If you are a veteran scroller looking for easy Halloween scrollwork patterns, you can skip some of the information you already know. Because we have a varied audience, we wanted to start with some basics.
Scrolling can be an enjoyable and relaxing hobby that won’t cost an arm and a leg. If you are careful, you’ll even get to keep your fingers. We tease, of course, but we also emphasize safety, so don’t skip that section.
Halloween scroll saw patterns are everywhere. Some are free, some are available in books, and some may cost a few dollars from online outlets or other vendors. Whether you are a hobbyist or use your scroll saw to make extra holiday cash, free patterns are always a plus.
Related Read: 5 Essential Woodworking Basics
Scrolling Through the Ages
Merriam-Webster defines a scroll saw as “a machine saw with a table for supporting the material and a narrow vertically reciprocating blade for cutting curved lines or ornamental openwork patterns.” Originally, scrolled patterns were cut using a fret saw or early coping saw.
Through the years, saws have developed tremendously. The earliest reciprocating saws included a treadle that moved the blade up and down through the wood. These were in use in the 1800s and were able to handle various tasks that used to be hand-sawn. By the 1860s, the addition of a small motor gave birth to the first of what would become our modern scroll saws.
Today, scroll saws come in various sizes and capabilities, from small benchtop models to free-standing floor models. Some have zero-tolerance decks, vibration dampeners, and one-handed blade changing. We’ll explain all that shortly.
Examples of rough scrollwork are on every Victorian-style home with “gingerbread” trim. Cutting intricate patterns in wood has been around for centuries and has been refined over time. What began as a construction embellishment is now a fine art, with scrollers using their imaginations to create intricate and detailed works of art.
Scrolling with a Jigsaw
We mentioned the gingerbread trim on Victorian-style homes. While much of the early work was done by hand using a Buhl saw (similar to a coping saw), today, replacement gingerbread is sawn using a jigsaw or a bandsaw. You can’t get the intricate detail that you can with a scroll saw, but either works for replacing broken trim work.
Another item frequently cut using a jigsaw is yard decorations. Crafters have been selling the silhouette of a cowboy leaning against a tree for a long time. Using standard plywood, the shape is cut out with a jigsaw, then painted black. Very simple yet aesthetically pleasing yard decoration.
Although this type of scrolling isn’t the same as the intricate detail work of some artists, it is an excellent way to learn how to read patterns. With the variety of Halloween scrollwork patterns available, you are sure to find something that interests you. Many of the larger patterns are not available for free, though, but the Winfield Collection offers a few smaller designs free that are also great practice.
Finding FREE Halloween Scrollwork Patterns
Free Halloween Scrollwork patterns are readily available online. While various sites carry the same patterns, there are enough different patterns to create quite a portfolio. It’s the season for pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and candy corn. Whatever you are in the mood to create, the internet can provide.
These patterns are the work of artists or fellow scrollers. Please be sure to credit the artist. Claim the woodworking talent by all means, but offer credit to the pattern creator also. Small or large, free, downloadable scrollwork patterns are out there.
With a quick search, we found some adorable scrolled plaques designed by Sheila Landry. The original patterns appeared in Scroll Saw Woodworking and Crafts, Issue #72 (Fall 2018). They are not overly complicated and include easy-to-follow downloadable patterns. On this pattern, the frame design can combine with other small cutouts to form your unique plaques. You can purchase back issues of the magazine for a small fee to get even more patterns for the season.
These fretwork ornament designs from Keith Fenton are fun to make and have great detail. The original patterns were introduced in 2017. You can use these Halloween scrollwork patterns in a variety of ways — as wall hangings, ornaments, or even as Halloween coasters.
Don’t forget video resources
If you tend to learn better from videos, we found a few of those too. This one is about engaging kids introducing them to scroll saws. The creator discusses using cheap dollar store items as patterns to create unique designs.
YouTuber Tiki71 discusses cutting out a Frankenstein plaque using both spiral and straight blades. He also mentions Steve Good, who offers a wide variety of free patterns (in addition to patterns that he sells).
Tiki71 returns with a Grim Reaper candle holder in this video.
An invaluable resource for free patterns ad videos is the Scrollsaw Workshop with Steve Good.
Blades, Kerfs, and Saw Dust
Scrollsaw blades are available in a variety of sizes and styles for different cutting jobs. Each edge removes a section of wood as it cuts. The removed area is known as the kerf. Large blades remove more wood, leaving a larger kerf, while small blades remove less wood and create a smaller kerf. In some patterns, the size of the kerf is a part of the design, so use the blade size recommendations with the Halloween scrollwork patterns for the best results.
Because there is such a wide variety of blade types and sizes, we will only cover the different blades. For sizing, we recommend downloading and printing this handy pdf chart from Bear Woods.
