the Table Insert and any other safety equipment or guards previously removed
Replace the table insert, making sure that it is facing the right direction and has the proper side up.
Some table inserts can be placed in the table backward or upside down.
An improperly placed table insert is a safety issue.
Never operate your scroll saw with any of the safety equipment or guards out of place.
Removing guards and shields is an open invitation to an accident.
Step 7 Re-Tension the Saw Blade
Tensioning a scroll saw blade properly is as much an art as it is a mechanical problem.
Start with the recommendations and specifications in the user manual that came with your saw.
As you gain experience, you will begin to learn to feel the blade for proper tension or even listen to the blade.
Many experienced scrolls saw users can strum or pick their blade and listen to the sound made by the blade.
The sound will tell them when they have the correct tension on the blade.
Many say that a properly tensioned blade will emit a musical note when strummed or plucked.
Step 8 Check the Saw
Before you go any further, now is a good time to check your scroll saw.
Keeping your scroll saw clean and in good working order will ensure that you get the best possible performance.
Check for loose or missing screws and, if the manufacturer recommends, lubricate any moving parts.
Once you have performed the routine maintenance on the saw and are sure that everything is as it should be, you should finish up your blade install and move on to the next step.
Step 9 Reconnect the Saw
Plug the power cord of the scroll saw back into a properly sized and grounded plug.
Test the scroll saw by turning it on briefly and making sure that everything fits properly, is adjusted, and that all safety guards are back in place.
Step 10 Make a Test Cut
Using a scrap of the same material you are cutting for your project, make a few test cuts with your newly installed blade.
Check for blade wander and vibration.
If you notice anything amiss, stop and re-tension the blade and try another test cut.
When you are satisfied that everything is operating properly, you are ready to continue with your project.
How to Install Pinless Blades on a Scroll Saw
Installing or changing pinless scroll saw blades can be a bit more challenging.
The style and design of each saw manufacturer’s blade clamping mechanism are slightly different.
While the overall concepts are the same, differences in tolerances and specifications call for careful attention to the manufacturer’s instructions.
These step-by-step instructions for changing or installing pinless scroll saw blades are, by necessity, generic.
Step 1 Safety First
We can never emphasize safety enough when talking about maintenance and the use of power tools.
Observing proper safety protocols in your woodshop will mean long years of accident-free projects.
One of the biggest safety issues is lack of concentration.
Failing to keep your mind on the job at hand leads to careless mistakes that can be disastrous.
Please follow the basic safety rules in your woodshop:
- Always wear all your safety equipment. Hearing protection when running power tools is strongly suggested. Don’t forget eye protection and we always suggest a good quality work apron.
- Unplug any power tool when not in use and especially when you are performing maintenance or a tool change. An unplugged tool is inherently safer than one that is still powered.
- Practice good hygiene in your shop. Keeping a clean workspace prevents trips and other sorts of accidents. Working in a clean and orderly environment is not only safer but much more enjoyable.
Step 2 Release the Tension on the Blade.
Use the tensioning device on your saw to release the tension on the scroll saw blade.
The blade tension device may be a lever or knob. In general, these blade tensioning devices are on the upper arm assembly.
For more precise instructions, consult the user manual that came with your scroll saw and follow the directions given by the manufacturer to release the tension on the scroll saw blade.
Step 3 Remove the Table Insert, guards and safety equipment
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on removing the table insert, guards, and other safety equipment to access the lower blade clamps on the lower arm assembly.
Set the table insert and other parts aside for the time being.
Step 4 Remove the Old Blade
The actual means of removing the old pinless blade from the blade clamps is determined by the style and design of the blade mounts on the scroll saw.
There are several varieties of blade mounts, and these can vary even between models made by the same manufacturer.
Some models of scroll saws are fitted with thumbscrews and don’t require any tools to loosen the blade mounts.
Loosening the top and bottom thumb screws will allow the blade to slip from the blade mounts.
Other models employ set screws to hold the blade in place in the blade mounts.
Some types use only one set screw on the side of the blade mount. Another type used two set screws, one on each side of the blade mount.
If your scroll saw uses set screws, use the right size tool. Ideally, you will have the tool provided with the scroll saw by the manufacturer.
