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Scroll Saw:

under construction 6-5-08

Scroll-Saw, a saw for cutting scrolls; so scroll-sawing; scroll-wheel, a wheel actuated by scroll-gear. A saw with a small, reciprocating-blade, which, through up-and-down action through a hole in the center of the work-table cuts a straight and/or curved Kerf in the workpiece. The workpiece itself can be maneuvered in any required direction on the work-table. The saw follows a scroll, according to a pattern or traced figure upon the work. The Band-Saw, incidentally, is really a scroll-saw, although the band-saw's blade action differs from the scroll Saw.

Historical note: Closely related to the Scroll Saw is the Fret Saw

    Fret-saw. 1. A saw (a) with a relatively long, narrow blade, used in cutting the frets, scrolls, etc., on verge boards, ornamented screens, etc. A keyhole saw; a Compass-saw. 2. A machine-mounted on a stand with a treadle to give the reciprocating motion to the jig-saw. The machine shown is specially intended for fret-work on small scale, ornamental inlaying, buhl and reisner work.

    Source: Edward Knight Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary: A Description of Tools, Instruments ... 1876, page 915.

1846: Charles Holtzapffel, John Jacob Holtzapffel, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation: On the Principles of Construction, Action, and application of Cutting Tools, used by hand: namely, chisels and planes, turning toóla, boring tools, screw-cutting-tools, eaws, files, shears, and punches ; and also of machines derived irom these hand tools. 1846, volume 2, page 745-751

Originally published in 1846, this invaluable reference work discusses chisels, plane irons, turning, boring and screw cutting tools, saws, files, shears and punches, vises, and planing and shaping machines that were state-of-the art in the first half of the nineteenth century. Most items discussed are illustrated with clear, reasonably-sized diagrams, and -- see below -- often Holtzafppel's text details how specific machines operate. Scattered throughout this second volume (and other volumes in the six-volume set) are references to other sources of information -- including Continental and American writers -- a rare feature for a work about woodworking tools and machines in this early, but significant period -- when many of our woodworking machines were invented.

As an example of Holtzafppel's narrative strategy, below, the white-boxed text reprints his descriptions early scroll saws and/or fixtures for scroll saws. 562 pages and 711 woodcuts.

Frm the online Dictionary of National Biography: HOLTZAPFFEL, CHARLES (1800-1847), mechanician, was the son of a German who in 1787 settled in London as a worker in tools and lathes. In addition to careful training in the workshop, Holtzaplfel received a good English education, and by assiduous study and practice became a skilled mechanician.... Read more


    Holtzafppel's Description for Figure 724

    The saw frame has a central wooden rod, and a blade on each edge, which are stretched by clamps, screws and nuts, much as usual. The saw is guided perpendicularly by fixed wires; these pass through holes in the cross heads of the saw frame, which are sometimes fitted with rollers to relieve the friction. The saw frame is suspended from a bow spring attached to the column erected on the bench; and the lower end communicates by a double-ended hook, with a light treadle. The spring, when left to itself, raises the saw frame and treadle some 8 or 10 inches, and the pressure of the foot gives the cutting motion.

    For straight pieces a wide saw is used, and the work is guided against a square fence, which overlaps the front edge of the bench, and is fixed by a binding screw passing through a mortise. For beveled pieces a chamfered bar c, is fixed to the right hand side of the bench, and carries a square sliding block, surmounted by an angular fence, with graduations and a clamping screw. the work is laid against the angular fence, and moved upon the chamfer slide past the saw. For circular works a narrow blade is employed, and the popit head or center point connected with the stationary frame work, serves as the axis of motion for the piece of wood to be cut.

    In order to leave the bench unobstructed, so that large pieces may be sawn, the guide rods upon which the saw frame works are discontinuous; the lower parts terminate beneath the bench, the upper are fixed to cross pieces, connected with a dovetail bar, itself attached in front of the column, so that the group of piece' carrying the upper wires may be fixed at a greater elevation to admit of thicker work. The back edges of the blades run in saw-kerfs in the lower rail of the guide frame.



