If you are new to woodworking and maybe a bit nervous,and you plan to make small fancy items like boxes,push-along,toys,chair backs or pieces of marquetry—meaning items using thin sections of wood that have a lot of delicately curved (fret worked profiles and pierced holes—then you can’t do better than getting an electric scroll saw.
This machine,sometimes called an electric fretsaw or an electric jigsaw,is just about as safe as you can get.In truth,it is so safe that it is one of the few woodworking machines allowed in schools for young kids.In fact,I first saw one of these machines being used in a school by a ten-year-old—to make a jigsaw puzzle.Okay,so they can nip and worry fingers,but the working action is such that anything more than a grazed finger is almost impossible.
The scroll saw has a reciprocating blade,meaning a blade that joggles up and down as if to imitate the movement of a hand fret or coping saw.The bottom end of the blade is clamped in a chuck that is driven by the crank-shaft,while the top end of the blade is clamped to the end of a spring-loaded arm.The blade is fitted with the teeth pointing downward,so that it cuts on the down stroke.In use,the workpiece is advanced across the worktable toward the joggling blade,and maneuvered so that the moving blade is always presented with the line of the next cut.The wonderful thing about these saws is that the resultant cut edge is so clean that it hardly needs sanding.If you are thinking about buying and using an electric scroll saw,the following tips and pointers will help you on your way.
Saw Table—There are about six machines currently on the market—German,British,Canadian and American.Though they are all pretty good,it is most important that you get an up-to-date machine that has a table-tilt option.This feature allows you to tilt the worktable so you can make a cut that is variously angled to the working face,as in this project.A good tip is to rub over the work surface with a white candle before use.It lowers the wood-to-table friction so that the workpiece glides rather than staggers.
Blade Clamp—From one machine to another,there are all manner of weird and wonderful mechanisms used to clamp the blade.For example,one machine has a clamping block that is tightened by means of an Allen wrench/ key,another has a pronged finger that supports pin-end blades,and yet another has a clamping block that is tightened by means of a large thumbscrew/wing nut.While each system has its good and bad points,I think over all the large thumb-screw is the best option.I say this because the Allen wrench option soon distorts,and the pin-holding mechanism on some machines is made of butter-soft,easy to-bend metal.
Blades—The standard scroll saw blade is 5″long and flat-ended.Coming in a whole range of tooth sizes,from coarse through super fine,the blades are designed variously to cut everything from solid wood,plywood and plastic,to thin mild steel,brass and aluminum.If you find that the blade bends and drifts or burns the wood,then chances are it is badly tensioned and/or blunt and needs replacing.
Dust-Blowing Mechanism—When the saw is in use,the sawdust piles up and covers the line of cut so that you can’t see where you are going.Though most scroll saws have a bellows and tube mechanism that blows the dust away from the drawn line,the pity of it is that the dust is blown directly into the user’s face—all good fun!If this is a worry to you,then it’s best to wear a face mask.
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