Choosing Scrollsaw Blades

What is the secret of scrollsawing success? A decent saw is only part of the story.The most important factor is the blade itself. With the right blade in your saw. you'll not only work quickly and accurately, but you can almost eliminate one of the biggest hassles of scrollsaw work—sanding.

To get the best results you have to pick the right size and type of blade for the material you're cutting and then make sure it is properly tensioned.

Types of Blades

Scrollsaw blades come in two forms: pin end and plain end (at right). Plain-end blades, because of the larger selection in types and sizes,are quickly replacing the old style pinend blades. Pin-end blades have one big advantage: They don't require tools for blade changes. With the advent of tool-free plain-end blade clamps, however, this advantage is all but irrelevant.

There are five major types of plain-end scrollsaw blades (below). Each is available in a variety of sizes.

Skip-tooth blades have every other tooth removed for better chip removal.They excel at fast cuts with a smooth finish on most solid-wood applications, although they tend to tear-out wood fibers on the bottom surface of the work, especially on plywood, $5 for a package of 12.

Double-tooth blades have every third tooth removed.This creates a flat space for efficient chip removal. Like the skip-tooth blade, these are good genera I-purpose blades that strike a balance between smoothness of cut and speed. $5 for package of 12.

Reverse-tooth blades are skip-tooth blades with several teeth pointing upward at the bottom of the blade to reduce tear-out and splintering on the underside of plywood. $7 for a package of 12.

Tip: Set your reverse-tooth blade so a few of the upward-pointing teeth clear your workpiece on the upstroke.

Crown-tooth blades have double-ended teeth that cut on both the downstroke and the upstroke.This means splinter-free cuts in plywood.The double-cutting action also prevents melting when cutting plastic. $5 for a package of 12,

Spiral-tooth blades cut in every direction, but they can leave a ragged edge. They're best for work that is too long to swing through the throat of your saw, $7 for a package of 12.

Precision-ground blades track better and last longer than standard blades,Their teeth are ground, not milled.These blades are available in several styles.Tbey cost a bit more, but are well worth it. $8 for a package of 12.

Sources: Eagle America, (800) 872-2511 and Woodworker's Supply, (800) 645-9292.

Size Conies First

Blades come in numerical sizes ranging from #2/0 to # 12 and coarser. Lower-numbered blades are thinner and narrower and have more teeth per inch (tpi).

When choosing a blade size, consider the hardness of the material you're cutting. Hardwoods and other dense materials generally cut better with coarser blades.Very thin materials, such as veneers and thin plywood, require fine-tooth blades. Also, the more intricate your patterns, the smaller your blade should be.

Tension It Correctly

Many novice woodworkers don't tension their scrollsaw blades enough. Insufficient tension makes the blade tend to drift when sawing and causes premature blade breakage.

Experienced scrollsawyers gauge blade tension by the pitch of the blade when it's plucked.Another method is called the "I'S-in. rule," which states that the blade shouldn't deflect more than 1/8 in. when you press your work against it. M

Scrollsaw blades come in two basic forms: plain end and pin end. Plain-end blades are the first choice of seasoned scrollsaw users because they are available in a much wider variety of styles and sizes,

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