If you do not read any further, the most important tip for scroll sawing accurately for Intarsia is CHANGE YOUR BLADES OFTEN.
Tension: Use this link to hear that high "C" note. You do not need to click for the next slide, you will need to click the arrow to start the movie. Sounds of Blade Tension Link. Trouble? Try this one.
Sawing: Make sure your blade is cutting square. Check the table/blade to make sure it is square. Next make a test cut, cut a curve then check it with a square. The curve makes it easier to see any light between the square and the cut part.
Cut the pieces about the size of your hand, this will make it much easier to handle than one large board. After cutting the hand size pieces be sure to turn them over to remove any tear out with sandpaper. The object to keep the parts as flat as possible to ensure a square cut.
After all the parts have been laid out it is time to start sawing. If you used the same board (color) to layout many parts, start by rough cutting them into smaller more manageable sections.
Start cutting the easiest parts first, like the outside edges. This lets you get into the swing of things. Cut some of the outside edges, parts that do not have another part next to it. I like to mark all exterior parts with a highlighter.While sawing, stop often after making a cut and remove any tear-out on the bottom side. While you're at it check your cuts with a square.
Plan your cuts: Try to make your cuts so the last cut will “drop” the part off the larger block.
Note the extra part added to the left of the eye. The last cut is a short smooth line. Drill any holes before you start sawing, like the hole for the eye.
Blade Selection: I like the Platinum Plus and the Platinum blades for hardwoods and the Gold blades for softwoods.
Where to Put the Blade?
When cutting a part it is best to put the center of the blade in the center of the layout line, thus removing all of the line. With more experience the goal is to leave half of the pattern line around the parts. If you are using a larger blade you will need to move the blade a little more to the outside of the line.
Hand Placement: While scrolling, your hands are in control of the part. The blade is in control of the sawing. You will find that by positioning and repositioning your hands as the need arises you will be in control of your wood. Always remember to have at least one hand holding the wood down firmly on the table at all times.
Your hands will be in motion, always setting up for the next curve or turn on your pattern; Think ahead and plan your cuts.
Posture: Sit square in front of the saw making sure you are sitting at an appropriate height, so you can look down at the entire part you are cutting.
If you sit too low and are looking across the part it makes it harder to see what's coming up.
Sometimes you may find you're turning your body to allow movement of the wood, stop and reposition yourself so you are sitting straight in front of the blade.
Breath: Remember to keep breathing (I know that sounds silly) sometimes when you cut an intricate part you tense up and hold your breath. This can make it even harder to cut smoothly. Make sure you are comfortable and take breaks as needed.
Speed: The speed (strokes per minute) we use varies from time to time depending on the material that is being cut. The main thing to remember is “control”. Intarsia requires accurate cutting, so you might want to experiment with your speed so you can get the best control. We found running the saw about 80% of the speed range on a variable speed saw works great.
Feed Rate: If you push the wood into the blade you will get a rougher cut than if you slow down and let the blade cut the wood. If you push too hard it can make your cause parts to be "out of square".
A magnifier really helps to see the lines. A foot switch is a good safety device. If a blade breaks or you need to stop you can easily lift your foot and stop the saw immediately.
Check for Fit: When all the parts have been cut, de-burr the back side of the part and print the number on the bottom (the same number you have on top).
Do not remove the paper from the top-side at this point. After you have numbered the back side of your project, assemble the parts and check to see how it fits. It’s a good idea to leave the paper on to see if a fitting problem could be from cutting outside of the pattern line.
If you can see the pattern lines then you will need to carefully trim the lines with a new #5 scroll saw blade. This takes some practice. If it is a free-form project practice on some of the outside edges.DO NOT SAND TO THE PATTERN LINE it is almost impossible to sand the edge and keep it square.
The kind and size of scroll saw blades can vary from one user to the next. What
works for me here in the studio may not work as well for you on your saw. I have a certain “feel” that I like when sawing and that can be different than what you like. A universal size 5 works for most intarsia projects. If I cut back into the same part to split it up into smaller sections that will go back together I will put in a very small blade size (2/0 or 0). One thing for sure (as far as I am concerned) there is not one blade that is good for everything. The blade that I use for our Intarsia on Western Red Cedar is not the blade that I use on plywood, nor is it what I would use for harder woods. I use different blades for different things. Then there is the “How Thick is the Wood”, is another factor to consider. All in all, there is only one way to figure this out. Get an assortment of blades and a stack of material and start sawing. Experience is the best way to figure this out. Below is a chart with different blades and sizes that are just a starting point. This is the actual blade combinations that we use when sawing, but the ones that you like best might differ from ours. Just remember to Experiment to determine the. blade that cuts best for you Another question is how long a blade will last? When the blade gets dull it will not cut well, you may find yourself pushing the wood too hard into the blade causing the cuts to be out of square. If the thought crosses your mind “I wonder if the blade is dull” it probably is. After you change the blade you will notice right away how much easier it is to cut your pieces. We can help you get started with blades but in the end you will have to decide for yourself. Below is a list of the blades we use. You can order the “OnLine” blades on the Scroll Saw Blades Page, just click on this link.
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