Why Your Scroll Saw Won’t Cut Straight And How To Fix it

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When I purchased my first scroll saw many years ago, I fell in love with it immediately. I would spend hours upon hours in front of it cutting out small decorative pieces. I looked all over the place for reasons to use the saw more and more. The scroll saw suited me perfectly and became my favorite tool in the workshop.

I made every mistake you could make and learned a lot of things over the years. One of those lessons I learned is that most scroll saw blades do not cut straight. Believe it or not but this is a very common issue no matter what scroll saw you use. I have had the same issues with cheap scroll saws as I have with expensive ones.

Scroll saw blade going off line

So why is it that scroll saws don’t cut straight?

The main reason a scroll saw doesn’t cut straight is because of the way the blades are made. During the process of stamping the blades out of metal stock, a burr is left on one side of the blade–usually the right–that causes the blade to drift slightly to that side while using.

This isn’t the only reason but when everything else is done right, you can be assured that the rough side of the blade is causing it to drift as you are cutting. For years, I thought it was because I had a cheap, beginner scroll saw but once I upgraded to a better model, the same problem continued.

I have always had this problem with every scroll saw I’ve owned. However, after lots of practice, you will find yourself not even realizing it isn’t cutting straight. It will become second nature to hold your wood a little skewed as you feed it through the blade.

While the saw blade has a lot to do with how straight your saw cuts, there are other reasons to consider. Let’s look at a few of those reasons below and discuss how you could remedy the problem.

4 Reasons Your Scroll Saw Doesn’t Cut Straight

1. The Blades

As mentioned before, the blade of a scroll saw often has a rough burr on one side which makes it cut more on that side of the blade. This causes the blade to drift in that direction faster thus causing the cut to become crooked. It’s usually only slightly off but as you are using it, you will feel as though it is cutting way off course. This will need to be compensated for as you feed your material through the blade.

Variety of scroll saw blades

This is a common issue and one that you will get used to. In reality, you can always expect a slight drift so you should be prepared to compensate for it as you make straight-line cuts.

If you would like to combat this by using a blade that might not have such burrs or rough areas on them, you may want to invest in some higher-quality blades that seek to eliminate this type of issue. These Flying Dutchman blades are known to be of higher quality and are milled in such a way to reduce the amount of roughness on the blade.

I have used these successfully and for the most part, they are able to cut straight. Nevertheless, I have become used to blades drifting slightly over the years and it’s just instinctually built into me that I need to compensate for this issue.

How to Fix it

The best way to fix this problem is to upgrade your blades. I prefer to use these Flying Dutchman blades if I know I am going to be cutting long straight lines within a piece of material.

These blades aren’t guaranteed to fix the problem but they are generally made with a higher-quality milling process that reduces the number of rough areas on the blade. It makes for a blade that cuts smoother and straighter.

I recommend using a specific blade brand and sticking with it. This way, you will learn how the blade cuts and you’ll get used to using it on your saw. Any type of compensation needed for straight lines will be easy to accommodate.

2. The Wood You Are Cutting

Different types of woods will give you different results as you are using your scroll saw. Some woods have heavier grain patterns than others and this is often a cause of a blade that is not cutting straight. When you are trying to cut a piece of wood and you run into a grainy area that may be softer or harder than the wood you were currently cutting through, the blade may take a slightly different turn off course.

Knotty pine on scroll saw

You will need to compensate for this as you notice this happening from the grains in the wood.

Common pine is often an issue as it has heavier grains that can cause a slight drift. Ideally, you’ll place your pattern in a way to avoid any areas that could cause a problem. However, it isn’t always possible depending on the wood and the pattern you have. This is usually not a problem when using premium plywoods since these are manufactured in a way that eliminates most grains and knots.

This is to be expected since you can’t control the grain patterns in the wood. You just have to expect that it might cause your blade to travel in different directions as it goes through various grain patterns or knotty areas.

How to Fix it

The only thing you can do here is to seek out wood that has fewer grains and other areas that might throw your blade off course.

