Buying Your First Scroll Saw: Advice from the Scroll Saw Scribbler

Hello all you boys and girls! So recently I’ve been getting a lot of messages and posts roughly along the lines of:

“Hey, Scribblemaster! I want to get into scroll saw woodworking and your wonderful talented opinion was the one and only thing that matters to me! But I’m not sure how hard to dive in! Do I go for a Harbor Freight or Wen or Dewalt? Or do I go batty and get into Excalibur or Henger?!”

Scroll Saw Scribbler in his natural habitat

Now keep in mind, that is paraphrased. They were way more complimentary but I found that to be unnecessary for this article. But the sentiment is the same none the less. People looking for recommendations on what scroll saw to start with.

I use a Henger Multimax 22, and it’s the only saw I’ve ever used so my knowledge on different brands is next to nonexistent. This won’t be an article reviewing and comparing different models. This will be more a philosophical look at what saw you should purchase as your first. The simple answer that I give is: buy the best machine you can financially afford.

My Hegner Multimax Scroll Saw

Many of the responses I get to this advice is concerns about “What if I’m not any good at it?”, “I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to use a scroll saw”, and also “I can’t afford much so what features should I look for?”. So let’s hit these one at a time, shall we?

“What if I’m not any good?” – First and foremost, no one is good at the beginning. Using a scroll saw takes a lot of practice and hours making saw dust. I think in many of the artistic fields people will use the quality of their tools to mentally limit their growth. Going with a cheaper made saw generally, means going with less precise tolerances and less features. I advise you to eliminate these excuses “I can’t get the tension to stay consistent”, “the blade has a slight wobble with each revolution”, and “I can only use pinned blades”. Now some of these have ways that you can work around and make amazing pieces with but it’s a larger uphill battle. Please don’t let a cheaper saw hold you back; choose a saw with features that will give you significant room for growth.

“I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to use a scroll saw” – Once you become proficient at the scroll saw, you’ll find yourself going for the scroll saw more often than you’d think. I cannot tell you how many times I’m watching YouTube woodworkers trying to get a tricky cut that would be 10x easier on a scroll saw vs. disc sanding or a band saw. Even the great Peter Brown is guilty of this! Seriously man, use the scroll saw. Plus a scroll saw is a great way to add a personal and creative touch to a “traditional” woodworking project. For example, below is a picture of a toy box that I made for my son Quinn. Now I was able to add the Q at the front with a scroll saw, but I was also able to do the finger slots underneath the lid, straight lengths and all. The beautiful part of it was that I didn’t have to mess with router jigs or putting a thin blade on my band saw, just a quick stroll over to the scroll saw.

“I can’t afford much so what features should I look for?” – If I ever need a new saw, here’s what I would need that saw to be able to do.

Variable speed– Different woods, thicknesses, and curves call for different speeds. Look for one with a potentiometer variable speed that has easy access while mid cut.

Easy blade tension adjustments– Same with the variable speed, different projects call for different tension as well as different thickness blades.

Tension release for quick blade changes

Quick tension release– If you start doing detailed pieces, you’re going to fly through blades left and right. So a saw that requires you to set the tension with every blade change will quickly become tedious and a bummer.

Finally, a solid base and/or a good way for it to be secured to a solid bench top.

In conclusion, I recommend you dive in with both feet as much as you can and have fun.

-Justin Christensen the Scroll Saw Scribbler

Author: Justin Christensen

My name is Justin Christensen. I decided to turn my garage into a small woodworking craft shop. All the elements of my items are completely handmade. I do not use any laser cutters or CNC machines, it’s all just me and my scroll saw!

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Justin Christensen

My name is Justin Christensen. I decided to turn my garage into a small woodworking craft shop. All the elements of my items are completely handmade. I do not use any laser cutters or CNC machines, it's all just me and my scroll saw!

5 thoughts on “Buying Your First Scroll Saw: Advice from the Scroll Saw Scribbler

  • January 17, 2017 at 11:24 am
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    I see something similar when people ask about buying their first kayak or canoe. Too cheap (crappy) and there is a good chance they will never be able to grow to enjoy the sport. That very cheapest (scroll saw, or kayak) is probably no bargain at all.

    Reply
    • January 18, 2017 at 8:42 am
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      You’re so right Dan! I fell victim to this myself. And now I’ve got an inexpensive scroll saw that has made my learning curve that much harder…

      Reply
  • January 19, 2017 at 5:49 am
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    Very well written article. Definitely something that will help anyone want Ingram to get into dodgers no scroll saw work.
    I thought I would use my jigsaw more then the scroll saw. It’s turned into a 50/50 use now.

    Reply
  • January 22, 2017 at 6:46 pm
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    I have a cheap variable speed 16″ Craftsman and I have found that this one version of it works very well, though it does have its issues (one is no matter how stable I bolt it down and weigh down the stand it vibrates terribly at full speed.) Even with those issues, I have made several portraits of my family, 2 of paintings, and several large portraits of barns. I would agree with most of what you put, but would add avoid pin end only saws, and try to find one that has a great clamping system for the plain end blades. I got lucky with my saw in that it can do amazing things but tedious to use.

    Reply
  • February 7, 2017 at 12:05 pm
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    Well there you go, I came here looking for the magic right answer and got a bit of education and philosophy instead. I think the advice is spot on for a whole lot of things. I often say “If you don’t know the difference, don’t pay the difference.” I heard that somewhere before. Then I follow up by saying, “Do yourself a favor and learn what the difference is.”

    Reply

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