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Intro to Scroll Sawing

Lesley De Abaitua with Oak & Feather Decor

This video was made in partnership with Klingspor’s Woodworking Shop

In this video, you will learn how to perfectly plan and carry out a stacked-cut floral sign using your scroll saw.  Lesley suggests starting off by having a print shop make a large, to scale print of the artwork you are going to scroll.  Adhering the print to the material you’ll be cutting comes with a really great tip of first laying down some sort of masking or painter’s tape before gluing the print down.  Doing this helps prevent any harsh glues from the spray adhesive getting into the pores of the wood and potentially messing with the paint finish.

As Lesley hand draws on top of her print to define cut lines, she also visualizes where her cuts will need to be and in what order they will take place in order to maintain stability for her workpiece. In scrolling there are interior (inside) and outside cuts. For cursive lettering, you’ll want to drill pilot holes so you can thread your blade through to complete the inside cuts. 

For the outside cuts, you can place your pilot holes where you’d like to start. You may be tempted to cut from the outside edge into your pattern, but you’ll want to use pilot holes because it keeps stability in the piece you are cutting. 

When doing florals, prints can make it seem really intricate so it’s ok if you want to simplify some lines and make it your own.  Lesley even omits certain parts of the drawing she might not want (like extra stems) and you can see her draw in her own leaves.  This is the part where you get to be extra creative and form how it’s going to look in the end, especially with adding different dimensions by doing stack cutting.

The Saw

The DeWALT scroll saw that Lesley uses has a 20” throat. There are a wide variety of saws on the market, some smaller and some larger but the size of the saw does not limit the size of the projects you can make. The DeWALT is on the more affordable end of the spectrum in terms of cost, retailing around $700 CAD. 

The DeWALT does have a stand you can use to adjust the height that allows you to sit. Lesley’s  scroll saw is set up to use a foot pedal. This way, there is a deadman switch that allows for a quick stop and start when doing a lot of detailed cutting. 


When you look for scroll saw blades, you will find that they are numbered. The higher the number, the wider and thicker the blade and the less teeth per inch (or TPI). The lower the number, the thinner the blade and the higher the TPI. 

When selecting your blades, you need to know what material you are planning to cut. When you’re starting out, it’s a pretty safe bet to go with a mid-range blade, which would be a #5 blade - this blade will leave a small trace when cutting, meaning it takes only a mm or 2 of material out as you cut and depending on the material you use, it can cut anywhere 1/8” to 1” thick. For this project, Lesley is cutting through stacked MDF of ½” and ¼” thickness totally ¾” thick, and she’s opting to use a #5 modified geometry blade by Pegas.

Let’s go over different types of blades:

Regular - this type of blade has all the teeth pointing down and are closely spaced together. This is typically what will come standard in the box when you get a scroll saw. Although good for simple cuts, this style of blade isn’t designed for those intricate detailed cuts. 

Skip - this blade is similar to the regular tooth in that all the teeth point down. However, as its name implies, there is a skip, or a larger space, between each tooth. This prevents the blade from heating up too quickly due to trapped dust between the teeth and also allows for faster cutting. These are typically used on harder woods. 

Reverse Tooth - A reverse tooth blade has teeth that point down, and then at the bottom there will be several teeth that point up, which allows it to cut from the top and bottom which prevents tear out in your work. 

Double Reverse Tooth - This is the same as the reverse tooth blade but with double the teeth, making it a fast cutting blade. However, because the spaces are smaller between blades these can heat up faster if you are cutting hard wood or for a long time. 

MGT - Modified Geometry blades combine the technology of the skip tooth and reverse tooth blades, with larger spacing between the teeth making it a versatile blade that doesn’t heat up with extended use or using hard materials. 

Spiral - Spiral blades have teeth that circle the blade, allowing it to cut in any direction. These blades have a very high TPI due to the amount of teeth so it can be a very fast cutting blade and takes some practice. 

Pin End - Designed for pinned scroll saws, they have the same designs but have these pins that need to be slotted in which as I said requires a larger interior cut. 

To insert the blade, you loosen the blade clamps at the top and the bottom. Insert your blade and tighten those clamps. Once the blade is snug, you will add tension to your blade. You do this by using the tension lever at the top of your saw. On the deWALT, the knob looks like this. You want to add tension to the point that the blade has very little wiggle room. 


First, if you find yourself with uneven cuts, for example if your piece is more narrow at the bottom, that means you are pushing your material through the blade, causing the blade to flex and cut at an angle. If that is happening, you should increase your speed to ensure you are guiding the material through the blade and not forcing. 

If you find that your blade is breaking frequently, this can also be a result of having your speed set too low, which is causing you to push the material in the blade and snapping it. If your material is bouncing aggressively and you are having to really hold it down when cutting, this means the teeth of the blade are catching and pulling the material which again is a sign your speed is likely set too low. 

If you are getting rounded corners when you are trying to make sharp corners, or if you feel that you are out of control when cutting, your speed may be too high. This does take some time to figure out, however once you have practiced, it will become second nature to you when these problems arise. For example, if using a #5 blade and doing something like a smaller interior cut, a good speed setting on the DeWALT saw would be around a 4. For outside cuts, higher speeds are more feasible.


Once you’ve cut your pieces out, you’ll start sanding to get your cut-outs ready for finishing whether that’s paint, stain or oil. For sanding edges, I use a micro zip and sandpaper. 

For shaping, and adding dimension, I use a rotary tool and various sanding abrasives and carving bits. When you’re sanding you want to ensure you have a good surface for painting, which is smooth and as free from debris as possible. I achieve this by using a higher grit sandpaper. 


When you’re ready to glue your design, my preferred method is using the pattern you’ve printed and carbon paper to trace the design to the backer so you can line it up. When gluing my preference is to use a clear wood glue and a CA glue.  

That’s as far as this class will take us today but if you’d like to learn more, leave a comment or let TMCU know.  Priming and painting is another important part of this process and there are a lot of great tips and tricks for getting a nice paint job.  In the meantime, we hope this demonstration from Lesley was helpful to you in getting your scroll saw journey started!

1 comentário

Membro desconhecido
24 de fev.

Leslie, this video is fantastic! I have been admiring your work for a long time and I always was curious how you make everything look 3d! I really hope there is another video or 2 in this series! I am curious to know how you finish the signs. Also, what software do you use to make the designs?

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