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scroll saw or bandsaw?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by slappa_dat_bass, Jan 14, 2013.

  1. slappa_dat_bass


    Nov 10, 2012
    Ok so I see everyone here using bandsaws to rough out necks, profile necks, rough out bodies, etc. But will a scroll saw work? I have a chance to swap some car parts for one. Its a dewalt with a good blade and 2 new blades. Will that be sufficient to do all/most of my cutting or profiling?
  2. Hi.

    For a while (1 instrument ?) it could.

    IMHO no.

    They're designed for much more delicate work than roughing relatively thick pieces of wood.

  3. slappa_dat_bass


    Nov 10, 2012
    So it would be better suited for cutting the fretboard and headstock as opposed to trimming a lightweight spruce and cedar body
  4. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I wouldn't waste your money on a scroll saw. I have two of them, a Delta and a Ryobi, that I bought a long time ago. They are stored away under a bench. I've tried, but I can't really find any useful job that they do. They are really only made for sawing intricate patterns in wood about 1/8" thick. Trying to cut anything thicker than that is an exercise in frustration.

    Get a bandsaw. Even one of the little tabletop ones will be more useful to you than a scroll saw. Ideally, get yourself a decent 14" floor model bandsaw. That, a drill press, and a router are the three basic power tools that you need to build instruments. Start with them.
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I roughed out a body on my scroll saw once when the blade on my band saw broke, and I couldn't get another right away. It took me an hour and a half for what should have been a 10 minute task.

    Scroll saws have their uses, I can think of nothing better for cutting an F hole in a chambered bodies top. But like Bruce said, they are more for intricate cutting. I use mine alot, but I also do a bunch of scroll patterns. I don't use it much for bass building.
  6. Hi.

    IMHO/IME not even that.

    Inlays or headstock veneers are the only objects that would make me think a scroll saw when instrument making is the subject.

  7. slappa_dat_bass


    Nov 10, 2012
    Alright guys I appreciate the input. I told the guy it was a no go on the swap, and if he can come up with a decent bandsaw id swap him. I already have access to a router, planer and drill press. It just really sucked cutting my body out with a jig saw the last time lol
  8. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    If you don't have access to a bandsaw, the next best thing is an old-school arm-powered coping saw. Clamp a body in a vise, and you'll be surprised how quickly and accurately you can cut the outline with a coping saw. They are fine for necks and headstocks, too. Not as fast as a bandsaw, obviously, but they can be controlled to lines. The key thing is to clamp the workpiece securely, so that you put some two-armed muscle into it.

    Electric jig saws (also called sabre saws) can be useful for some things, as long as they are reasonable quality. Cheap ones don't have the horsepower to cut much wood thickness. I have a nice Bosch jig saw, and it's handy for quickly roughing out openings in MDF and plywood templates and fixtures.

    But the bandsaws are the workhorses. I currently have seven various bandsaws in my shop, of different sizes and setups. Three are for woodworking and four are for metalworking. The woodworking ones have different width blades for different size jobs. My large one is a Grizzly 16", which I keep fitted with a 1/2" x 3tpi blade for heavy ripping of thick maple neck blanks and boards. My medium bandsaw is a Davis & Wells 14", fitted with a 1/4" x 10tpi blade. I use it for the majority of my sawing of necks, headstocks, and body perimeters. My small bandsaw is a Walker-Turner 12", fitted with a 1/8" blade, for smaller detail work.

    But even with a building full of machines, there are still times when I use an old-fashioned coping saw. I have a bunch of them in different sizes.
  9. Actually, a decent jigsaw with the proper blade for the wood you want to cut does a better job than the scroll saw. You have to be more careful about the blade not staying 90* to the top of the body, but a little extra margin takes care of that.
  10. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    That's exactly what they're made for. :bag:

    Good tip. You can square up the edges with a sanding block and a square pretty easily. You just want the saw to do most of the rough work for you.
  11. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I think scroll saws are made specifically for building birdhouses, and maybe doll houses. Almost every ad you see for one has a kindly grey-bearded guy sawing out birdhouse parts, with some beaming grandkids in the background. That's the target market. A Christmas present to keep Grandpa busy!

    No pictures of a handsome, muscular Luthier sawing out a headstock, with a gorgeous babe looking on proudly. Because that would be silly.
    eddododo and bassestkkm like this.
  12. +1. My scrollsaw barely gets used these days. It won't cut bodies, and cutting necks is totally frustrating.

    Get a bandsaw.
  13. slappa_dat_bass


    Nov 10, 2012
    I actually have a really good jigsaw, and it cut the body fine. I just tried to follow the line and wound up with uneven sides. Maybe leaving an 1/8 inch margin would be better? I don't mind doing some sanding, and besides my body is going to get REALLY rounded over anyway
  14. Hopefully, you have a template made from 3/4 MDF or something close. You refine the template til it is perfect because its easier to do on MDF than hardwood. Then you trace the template onto your body wood. Cut it with whatever you have with margins applicable to your cutting method. Attach the template to the body and using a pattern bit, take off the margin you left. All thats left is a little bit of sanding to take off the burn marks left by the bit.
    bassestkkm likes this.
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