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What can you make with a Scroll Saw?

The scroll saw is a peculiar tool. It isn't as precise as a dialed-in table saw for cutting straight lines, you can't cut thick wood like you can with a band saw, and it only takes thin blades instead of an essentially infinite number of bits you might use in your router. The user is also limited to projects that can be manipulated within the throat depth of their machine. With all these limitations, what is the appeal of this strange machine and where does it fit in the typical woodworker's shop?

The scroll saw isn't for every woodworker. If your goal is to make furniture, it might not be for you. If you want to make vases and bowls, it's probably not for you. You can make some bowls and vases that approximate what one might produce on a lathe but you'll probably get tired of sanding before you're finished. You can also make just about any type of furniture as long as you want to put it in a doll's house rather than your own.

Where the scroll saw shines is in fine, detailed cuts in relatively thin stock. The user has the ability to make tighter turns while cutting than on any other tool. The blade holding system on most scroll saws allows for cuts inside the workpiece. This combination allows the user to produce some things that, while possible with other tools, is certainly most readily done on the scroll saw. Here are a few examples of projects I have made on the scroll saw.


Fretwork is essentially a lot of small holes inside the face of a piece. Oftentimes it will have a sort of symmetry that is pleasing to the eye but it can also make use of silhouette and negative space to produce a striking image. Try these with any other tool. You might be able to accomplish them but you're probably not going to have a lot of fun. There are hand tools like the fretsaw that can accomplish these and I've seen some incredible work done manually with one but I don't have the patience for that. You could also do it with a laser cutter but where's the fun in that?

Intarsia and Segmentation

Both intarsia and segmentation use cuts of wood that are shaped to provide relief images or three-dimensional shape. The main difference is intarsia uses only the natural colors of wood with clear finish to achieve coloration in the composition. The pug above was designed by me and was my first ever project on the scroll saw. I made it in late 2017 and thought it would be a fun diversion while I planned out my woodshop for furniture making. Dear reader, it did not turn out that way. I have built many different things in my woodshop but I have developed a passion for working on the scroll saw. I enjoy making fixtures and accessories for my shop, boxes and things for gifts, and just about anything else that I can do in my workshop but I love working with the scroll saw.

Crafts and Signs

Some of the most popular things I see online and on social media are more on the crafty side than the traditional categories described above. Signs, toys and other neat stuff. Round signs with baby names and stylized imagery are also trendy and there are many exceptional examples out there. These are often designed and shared by younger woodworkers and I think it's fantastic that people are finding their way to the scroll saw through social media.

Beyond these examples is a whole world of projects. Inlay and marquetry, for example, can be done with the scroll saw. The scroll saw can be used to make an entire project or simply create embellishments. It may not be fast and cutting tends to be more art than science but I find time spent at the scroll saw is never wasted. If you are interested in the scroll saw I hope you can find a way to give it a shot. I love to see what people make and I'd be happy if you'd share it with me here or on Instagram.


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Welcome to Scroll Saw Corner

Scrolling since 2017, Ian loves to talk shop. Find him on social media or add a comment to let him know what you think or if you'd like to see a video or article on a specific topic.

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