My boys started using scroll saws at ages 7 and 9. At that point they used
Hegner and Dewalt saws under close supervision. Now, at 8 and 11, they work
on a Dremel scroll saw while I'm in the room but not hovering. They are very
good about following safety precautions (safety glasses, fingers away from
the blade, don't put fingers in the path of the blade) and have gotten quite
proficient at cutting out puzzles. They've also cut out 3D figures and
I've also had them working with hand saws, planes and chisels... even doing
hand cut dovetails and resawing boards with a rip panel saw. If you can
explain and demonstrate the processes well and the kids are attentive and
relatively coordinated you can take them through a skill building process
with good results.
ALSO, a KEY thing to remember is don't give them sub-standard tools to
use... my kids use my L-N dovetail saw, finely honed chisels, L-N planes,
good taper ground panel saws, marking gauges, etc. If you give them junky
tools to work with they'll become frustrated and end up with poor results.
With those things in mind I don't have any serious concerns with the scroll
saw. Seems to me I was about 8 when I started using my father's Shop Smith
scroll saw. We were joking the other night that his scroll saw has lasted
about 50 years so far... course I was the last one to use it and that was
probably 40 years ago. ;~)
The scroll saw is probably the safest stationary power tool in a wood
shop. But, it can still hurt you. When my daughter was 8 I showed
her the basics of SS operation and safety rules. At that time I told
her she could use it as long as her mom or I was with her. She is now
10 and I feel OK about her using it without direct "standing behind
her" supervision but she has to notify one of the adults in the house
& tell us what whe is planning to do, and let an adult check out the
saw vicinity for hazards before she turns it on.
Now, she was going into the shop and using hand tools on her own from
a fairly young age, and I have been using the scroll saw for several
years. If I was just staring out with the scroll saw myself, I would
not feel comfortable letting her work with it until I had a good
working knowledge myself, to share with her.
One thing about having kids in the shop, remember that when
their friends are around, they sometimes have a lapse of judjment in
an effort to impress or show off. There's a boy the same age as my
daughter who she plays with pretty often. Apparently he did not
believe her when she told him she was using the scroll saw, I don't
need to go into details, nothing bad happened, but she did violate one
the rule about not operating the saw without telling an adult
For every complicated, difficult problem, there is a simple, easy
solution that does not work.
I'm pretty sure that when I was 10 I used a scroll saw frequently
without supervision. By 7th and 8th grade, I was doing intricate
Christmas ornaments. No incidents that I remember. The scrollsaw was
much less intimidating than the bandsaw. I seem to remember always
using the blade guard because it helped keep the piece down on the
table. I would actually be less worried about the blade than getting
hit/pinched by the other moving parts.
At one of the woodworking shows, I saw the Excaliber guy actually put
his finger directly on the blade (on purpose) to show that it would not
cut him. I'm still not clear on why he didn't get cut.
One thing to keep in mind is that a scroll saw is really not good at
making straight cuts. For that, I had a hand-powered miter box similar
in design to this one:
With those two saws and an egg beater drill, you can make a lot of
I would get the scroll saw first because there are so many things you
can do with it that don't require any other tools.
It didn't cut because the short stroke simply moved the skin up and down
with the blade. If he'd bent his finger and placed the middle joint against
it, it could have cut, but it still wouldn't have been deep before hurting a
I've seen this done several times. I think the finger is placed midway
between the table and the top blade clamp with light pressure on the
blade. The skin then tends to be moved up and down with the blade,
rather than being cut. I suspect that bracing the finger on the table
and/or applying more pressure could cause a nasty cut. In other words,
I can think of no reason to try this at home.
Years ago there was British scroll saw that was completely safe. It
wasn't high end, and it wasn't dear, but was just the thing for kids and
for light work. The blade was a standard scroll saw blade but it had a
very short stroke. You could put your finger on the blade and cut a
piece of 6mm ply at the same time. It cut like a hot knife through
butter ;). The blade would just catch the skin on your finger and the
skin would move with it without cutting.
Took me a little sweat to test at a wood show but I did and it never ;)
Actually new some people who purchased the machine and an arts class at
a Primary school purchased 6 of the.
Haven't heard about them for ages, but they may still be available.
I remember when I was a kid I got a little toy scroll saw for Christmas
one year--I think it was from Kenner but wouldn't swear to it. Don't know
what happened to it, I think it disappeared in a move. Blade had no
teeth, just a series of rounded indentations--it cut plastic foam and the
like like gangbusters and even managed balsa if I recall correctly. Very
safe little tool and fun besides. Battery powered so it didn't have much
power--you could stall it by grabbing the blade. At the time foam for it
was hard to find and expensive--I suspect that today it would do wonders
with foamcore board.
Another fairly safe tool, by the way, is a Fein Multimaster--cuts almost
as fast as a Bosch jigsaw but you can put your finger on the edge of the
blade with it running at full speed and nothing happens (yeah, I'm dumb, I
tried it, it works). Really needs a shoe of some kind to be able to do
any kind of precision work though. One of these days I've got to see
about rigging one.
Thanks everyone for the input.. I'll continue to read. I like the
advice of learning to use it myself first, and then teaching him. I
think it will be safer and less frustrating for him as well if I know
what I'm doing. The last thing I want to happen is for me to be
fumbling in our first experience and for him to decide it's "boring"
I ended up buying a used Excalibar. (Seeing the ad in Craig's list gave
me the idea). Got a nice deal, but it was kind of sad. The guy had to
sell it because his health no longer allowed him to do woodworking.
Just another reminder to enjoy life while you can and not take things
To reinforce what others have already said: my son, now 9, has been
using the Delta scroll saw for a couple of years at least, has become
quite adept at it, and now does it without problems and without much
supervision. I think it depends much on the maturity of the child and
whether he will "try" inappropriate materials or holding techniques .
He now can operate the drill press safely (not the winged bits, just
the fluted ones, in wood, slowest speed) and a couple of the power
sanders (Porter-Cable half-sheet and orbital sanders), but not the belt
sander. He has started on the Fein sander, but he's not yet proficient
at it. He is not yet allowed to touch any other saw (probably the next
one is the jigsaw). Under close supervision, he will use the drill
press with winged bits. He has held the hand-held drill in a
pocketscrew guide on a couple of occasions.
The rule of thumb was "how much damage would the tool do before he
could realize he is getting hurt and moves his fingers away?". For the
tools he is not allowed to touch, the answer is "more than just skin."
No chisels, but the handsaw. No belt sander, but the finish sander. No
the jigsaw but the scroll saw. When he becomes more mature, he can
I am also afraid that, should he get hurt, even slightly, he will turn
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