Obviously enough, one of the first things many people want to know when getting started with scrolling as a hobby is what saw to buy. Whether you are looking to purchase your first scroll saw, or you are looking to upgrade to a better one, there are many things to consider. In this article I will attempt to touch on all aspects so that you are able to make an informed decision. I will also make some recommendations based on personal experience and what I feel is the general consensus of the Article Scroll sawyers I have discussed the matter with.
Blade Changing and Blade Holders: The saw should accept standard 5″ pinless blades. A lot of scrollwork simply cannot be done with a saw that requires pinned blades. While pinned blades have some advantages, they have one very big disadvantage: You can’t cut any small inside detail cuts since you have to drill a very big hole to get the blade’s pin through.
Also, how easy is it to change a blade? Is a tool required for this? Some scroll saw projects have hundreds of holes. This means you have to remove one end of the blade from the holder and thread it through the wood and re-mount it in the holder more times than you can count. Be sure the process is comfortable and relatively easy to do.
Variable speed: A great many saws offer variable speed and you should not have a problem finding this feature in any price range. Sometimes you will want to slow the blade down just to cut slower, other times you must slow it down to prevent the blade from burning the edges of the wood as you cut. Some scroll saws require belt changing to change speeds. Personally, I would highly recommend a saw an electronic speed control.
Vibration: Vibration is very distracting when cutting and must be kept to a bare minimum. Some saws inherently vibrate more by design. This feature tends to be very much dependent on the cost of the particular saw. A sturdily mounted saw and heavier saw/stand combination will reduce vibration. Many companies offer stands purpose built for their saws.
Size Specifications: Manufacturers often list the maximum cutting thickness of their saws. Since this is always more than 2″, you can ignore this as you likely will never want to cut anything thicker than that on a scroll saw.
Overall Layout: The overall layout of the controls and adjustments of the saw is very important to consider. The power switch, tension lever and speed control ideally should all be located at the end of the saw’s arm within easy reach. Since with most Article Scroll work you need to stop and feed the blade through a hole dozens or even hundreds of times, the tension lever and power switch are much more convenient if they are close to the upper blade holders. (Most but not all people undo the blade from the upper blade holder to feed the blade through a hole. Some people however, do find it easier to undo the bottom holder instead.). Also, you may occasionally want to adjust the speed control or tighten the tension while in the middle of a cut so it is good to have these controls within easy reach.
Some people find it easier to use a foot pedal switch rather than the power switch on the saw. Just be sure if do you buy one of these that it is just a simple on/off switch and not a variable speed pedal such as those used on a sewing machine as this can damage some motors.
Buying a good used saw may allow you to get more for your money than buying a new cheap saw. When buying used, however, you are taking a bigger risk and have many additional factors to consider. Will you still be able to buy parts if needed?
Other considerations: Some other things to look at are the manufacturer’s support and service. How long is the warranty? What is the manufacturer’s reputation in general? Does the saw have any extras or special features that you think may be useful?
Some saws come with lamps, magnifiers, stands and most come with dust blowers. All of these features add value to the saw and the dust blower most would consider to be a necessity.