Typically, birch plywood is what I will use for small craft items that I produce. A scroll saw blade cuts through this material like butter and isn’t going to run into any areas that will throw it off course.

I will also use premium solid woods like poplar and select pine. These are usually clear of any bad areas making them cut as smooth as plywood does.

If you are cutting through a grainy type of wood, you may want to practice on a scrap piece before you make your actual cuts. This will give you an idea of how the blade is going to react with the specific wood you are cutting.

3. Speed

When scroll sawing, there is a certain speed that you want to maintain when cutting straight line areas. If you go too slow or too fast, it will be easy to get off track. In my experience, cutting straight lines in a steady manner is the best way to approach a straight line.

You can also increase the speed at which the blade is moving on the saw. Most saws have an adjustable speed and setting this at a higher level on straight lines will usually give you better results.

How to Fix it

You will need to practice going at a steady rate on long straight lines. The best way to do this is to find some scrap wood, draw some straight lines on it, and then commence cutting them.

Use different speeds to determine which speed produces the straightest line. You will see which works best for you and at what speed you should be going to maintain a straight line. Once you have practiced this and have it down pat, you can remember this as you are cutting your next real piece and implementing this same speed rate into your project.

4. Your saw Is Not Set up Properly

The final reason I’ll mention is your scroll saw might not be set up properly. There may be multiple areas to inspect to make sure this isn’t the case but it is usually one area that is the main culprit. The saw table may not be squared with the blade and this could cause an issue with not cutting straight.

Squared blade on scroll saw

Some people have a problem with a slight angle on the workpiece after they have cut it. This slight angle is caused by the saw blade not being square with the saw table. You should check this often and adjust the table of your saw to make sure the blade is square before using it. It could easily go out of square as you are using it without you even knowing it so it’s important that you continue to check it as you are using it.

Each saw is different and has its own intricacies that you will need to learn. Once you have your saw table squared to the best of your ability, you can narrow down the reason that it might be cutting crooked based on some of the other information in the article.

How to Fix it

Each saw has different settings that you can change but typically the problem lies in the saw table where the wood lies as it is fed through the blade. If this table is not squared with the blade, you will be left with an angle on your finished piece rather than a straight cut.

You may not even realize it as you are cutting it but will see it once the project is complete. This won’t matter on a thin piece of wood but will be more noticeable on a thicker piece. Each time you use your saw, make sure it is square by using a square piece of wood or some other type of square that you can test it against. If it is not square, you may be able to simply loosen a knob and zero it into where you need it.

Also, check often to make sure the screws are not loose. My DeWalt scroll saw has screws that hold the table on and occasionally one of them becomes loose. This can cause the table to be less stable and is often an annoyance. Make sure all screws are always tight before using your saw.

You may have other adjustments that you can make but most saws won’t. If other areas of your saw are crooked, it may be because it is a lower quality model and there isn’t much you can do about it other than compensate by feeding your material at an angle.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, cutting straight with a scroll saw is a matter of practice. Throughout many hours of practice using your saw, you’ll figure out a way to compensate and end up with straight lines. There are numerous tricks that you may use such as sitting on one side of the saw or another depending on which way it is cutting. However, these tricks will differ from person to person.

I don’t really have any tricks other than feeding the material in at a slight angle to compensate for any drift that I know is going to happen. This is something that you will learn with the blades and saw that you are using so it will become second nature to feed the material in at a certain angle for compensation.

I generally keep my eyes slightly ahead of where I am cutting and make sure that the blade is heading directly towards the area that I’m looking at. It’s fairly easy to adjust once you notice a slight drift and it usually doesn’t cause much of an issue if you get back on track and continue.

Whatever the cause, a scroll saw doesn’t always cut as straight as we would like but the scroll saw is just a machine. You, as a user, have complete control over how you feed the material and this is the part that you can control.

Learn your saw and stick with blades that you feel comfortable with and you will always have a good feel for the way that it cuts, allowing you to make straight lines even when your saw doesn’t want to.