The best woods for scroll saws

wood image by Marvin Gerste from

Scroll saw projects can be fun and profitable for many woodworkers. When picking a wood to use for a project, it is important to know ahead what kind of finish the project will require and what weight limitations the project has. Projects that will hang on a wall should be made from lighter weight woods.


Pine is one of the most widely used scroll saw woods because it is easy to cut, inexpensive and readily available at most lumber yards. This wood comes in a variety of grades, such as clear pine, which is the highest grade and has no knotholes. Grades #2 and #3 pine have knotholes that must be cut around and discarded, but these grades are much cheaper in price. Projects made from pine can be finished with either stain or paint.

Medium-Density Fiberboard

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a popular wood product for scroll saw projects. It lies flat, is easy to cut and is inexpensive. This product is most widely used in projects that will be painted; the paint hides the look of the inside compressed core of sawdust. Fiberboard is very porous and needs to be sealed before painting. MDF does not lend itself well to stain finishes.

Baltic Birch

Baltic birch is a very thin plywood that is easy to cut and lightweight. While most plywood has three layers, Baltic birch has five compressed layers. Most woodworkers prefer the extra layers, as the wood is stronger, and it is easier to make fine, intricate cuts. This is a popular wood with scroll saw hobbyists for making Christmas ornaments, small wall hangings or other lightweight craft items. This plywood comes in a wide variety of lengths and widths and can be finished with either paint or stain. For a nominal fee, most lumberyards will cut the plywood down to make it easier to transport in a car.


Oak is a popular choice for higher-end scroll saw projects, such as clocks or small furniture. Oak, a hardwood, can be harder to cut and requires the scroll saw to be set at a higher speed. Applying tape on the edges of the wood can help prevent burning the cut edge. When you saw harder woods, such as oak, it is important to change the blade frequently and let the blade do the work for you. Oak projects are usually finished with stain to enhance the appearance of the natural wood grain.


Poplar, an easy-to-cut and inexpensive wood, is used by many woodworkers. This wood is especially popular for creating intarsia scroll saw projects. The biggest drawback to using poplar is its natural green and purple hues, which make it a bad choice for projects requiring a stain finish. Because poplar is so soft, it is best to use a fine-grade sandpaper for sanding.

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