How did you make such a beautiful work of art out of wood using only your saw? Fretwork can be defined as creating intricate shapes and designs by cutting wood (this is a simplified definition). Fretwork can also be done using other materials such as metal. Fretwork may be done using any number of saws or even a knife. This beginner's guide will look at fretwork made using the scroll saw. Fretwork may seem simple enough on the surface but is far from simple. The tools, types of wood, patterns, and techniques are what form the, not so easy, art of fretwork. How do you get started and what do you need?
To do the simplest fretwork project you will need a pattern, wood, and a saw. Finding patterns may be as simple as going to your nearest hardware store and picking up a book. You may also find many patterns and books online. In my opinion using a pattern is the only way to get started. In the beginning, any solid inexpensive piece of wood will work. As you get more experience the type of wood will become a factor. Practice on inexpensive wood. The saw you choose is by far the most costly part of fretwork. When picking a saw, take your time and find the type of saw that seems the most comfortable, that will do the job. You may even want to try working on a friends saw before you purchase one. If this is not an option picking one up at a yard sale may be an option.
Let’s go over safety. When using any power tool keep in mind that wood will jam, blades will break, and saws cut off fingers. Remember, (in my opinion) the more experience you have on a saw, the more likely you are to cut off a finger. As someone gets used to using a power tool, the danger of the spinning blade seems to get pushed to the back of there mind. At that point more risks are taken making the danger escalate. Please, always use power equipment such as saws in a safe manner. The saw blade is very unforgiving.
There are a few things to look at when choosing a scroll saw. Does the blade have quick release clamps? You will need to take the blade loose and thread it through the wood stock to make inside cuts on every project. Having quick releasing blade clamps is a must. You also want to make sure the tension adjustment mechanism is forward mounted for quick access. You may unhook the blade many times on one project. Once you look at a few patterns, seeing why will become apparent.
Blades are also an important part of the saw. There are two types of blades. Pin end and plain end blades. Plain end blades are flat blades with no pin in the end. They are more common then pin end blades. Pin end blades have pins in the ends of the blade and take less time to change. I always use plain end blades as they can fit into smaller spaces when threading them through the wood stock. Pin end blades won't fit through as small of spaces as they have pins to deal with. Even though there are only two types of blades there are many different blades. Some have more teeth per inch, deeper teeth, and some are thinner or thicker. The holders for the two blade types are different so you need to make sure what kind the saw has when you purchase it.
Having variable speeds on the scroll saw can be very handy. If you are cutting hard wood you will need a higher speed. If the saw only has one speed it can take forever cutting hard wood. With soft wood you will want a slower speed. If you have too much speed with soft wood it will cut way to fast and be hard to control. If at all possible, get a variable speed saw. If you are just starting out and don’t want the added expense, a one speed saw will do.
The space from the blade to the mounting arm at the back of the scroll saw is the throat capacity. Eighteen inches is about the standard throat capacity. Of course the more the better but keep in mind less then eighteen inches and you may start to have problems with the size of wood and cuts you can make.
You can get a lot of extras for the saw. Ask yourself when purchasing extras, how much use are you going to get from it. There are tons of things you don't need that sound good. Don't waist your time and money on useless accessories is a good rule. Also keep in mind that some accessories are worth there weight in gold.
The best way to get started with fretwork is to get a pattern, a cheep peace of wood, and just start doing it. You will learn as you go and have many start over’s, but the journey is worth it. Before you know it, works of art will flow from your scroll saw like magic. Giving hand made gifts to friends and family during the holidays is simply wonderful. Most people are simply amazed that you can make such breathtaking things with a simple scroll saw and some wood.