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The Scrolling Fool

I scroll. I do all kinds of woodwork, but I commonly find a way to add scrolling of some kind to everything I do. I want to show that anyone can use the scroll saw. Anyone can get into this hobby and create scrolled wood work from the simplest styled home accents, all the way up to magnificant works of art that takes hundreds of hours to complete. It's up to the individual as to how far they wish to take it.
I call my blog the Scrolling Fool, because I am a fool for scrolling. I fell into scrolling almost by accident and have loved it ever since. My blog will include information on patterns, techniques, tricks, and anything else scrolling related I can think to throw in there. Another reason I call it the scrolling fool is humor. I do like to break up the seriousness when I can with a little bit of humor. If we can't laugh and have fun while doing this, then what's the point in doing it?

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The Crappiest Saws Still Work

Posted by on in Scroll Sawing with William
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I mentioned in the last blog entry the crappy saw I started with. I figured that was a good place to start this journey, because a lot of people start with crappy saws. Not everyone can run out and buy a five hundred to thousand dollar saw just to find out IF they like scrolling. I would never recommend anyone to do that. I've heard it said so many times, buy the best you can afford. That's all fine and good, if you are kin to Scrooge McDuck or something and swimming in piles of the green stuff. The fact of life though is this. Most of us cannot afford those type saws just to get our feet wet in a new hobby. You may try this for a month or two and decide you absolutely hate it with a passion. What then? As we also know, you are not going to get what you paid for that expensive saw back.

So what do we do? The fact is, most of us start with cheap, and crappy saws. That's nothing to be ashamed of. Before I go any further, I'm going to tell you a story. I got the chance to talk one on one with one of THE men to talk to in the scroll saw world. I am not going to divulge his name, because, well frankly, my mother just raised me better than that. He was impressed with my work that he had seen online though. This made my chest swell out like a blowfish on crack. I was proud. Then I slowed my roll. I also remembered that this was also a guy that always recommends one certain saw for all scrollers, one of those expensive ones. So, out of curiosity, and the fact that I'm a trouble maker, I asked him what he thought of the saw that I had been using for over a year. His response was, "that is a beginner saw. You'll never be able to achieve the quality of work you're doing now with that cheap saw". No I did not tell him that my little "beginner saw" was what had cut those pieces he'd talked about so nicely. No, I walked away, kind of embarrassed that I could not afford a better saw.

That's when I started thinking on this matter very seriously. Who was he to tell me what saw was better for ME? I realized that scroll saws are like all other tools. One size, brand, and style does not fit all. Telling me, or you, or anyone else what saw to buy is like telling someone they should only buy a certain pare of pants in a certain size. It just doesn't work. I will talk in a later post about my saw, the same one I still use today, and why I like it. The point of this whole story was to reassure you, that no matter what saw you have or can afford, it doesn't matter. Even crappy saws are a place to start if you really want to scroll.

This is a Ryobi SC164 sixteen inch, variable speed scroll saw. It is the saw I started with. So why did I post that old antique to represent this post? Because I think it's a cool saw. Now back to the Ryobi. At the time, it cost about one buck under a hundred. My wife bought it one year for my birthday after I went online to find out exactly what a scroll saw was, since I'd never seen one before then. I hate to talk bad about any tool unless I know for sure that my opinion is correct. That only comes from using a tool long enough to get to know it on a personal level. Well, I used this saw until the bearings completely fell apart in it, and scrolled a lot of projects on it. So I feel I am fully qualified to tell you. This saw, out of the ones I've had the chance to even touch, is the biggest piece of crap known to man.

Keep in mind. I'm sure there are some crappier saws on the market. As a matter of fact, I've seen some at Harbor Freight that I am sure are bigger pieces of crap. This saw though I thought, wrongly by the way, that since it came from Home Depot, it couldn't be that bad. It was. If I wasn't determined to learn this skill, I would have used this saw for target practice. It was an exercise in frustration. I am not regretful I owned it though. I started with a crappy saw. I learned to use a crappy saw. When I learned enough on that crappy saw, I moved up to a better saw and had the confidence to cut anything I wanted.

This bear portrait was cut on the Ryobi. It isn't a bad cutting. I stayed with simpler cuttings without a lot of detail and things weren't too bad, and I improved my dancing skills. Yes, I said dancing skills. The Ryobi vibrated so bad that, mounted to a heavy table, with sandbags providing further weight, and a real bear sitting on top of the saw, that thing would have still moved a few feet per hour while cutting. Of course, the real bear on top of the saw is an exaggeration, but it illustrates my point. I looked for advice online and did everything I could find, and still, there was just no stopping that saw. I measured it once. For every hour of cutting, if you didn't scoot it back into position, the saw would move eighteen inches in a random direction on my shop floor. I gave up on it and would hook my leg onto a board on the side of thew table it was mounted to and, sitting in my wheelchair, just allow the saw to move me with it. Even my two hundred pound body did not slow it down. By the way, that last jab about my body not slowing it down was NOT an exageration.

I used that saw for over a year. I learned to scroll pretty well, as the bear portait shows. I didn't like it, but I have a family and not a lot of money. So as long as the saw would make it, I just kept using it. As a matter of fact, I kept using it until I noticed the vibration got worse. How does a saw that vibrates that badly get worse you ask? It just did. It started hopping up and down while running instead of slowly vibrating across the floor. Taking it apart to see what was wrong revealed a saw that had actually beaten itself to pieces. The cheap sleeve bearing that allowed the arms to pivot fell into about eight different pieces when I pulled the arms off the mounts. It was only then that I looked for another saw. We will talk about the search for the right saw in the next blog post.

For now though, I wanted to close this post on a positive note. After reading all this, one might be wondering why they'd want to scroll. The answer is the reward. Below is a project I built after scrolling for less than three years. It is a chandelier that is four feet in height, three feet wide, and has over a hundred hours of work in it. If you learn to scroll, take your time, be patient, and take one cut at a time like I say, you too can create works such as this.

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Comments

  • Steven Palmer
    Steven Palmer Wednesday, 23 January 2013

    Just read the first two installments, love the blog, can't wait to read the rest.. very well done.. makes me want to pull the old Dunlop scroll saw I have up stairs down and give it a go.. thanks.. Papa

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