    Holtzafppel's Description for Figure 725

    In Mr. Mac Duff's buhl cutting machine, the saw is stretched in a frame about 4 to 6 inches high and 10 to 14 inches wide; the frame reciprocates vertically upon small fixed wires, by the modification of the crank shown in Figure 725.

    The pulley e, beneath the lathe bearers b, receives continuous motion from the foot-wheel, the lower end of a cord c, is fixed to a pin about an inch from the center of e, passed around the fixed pulley p, then between the bearers to the saw frame, which is raised by a spiral spring; by this arrangement, the parallelism of the cord is obtained.

    The work is supported upon a table or platform, midway between the path of the saw frame. Source:


    Holtzafppel's Description for Figure 726

    Mr. Lund's vertical saw machine, which is represented from the back in Figure 726, consists of a bench with foot wheel and treadle, surmounted by rectangular frame, the lower rail of which is rebated to fit the bearers; the center rail is extended into a platform about three feet square, which, for, the sake of portability. consists of two wide flaps with hinges and brackets, somewhat as in an ordinary Pembroke table.

    To the extremities of the upper rail are fixed two long and narrow springs, made of hammered steel, that spring downwards when left to themselves. The ends of the saw are grasped in screw clamps, formed at the ends of square wires, working rather freely in the two outer rails, within holes fitted with metal. The lower saw clamp is connected by a cat-gut with an eccentric and guide pulley, as in Mac Duff's - Figure 725 , but the eccentric shown detached in Figure 727 has more range, the traverse being sometimes 4 or 5 inches.

    The upper saw clamp is connected with the straight springs by means of a catgut line, reeved in the manner shown more at large in fFigure 728, (one of the side frames being removed,) the catgut proceeds from the springs, over the two fixed pulleys, and under the pulley on the top wire or clamp; this arrangement equalises the action of the springs, and gives a parallel motion to the blade, the back edge of which lies towards the operator, and works in a notch on the edge of a hardened steel disk, inlaid in the platform. One end of the catgut has a small circular button, which is passed through a round hole in the spring, and then sideways into a notch, so as to be readily detached for the removal of the saw.

    Mr. Lund's machine is simple and effective for inlaid and fret works, and a variety of thin curvilinear pieces, which occur in cabinet work and pattern making. For cutting parallel anti bevilled pieces, appropriate guides are added to the platform. similar to those elsewhere described. For circles, a brad-awl is passed through the center of the work into the platform, or rather into a subsidiary and common platform then added. And tL shorten the length of stroke during the working of the machine, as required in sawing around small curves and rounded angle it sliding bolt beneath the platform, is thrust across the path of the saw, so that the ascent of the saw to the full height is then prevented by the temporary increase of thickness in the platform, as the saw clamp strikes against the sliding-bolt or slide.




    Holtzafppel's Description for Figure 729

    Figure 729 is copied from Professor Willis's sketch of a vertical aw for curvilinear works, constructed by himself in 1837. The frame of the machine is elevated above its true position to how the details, and is clamped on the bed of a lathe or grinding frame, and the saw derives its motion from an eccentric carried by one of the ordinary grindstone spindles. This eccentric is a pulley of hardwood cut in half and screwed against the face of the mahogany pulley. A loop of wire embraces it, and connect, it with the lower spring, so that when the spindle revolves t1 spring is thrown into rapid vibration; the springs are of woos? 21 inches long and 21/2 inches broad. The saw is clamped at each end in a small iron clamp; the lower clamp is joined to the lower spring by the same steel pin that carries the loop of wire. The upper clamp has several hooks filed in its edge, any one of which can be hooked on a steel fixed to the upper spring. Thus the saw is carried and stretched at the same time by the two springs, and can be readily disen­gaged, either by unhooking the upper clamp or by unclampin either end. The lower spring is fixed to the frame, the upper is fixed to a separate piece of wood that can be adjusted to different heights, and the platform is 12 inches above the bearers.

    The only point that requires further consideration is the adjustment of the saw in the springs, so that it may traverse asnearly as possible through one and the same point of the platform, notwithstanding that the ends of the springs nearly describe arcs of circles, and therefore carry the extremities of the saw slightly to and fro during its movements.