Blades are available with pin ends or plain ends. Depending on the type of saw you have, you may use one or both types. Many older saws use pin end blades but can use adapters to allow plain end blades. Tooth design varies with the kind of blade:
- Standard/Regular tooth blades
- Skip-tooth blades
- Double skip tooth blades
- Reverse tooth blades
- Precision ground tooth blades
- Spiral blades
- Crown-tooth blades
Each blade and style has unique characteristics to perform specific cutting tasks. In the Franken-Scroll video posted above, different blade styles and purposes are discussed. Although not a complete lesson, it covers the fundamental differences and why blade selection is essential.
The basic blades cut only in one direction, which means you have to spin the piece n the saw deck to change the direction of the cut. With a spiral blade, the blade cuts in any direction, so the piece doesn’t have to be turned.
The advantages of a spiral blade on curved cuts are tremendous, but it will remove a larger kerf, which means a lot more sawdust.
Because Halloween scrollwork patterns often use thin wood, it is possible to cut several of the same items by stack cutting a project. To do this, start with the same size base pieces. Stack them, taping the edges with painter’s tape to keep them together. Apply your pattern to the top piece, wrap your stack with clear tape, drill your pilot holes, and cut out your pattern.
Using the stack cutting method, it is possible to cut several identical pieces in the amount of time it takes to cut one. Stack cutting is a great time saver if you are stocking up for a craft show or making gifts for the entire family.
When using one-eighth-inch thick base stock, you can stack cut up to five or six items in one pass. With quarter-inch thick stock, you can stack three or four base pieces. With half-inch thick base stock, you should only stack two pieces.
Remember not to force the wood through the blade. Let the blade do the cutting. If you have to push your wood to make a cut, your blade needs replacement. Putting pressure on the blade can cause it to bow, making awkward cuts, especially when stack cutting.
Making a Zero-Tolerance Deck
Scrollwork patterns often require exact cuts and working with small pieces of wood. A standard saw deck might have a blade access hole that allows little bits to vibrate, break off, or go astray while in-work. To prevent this vibration damage to your project, your saw should have what is called a zero-tolerance deck.
A zero-tolerance deck allows for a blade hole that is just slightly larger than the blade. Many newer saws have a small insert that removes to make blade changes more manageable. If your saw is not adaptable for zero-tolerance cutting, you should create a zero-tolerance deck. Fortunately, this is easy.
Start with a good piece of hardwood plywood, at least one-eighth-inch thick, but no more than one-quarter-inch thick. You may want the size to be slightly larger than the factory saw deck. Make sure the board is perfectly flat and sanded to a smooth finish. Waxing with plain paraffin wax, then rubbing it gently with steel wool, will allow your projects to move easier on the new deck.
Drill a hole in the center of your new deck, no larger than one-quarter-inch. The deck will be affixed using commercial-grade double-sided tape. When you place it, you must add the tape and position the board, with a blade installed and tensioned. Using small pieces of thin wood between your new deck and the existing deck will allow you to align it correctly. Once you remove the thin spacers, the tape will adhere, and your new deck will be ready to use.
Selecting the Right Wood for Your Project
Scroll sawing can be one of the least expensive woodworking hobbies. The cost of a saw can start around $100, and you can make anything out of scrap wood. Many scrollers begin with scrap plywood bits to hone their art, then shift to the more expensive plywood panels and hardwoods.
Pine is a great, inexpensive wood to create painted plaques, yard decorations, and many other scroll projects. Many patterns will include the type of wood that is best suited for the project. Many ornaments and wall plaque designs recommend finish-grade plywood in various thicknesses.
A general rule of thumb is if you are applying paint to your project, it doesn’t matter what wood you use. You’re covering it with paint, and no one will see that knotty pine board. If you are staining your project, leaving it unfinished, or applying a clear coat finish, use the expensive, better-looking woods.
If you are trying a new technique, practice on cheap or free wood. Before you put that expensive oak board against a spiral blade, practice using the spiral blade on pine. Familiarize yourself with the feel of how the saw cuts before you ruin the costly woods.
There are no “wrong” woods for any projects. You are the scroll saw artist — you determine how you want your finished project to look.
Safety, Ventilation, and Clean Up
Safety should ALWAYS be a consideration in your woodshop. Here at Wood Work Boss, we stress shop safety at all times. With that in mind, we created the following list of safety protocols. These are the bare minimum practices that you should be doing in your shop to stay safe.
- ALWAYS wear safety glasses
- Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing or baggy sleeves
- Tie back long hair in a ponytail or braid (or wear a hat)
- Wear a dust mask if you are doing a lot of cutting
- Consider a dust collection system for your shop
- Use hearing protection
- ALWAYS turn your saw off when not in use
Additionally, use the hold-down assembly attach to your saw. Be mindful of where your fingers are and keep them to the side of the blade at all times. Lastly, keep your shop area clean. Throw scraps in a bin and sweep dust frequently.
Scroll sawing can be an enriching and relaxing hobby. Selling items at local craft fairs can help offset the cost of wood and supplies. Don’t be afraid to share your hobby with family members. They can paint your projects, help around the shop, and even may like sawing too.