If not, size the tool properly to prevent damaging the set screw.
Slip the old blade from the blade mounts and dispose of it properly.
Step 5 Place the New Scroll Saw Blade in the Mounts.
Follow the reverse steps to install the new saw blade in your scroll saw. Check the saw blade and make sure it is right-side up.
Pay attention to the placement of the scroll saw blade in relation to the table.
Pinless blades can be adjusted up and down to a certain degree in the mounts.
Setting a blade too low or too high can cause the blade to break or cut improperly.
If your saw has thumbscrews or a single set screw on the blade mount, tighten the thumbscrew or set screw as recommended by the user manual.
The proper tightness on the blade mounts will ensure the longest possible blade life.
The blade mounts that use two set screws are a bit more ticklish to use and adjust.
The blade must center between the set screws and the set screws then carefully tightened.
Under-tightening the set screws will result in a loose blade and over-tightening can cause early blade failure.
Failure to center the blade between the set screws can cause blades to wander or cut erratically.
Step 6 Put the Table Insert and Other Safety Equipment Back in Place
Replace the table insert into the worktable of the scroll saw. Pay attention to the proper placement of the table insert.
In improperly placed table insert can be a safety hazard when using the saw. All other guards or equipment removed to access the blade mounts before the next step.
Operating any power equipment without the proper guards, shields, and safety equipment is dangerous and should not become a habit.
Step 7 Reset the Scroll Saw Blade Tension
Follow the manufacturer’s directions on tensioning the scroll saw blade on your model of saw.
There are several methods of checking the scroll saw blade tension.
Always start with the method recommended by the manufacturer of your scroll saw.
You can then check for proper tension by physically moving the saw blade to check for tension and tightness.
As you become more experienced, you will develop a feel for proper tension on your scroll saw.
You may even begin to hear the sound made by a well-tensioned scroll saw blade when it is strummed or plucked.
Whatever method you use, the better the tension on the scroll saw blade, the better it will cut, and the longer it will last.
Step 8 Check the Saw
Anytime you change a blade or adjust the saw, it’s a good idea to perform a few routine other checks of the saw.
Look for any loose or missing screws or parts. Make sure that all the safety equipment such as guards and inserts are in place and adjusted correctly.
A little pre-emptive action can prevent mishaps and accidents down the line.
Step 9 Plug the Saw Back into The Power Outlet
Check that the on/off switch is in the off position and reconnect the power cord to the outlet.
Test the connection briefly to make sure the saw is operating correctly.
Step 10 Do some Test Cuts
Use a scrap piece of the same material you are using for your project and complete some test cuts.
Check the blade for vibration and blade wander. Turn off the saw and check the blade tension one more time before you continue with your project.
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Combo Scroll Saws
Changing or installing scroll saw blades in a scroll saw that has the capability of using either style of blade usually involves a set of accessory blade mounts.
These accessory blade mounts clamp to the ends of the pinless blades and essentially act like pinned mounts.
The accessory blade mounts attach to the pinless blades in much the same fashion as the pinless blade mounts on the saw.
Thumbscrews or set screws tighten against the blade ends and clamp the blade securely to the accessory mounts.
Once the accessory blade mounts are securely attached to the blade, they are slipped onto the pinned mounts on the upper and lower arm assemblies just like a regular pinned blade.
The accessory mounts have a bar or pins that fit into the grooves or slots on the mounts and fasten to the pinned blade mounts in the normal fashion.
Follow the step-by-step directions for installing a pinned scroll saw blade after you have attached the accessory blade mounts to the pinless scroll saw blade.
More explicit instructions for your model of saw are in the user manual that came with the saw from the manufacturer.
Don’t Get In A Hurry
We are all guilty of trying to cut corners to save time.
In the end, cutting corners may save a few seconds but cost more in damaged equipment and ruined projects.
Replacing a scroll saw blade might seem like an easy and trivial matter until you miss a step or fail to perform a check and needlessly break blades, ruin a nearly finished project, or, in the worst scenario, injure yourself.
Having a routine, a step-by-step approach to even the simplest job around the shop can be the difference between successful and enjoyable projects, and frustration at failure.