    The vertical distances between the springs at their roots, where they are fixed to the framing, and at their pins where they carry the saw, must be so adjusted, that when the saw is at the top of its stroke, the lower spring is horizontal; and when at the bottom of its stroke the upper spring must be horizontal; and the platform midway between the two horizontal lines. In this condition, with a range of two or even three inches, the one curvature will neutralise the other at the platform, as in some of the parallel motions, which may be proved by a diagram carefully drawn on paper.

    Professor Willis has used this machine extensively for cutting out in thin wood, models of Gothic tracery, also mathematical curves in illustration of the teeth of wheels and other elements of mechanism. To adapt the machine to take either short or long strokes as required in buhl cutting, without discontinuing the motion of the foot-wheel, Professor Willis proposes to apply a contrivance to the eccentric, analogous to that explained in his Treatise on the Principles of Mechanism, p. 445.

    A very curious sawing machine, the connecting link between rectilinear and circular saws, was patented by Mr. Newbury in 1808, and is thus described:-" Mr. Newbury's engine is forme' by a long and very flexible blade of a similar nature to a clock-spring, which passes over two rollers of considerable diameter placed in the same plane, and whose extremities are united so a to form a band round the two rollers. When this blade is intended to act as a saw, one of its edges is cut into teeth of the usual ,nape, and the substance to be sawed is placed on a stage. through which the blade passes, and is pressed against the blade with the necessary force, and in the direction proper to produce tile shape required for it."* . Guides for cutting rectilinear. curvilinear, and circular pieces are alluded to, the description does not however state the most difficult point of the construction, namely, the mode adopted in joining the ends of this elastic blade, or ribbon saw.


    1851: C. CIST Sk. Cincinnati in 1851 206 In the first story are located..the machinery for a *scroll saw..and the apparatus by which the veneering is done.

      scroll_saw_fay_1863Gear's Carving Machine.-This improvement is intended for use in the production of ornamental carved work for furniture, etc. The stuff is first cut out into the desired outline form by means of a common scroll saw, and then brought to the machine to be finished up. The apparatus consists of a common table, up through the top of which two or more cutter heads project.

      The sides and edges of the stuff are worked and finished smoothly by being brought in contact with the cutters, which revolve 4000 times in a minute. One of these machines, we were informed, will save the labor of 30 or 40 men. Price $300. By changing the form of the cutters, the design of the carving is also changed.

    Source: Robert Grimshaw Grimshaw on Saws Philadelphia: Claxton, etc., 1880 -- the image follows page 24 (Reprint by Astragal Press)

    1868 J. TURNER Woollen Manuf. Assist. 18 To find revolutions of rim for 1 of scroll... Divide the product of the driven (1st sh. roller wheel, 1st short wheel, 1st *scroll wheel and scroll) by the product of the drivers.

John Richards' patents on scroll saw: not complete -- fist claim missing

house document

JOHN RICHARDS, of Columbus, Ohio.-Improvement in Guide and Support for Semit Saics.-Patent dated May ¿7, 1802: reissued August ?5, 1803.

    Second, operating practically an unstrained web or scroll saw, by combining with such saw mil N an upper anti-friction guide, which supports the back of the saw blade, and also îiiMtuins the saw blade at its sides or faces, substantially as set forth.

    Third, the use of anti-friction guides as a substitute for straining devices, in combination with ?-?? or scroll saw blades, the guide to be raised and lowered to suit the thickness of the stuff, msraiitially »» wt forth.

    Fourth, an anti-friction guide which is adjustable so as to accommodate different thicknesses if saw blades, and to compensate for wear, iu comUnatiou with the upper portion of a w eb Aw blade, substantially as Bet forth

1874 Spon's Dictionary of Engineering. VIII. 3093 This class of sawing is usually termed sweep or *scroll sawing for the heavier class of work, and fret sawing for the lighter or ornamental kinds.

1875: Edward H. Knight, Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary, Suppl., Scroll saw... The band-saw is a scroll-saw, and operates continuously.

