Deer Ridge Scrollworks
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On this page, I'll include one or more sets of instructions that may help others get involved in or become more proficient at scrollsawing.

I'll try to make my instructions easy to understand.

Step 1: Make a photo-copy of the pattern you want to cut. If you don't have access to a copier, you can trace the pattern onto the wood using carbon paper. (Very time consuming).

Step 2: Size & sand the wood you want to use for your pattern.

Step 3: Spray the back of your pattern using a temporary spray adhesive (I use 3M's Artist Adhesive) & attach it to the wood. (Never spray the adhesive directly onto the wood itself.)

Step 4: Using a scratch awl or small nail start marking where you want to drill the blade access holes (also known as saw gates). It's a good idea to start on a sharp edge or corner of the area you want to cut out.

Step 5: Now the fun begins. Picking the blade to use all depends on the pattern & the thickness of the wood. For example: If you're pattern has lots of small intricate cuts & you're using 1/4" wood, you may want to use a #2 blade or smaller (#2/0). For simpler patterns, you can use a #5 blade. The thicker the wood, the bigger the blade. If you are new at scrollsawing, I recommend using at least a #5 blade until you are comfortable with your saw & the way it reacts. I usually stock #2/0, #2, #5, #9 reverse tooth blades to prevent tearout on the bottom of the wood.

Step 6: Thread the blade through a saw gate & set the tension on the blade. The blade should be stiff when tensioned up.

Step 7: Slowly, start cutting, making sure the blade is lined up to the pattern line. Feed the wood into the blade so the blade is doing the work. Don't force the wood. You could break the blade, burn the wood or both. Keep the wood firmly on the saw table & cut the pattern with a smooth, steady feed. Try to feed the wood straight into the blade without making the blade bend from side to side. (This also causes burning & broken blades).

Step 8: When you're done cutting out the pattern, you can remove it by just lifting the paper off. If you used too much adhesive, apply a small amount of mineral spirits (thinner) onto the pattern & it should come off. I have done this with many of my own pieces with no bad effects. Just make sure your wood is dry before you put finish on.

Step 9: The best finish I've found for Fretwork is Danish Oil. It doesn't leave runs & easy to apply. It brings out the natural beauty of the wood & protects the wood from the inside/out.

Tools and Materials

Of course the most important tool is the scrollsaw. I started out using a Trademaster. Then I got a 16" Delta 2-speed. A good saw. Easy to change blades & not hard on the pocket book. After I started more elaborate Fretwork, I invested in a 19" Excalibur. A very good saw, easy to thread & change blades with a top arm lift but harder on the wallet. Now I have a 20" Dewalt as a backup to my Excalibur (needs repairs). The Dewalt is a very impressive saw. Smooth running, easy blade threading & changing (top arm lift) & easier on the pocket book than the Excalibur.

Blades: If you're just starting out, I would recommend #5, #7, #9 blades. Easier to control the cutting. I usually stock #2/0, #2, #5, #9 reverse tooth blades along with a few bigger ones for 1 1/2" thick wood.

Misc: You will also need spray adhesive, needle files (for cleaning up cuts), a set of small drill bits with sizes 55, 56, 59, 60, 64 & 67. I use a 1/16" bit for most of the saw gates but it's nice to have the small ones for veining cuts & the tight areas where the 1/16" bit won't fit. For drilling, I use a Dremel high speed drill.

These are just a few of the tools I use but it will give you the basics for starters. You will be able to find most of what is needed in related links at the top of this page.


1: Fretwork - An ornamental design consisting of repeated & often symmetrical figures, open in relief, sometimes contained within a band or border.

2: Saw Gate - Blade access hole.

3: Veining - A small blade width cut to give the pattern more detail.