Graphical Construction Glossary >> Tools. >> Power Tools >> Scroll Saw

Scroll Saw
A fine bladed hand or machine saw used for cutting fine tracery work in timber and plastics. Also called a fret saw.

a fine example of medieval woodwork
A fine example of medieval woodwork.

Above is a photo of the choir stalls at Cartmel Priory in Cumbria, UK. Thought to date from around 1450 the scroll saw work here is a good example of what can be attained with hand tools only.

I do not know when the first motorised fret saw came out, but certainly hand ones have been used for centuries. Musical instrument makers still use them to cut the intricate shapes for the scrolls in violins.

an old scroll saw
An old saw that has seen better days
Photo thanks to Wikimedia Commons, User: SCEhardt

The saw above is a typical home/hobby machine. It has a sanding disk attached to the side which will need attention before it will be safe to use.

Electric scroll saws are designated by the width of the throat, that is the gap between the blade in the inside edge of the frame. In this respect they are similar to a band saw, but they are totally different in most other respects. For instance the saw cuts with an up and down movement (reciprocating) rather than all one direction like a band saw.

Modern scroll saws are quite cheap, but the blades are very cost effective and come in a lot of patterns to suit different types of work.

When using a hand fret saw it takes considerable skill to get good results, partly because of the start and stop nature of the work when changing grip with one hand or the clamps. With an electric tool there is no so restriction, and they are a joy to use giving smooth curves and an almost finished surface to the cuts.

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"What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?
Adam Smith 1723-1790

"When we build, let us think that we build for ever."John Ruskin 1819-1900

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