6 Reasons Your Scroll Saw Jumps and How To Avoid It

A scroll saw is a simple tool and there isn’t a lot that can go wrong during usage. However, there are a few problems that can arise if proper precautions are not taken. Besides the occasional blade breakage, another common problem users experience is wood jumping while using the saw.

This usually happens when the blade catches hold of the wood or other material and causes it to bounce and rattle around. It can be startling and cause you to veer off pattern lines you may be cutting. It may also be dangerous and could possibly locate your fingers directly into the blade if not careful.

Jumping wood on scroll saw

This is something that happens to all of us. It’s a very common issue but there are ways to minimize it. There are numerous causes and once you figure out the cause, you can avoid it and continue on your way.

I am no stranger to this and often find it happening when I get sloppy with handling my workpiece. However, I have learned how to avoid it for the most part through years of trial and error.

Let’s look at some of the main reasons that this can happen and how you can avoid it.

1) Your Scroll Saw Isn’t Properly Set Up

First and foremost, your scroll saw needs to be properly set up. This includes being bolted down, leveled, and all parts tightened. You don’t want any play or movement in your saw as you are using it.

This is a foundational starting point that can affect other parts of your overall scrolling experience if ignored. Using a wobbly and unsecured saw can present lots of annoying problems including jumping behavior.

When I first started using a scroll saw, I kept it stored in the corner on the floor of my garage. When it was time to use it, I would pick it up and sit it on my workbench. Rather than it being clamped or bolted down, it sat freely and moved around as I was using it.

I learned that this was not the best way to go about using a scroll saw. A scroll saw vibrates a lot as it is being used so if it is not bolted down properly, it will jump around and move across the surface where it is resting.

I have since built a sturdy cart that my scroll saw is bolted tightly to. Now when I use it, it doesn’t move at all. This allows me to take my focus off of a wobbly saw and pay closer attention to the task of cutting my material.

Make sure your scroll saw is mounted to a sturdy bench or dedicated stand. The stand should be substantial and able to withstand the vibrations of the saw being used. Ideally, the stand will also be bolted down or sturdied in some way or another.

Beyond securing the saw itself, make sure all parts of the saw are securely tightened before use.

Once your saw is sturdy, you will be able to properly use it and other challenges with the material jumping around will be easy to fix.

2) Your Blade is Dull

Once your scroll saw is set up to be sturdy and in place, you’ll want to make sure that you have a good sharp blade installed. It’s a good idea to test this on a scrap piece of wood before you get started if you are unsure as to whether or not your blade is up to the challenge. When in doubt, change out the blade if you want to ensure the best results while you are scrolling.

A sharp blade will give you the best chance of cutting through your material without it catching. Dull blades will have a harder time cutting through material and could easily underperform, especially when working with certain types of wood that have strong grain patterns. A dull blade may get caught on these types of grains whereas a sharp blade will cut through it easier.

Having a sharp, quality blade will give you the best chance of making clean cuts while making it less likely to have jumping material as you are using the saw.

3) Your Blade isn’t Tight Enough

Once you know you have a sharp, quality blade, you want to make sure that your blade is tight enough for the job. A loose blade is not ideal and can cause problems along the way. A sharp, taut blade will ensure that you can cut through material with ease in most cases.

This is something you should always check for when beginning any kind of scroll saw project. Having a good blade that is tight will allow you to cut through most woods like butter. This will help you to avoid the jumping issue that often occurs.

It will take some practice to determine the proper tension for your liking. Eventually, you’ll discover a sweet spot for your style of cutting. In general, it is said that the scroll saw blade should be tuned to a high C chord when you pluck it. Having a chromatic tuner handy will help you to get an idea of how tight this actually is.

This may be a good starting point but isn’t always the ideal setting. Each scroll saw is different and some materials may call for different blade tensions. The thickness of the wood also matters so keep this in mind as you go about setting the proper tension of your scroll saw blade.

4) Your Material is Not Held Down Tight Enough

Once you have the foundational items above checked off your list, the biggest cause, in my experience, of wood jumping is a lack of hold-down pressure. We are all human so it is easy to get so involved in your project that you loosen your grip on your workpiece so much that it gets caught in the blade and begins jumping around.

In an ideal setting, you would keep consistent pressure on your workpiece at all times, ensuring that it does not get “stuck” in the blade. Most scroll saws have some sort of arm that helps with this but it isn’t always ideal to use it. I rarely use mine when I scroll and prefer to pay more attention to the amount of pressure I am placing on the workpiece myself.

It takes some practice and a lot of concentration to always maintain proper pressure on your workpiece. However, if you can overcome this and keep the workpiece pressure at the forefront of your mind, you’ll discover that you will have fewer wood-jumping episodes and more smooth and more controlled cuts along the way.

5) The Type of Wood You Are Using

Grainy wood with large knot

After you’ve done everything else right, the type of wood you are using can still be a major cause of creating this unwanted behavior. Some hardwoods or grainy woods can be tricky and more difficult to cut through. Grainy woods can be easy to cut through at one moment and before you know it, you have hit a grainy area that doesn’t cut as well.

The blade is likely to catch on the grain in these instances causing this behavior if you are not careful. Just be mindful of this and apply extra pressure when you notice a grainy pattern coming up in the wood you are cutting.

6) You Are Fatigued or Not Paying Attention

Some scroll saw projects can be tedious and take a long time to complete. Because of this, it’s easy to “zone out” and forget what you are doing. These times are ripe for jumping material to occur. Because we lose focus, the pressure we are applying becomes less and we stop paying attention to the basics.

The way to combat this is to scroll in short spurts. Rather than tackling a huge project at once, split it up over shorter sessions. This will allow you to stop, take a break and then return later with a fresher mind. In fact, this problem alone can cause countless problems including injury so it’s important to keep fatigue under control.

Bottom Line

Overall, there isn’t a lot that can go wrong during a scrolling session. However, jumping of the material is a common behavior that occurs. Most of the time it is within our control to avoid it but even after you’ve done everything right, there may be those times when it happens.

Hopefully, these tips will help minimize the times you have to deal with this behavior and keep you safe as you complete some awesome scroll saw projects!