1876: Scroll Saw at the Centennial Exhibition


[coming: description of centennial exhibition, 1876]

1925: Herbert E. Tautz, a Milwaukee mechanic motorized a jigsaw in 1925 and started a new industry


Sources: The image above -- with photo of the 1925 Scroll Saw and text that accompanies it -- is on page 206 of Herbert Tautz and Clyde J Fruits, The Modern-Motor Driven Woodworking Shop, vol II Milwaukee, WI: Woodworkers Educational Department, Division of Delta Manufacturing, 1930; see also : Edward L. Throm, ed, Fifty Years of Popular Mechanics, 1902-1952 New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951, page 233

Scroll-Saw Takes Off in 1930s

drill_press_scroll_saw_DG More on the Scroll Saw in the 1930s here

By 1932, this is the scroll saw model that Delta released to the market, and it did cause quite stir: However, regardless of the "success" of one woodworker's magazine over the other, the impact of they had -- drawing attention to the newest woodworker's "toys" -- is obvious, I think, at least if your allow yourself to "read into the message" given in code by Earnest Elmo Calkins -- the use of the term, "vigorously circularized", in the passage below gives this away -- by amateur woodworkers, such as Calkins. For evidence, please see image below. (In its issue for September-October, 1932, Popular Homecraft -- discussed above -- weighed in on this "buzz" about the new scroll saws with a lead article, "Jig Saw Puzzles -- How to Make Them!")

Calkins, noted figure in advertising in the '30s, wrote in a Nation's Business article, "Depression is the Fashion", July 1932, 20, page 7:

...THE first week in December [1931] I walked into the largest hardware store in New York to buy ...

    scroll_saw_delta_1200a ... a new sort of scroll saw. This saw was developed and perfected and put into production last summer. It had been vigorously circularized among that large and growing group of amateur woodworkers of which I am one. I had received a tip from a fellow craftsman that it was "the goods," I had seen a demonstration of it in that very store two months before. I was already sold. I came to buy.... The price of the saw was $19.50....

Full Page Ad on Back Cover of The Deltagram January 1932


Delta 24-inch Scroll-Saw Unit A Real Machine Tool - Built for Hard Work

Here, at last, is the machine that com­pletely satisfies every desire you have ever had for a competent, full-size, dependable scroll saw, built like a regular machine tool and operating with the same precision and reliability. A machine that is years ahead of any­thing yon have ever seen, not only in design and construction, but also in convenience, in capacity and adapt­ability.

As Convenient and as Quiet as a Sewing Machine

It is hard to realize just how quiet and smooth-running this machine is, as compared to old-fashioned jig saws, until you have actually seen and listened to it. And the remarkable freedom from vibration is another point that astonishes ever- craftsman; there is actually less noise and vibration in this scroll saw than in many sewing machines.


And now, with the addition of the new No. 716 Steel Stand, this remarkable machine is complete.

Strong, self-contained, easily portable, your scroll saw can now be moved wherever you want it, or wherever it will be most convenient, like the rest of the unique Delta portable units.

And the addition of the No. 800 ball-bearing Delta motor with built-in switch, together with the handy No. 848 switch rod, gives you finger-tip control no matter where you use the machine. No clumsy wiring to do, and the switch is always within finger reach.

No Other Scroll Saw Can Offer You So Many Advantages

    Saw runs at motor speed, 3,450 up and down strokes a minute.

    Speed easily changed at any time.

    Almost perfect freedom from vibration.

    Tremendous capacity -- 24 inches front blade to rear column.

    Unique uni­versal chuck - holds all types of blades.

    Files and sanding attachments held as easily as blades.

    Blade-faced sidewise in a few seconds.

    Sabre blades used as efficiently as other blades.

    Combination blade guide and hold down supports all blades at cutting point.

    Ball-bearing crankshaft.

    Fully enclosed mechanism.

    Automatic, automobile-type lubrication - means long life.

    Steel stand makes machine completely portable.


Delta Specialty Company

3775 N. Holton St. DEPT. D Milwaukee, Wis.

Prefer To 'Do-It Yourself'?

For those who prefer to make their own power tools, the Popular Mechanics has reprinted detailed instructions -- first published in the magazine itself -- for the making of more than 100 different machines and special setups, in a book, 40 Power Tools You Can Make, Chicago: Popular Mechanics Press, 1941, with many reprintings in the decade.