Which Wood is Best for Your Scroll Saw Project?

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Using a scroll saw

Scroll saws are the go-to saws for wood crafters because they make clean and accurate cuts. A scroll saw has a very thin blade that moves up and down at a high rate of speed, to enable you to cut in even the narrowest places.

All wood types act differently with the saw. If you choose the wrong kind of wood or a piece that is too thick, the item you’re working on can jump around, burn, or chip on you. Since the type of wood is so important, let’s take a look at the six best kinds of wood to use with this type of saw.

1. Cherry

Cherry is on the softer side of the hardwood family. It doesn’t take as much of a toll on the blade as the harder woods do. It has an even grain that is easy to cut through, no matter how delicate the work, but it isn’t as strong, so your finished product won’t be able to bear as much weight as other kinds of hardwoods.

Many crafters like cherry because of its rich, light reddish-brown color. This wood darkens over time no matter where it’s located, but will darken faster when exposed to sunlight.

cherry tree

Image credit: Laura Nolte, Flickr

2. Walnut

Walnut, like cherry, is one of the softer hardwoods. We would actually put them in the same category of hardness, so again, the finished walnut product isn’t meant for heavy items. Walnut trees are the only dark hardwood trees grown in North America.

Crafters like walnut due to its coloring and grain patterns. Walnut can vary in color from a rich dark brown to a dark purple-like tone. These trees are known for growing burls, or deformed growths, and for their fascinating swirling grains. These bring a lot of character to your finished project, especially after being stained. The stain really makes the impurities pop and draws the attention of the eye.

walnut tree

Image credit: Jim Linwood, Flickr

3. Maple

Maple is the hardwood used most often in wood-crafting. It is readily available anywhere in North America, so it is usually the most economical kind of hardwood to buy.

Maple wood has a much lighter color than either cherry or walnut. It does tend to have a tightly curled grain that is considered hard to stain, so take notice of what you are using it for. Maple wood flooring is particularly hard to stain in patches. It is nearly impossible to get the stain the correct color.

Crafters prefer maple for some projects due to its lighter coloring, and because it is more durable than cherry or walnut.

maple tree

Image credit: photosteve101, Flickr

4. Birch

Birch, like maple, is lighter than cherry or walnut. It has a creamy white coloring with curly grains. People often mistake maple wood for birch because their coloring is so similar. Like maple, birch has a tendency not to absorb stain as other hardwoods do.

Birch is close to maple in its availability and color, as well as its usefulness. It is harder, so it can be used for more substantial projects. Birch is one of the most commonly used woods in making kitchen cabinets.

birch tree

Image credit: Martin Vorel, Libre Shot

5. Ash

Ash is one of the hardest hardwoods. It ranks right up there with birch and oak. The hardness of the wood will not be as forgiving to your saw blade as the softer hardwoods are. Since the wood is so hard, make sure you let the blade do the cutting at its pace. Don’t try to push it through too fast. Slow and steady will give you the best results, especially on the most intricate cuts.

Ash wood generally has lighter wood near the outside and gets darker brown as you get into the heart of it. The color difference brings distinction to each piece and is really beautiful when stained.

Crafters like ash because it is lightweight and has unique and interesting grain patterns. There is a lot of movement in the grain of ash, so it is often used on larger projects. It can be too busy for small pieces with a lot of detail.

ash tree

Image credit: spablab, Flickr

6. Hickory

Hickory is the hardest of these six hardwoods and is known for wearing through saw blades. It is a pale, almost white, wood that has streaks of dark or reddish-brown near the heart of the tree.

This wood has a tendency to be straight-grained with some unique patterns that are darker to give your finished piece great contrasting colors. It absorbs stain remarkably well and looks fantastic in all sorts of light.

Crafters like hickory for more substantial projects because of the beauty of the finished product with its distinct contrasting colors.

hickory tree

Image credit: Katja Schulz

Conclusion

Scroll saws are best used on hardwoods. Though softwoods give very little resistance to the blade, they are often too frail to handle delicate woodwork. About the only time that you would want to use softwood in a scroll saw is when you are practicing to become familiar with the feeling of the saw.

Hardwoods are better for creating delicate woodwork on your scroll saw, even though they are harder on the blade. Unlike softwoods, they don’t tend to break when you are cutting intricate or tight curves.

Always make sure that you have a sharp blade before you begin making any cuts. Scroll saws are very sharp and great for most of your wood-crafting needs if you let the blade do the work. If you try to push it through too fast, the wood can burn, and the blade can bend. Cutting with a scroll saw is slow and can take patience, but that is why it cuts so cleanly and accurately.


Top image credit: Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert, Misawa Wood Working