You have your scroll saw ready, you know how to choose your material, and you found a great source of patterns. Now all you need to do before you start cutting away is to find a way to adhere the pattern to your base. There are many ways to apply your scroll saw pattern, depending on the type of base you are using. Here are the best ways that we, at The Holz Brothers, would recommend.

If you have come here to learn the easiest ways, or new ways to transfer your pattern to your base, then read on. If you need help finding a pattern, or need some inspiration, try looking at our large selection of beautiful patterns. As ever, please join us on Facebook if you have any questions.


Hans Holz

Applying the Pattern to the Wood

There are, without a doubt, many methods to adhere scroll saw patterns to your base. The best type of adhesive all boils down to one thing: the softness of the wood you are using.

The first, and most important tip before adhering your paper pattern, is to ensure that your surface is smooth and even, and has no residual saw dust before getting started. Clean off residual with a rag, and then use your bare hand to remove the finer saw dust particles.

For softer woods, use painters tape, Elmer's glue spray, graphite or carbon transfer paper, or large labels. You can destroy your hours of hard work by removing wood fibers if you use other forms of adhesives that may be too strong. These include temporary-bond adhesive spray and clear packaging tape; they should only be used for harder woods/surfaces. Any forms of the adhesives mentioned above can be safely used for harder surfaces.

So which adhesive is the best? Let’s explore each method’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can decide which one might work best for you.

Temporary-Bond Spray Adhesive

There are many types of temporary-bond adhesive glues. Some scroll sawers use the gentler options: elmers glue spray or glue sticks; others use stronger adhesives: 3M Adhesive or Loctitite. There are a variety of ways that you can attach your patterns to wood. First, you can stick it directly to the wood. Audreyobscura, community manager of Instructables, recommends following these steps to ensure best results when using just adhesive.

First, hold your pattern vertically in the air; this prevents dribbling and allows an even coverage. Then spray 1-2 coats, depending on the thickness of the glue. Next, allow up to 30 seconds for the sprayed glue to become tacky; this allows for a strong bond. Lastly, smooth the pattern onto your wood surface. Allow adequate time to dry. On average this takes about an hour, depending on the humidity of the room, the temperature, and how much adhesive you spray. This varies depending on the adhesive used; follow the instructions found on the can.

Temporary bond spray is a go to for many scrollers for multiple reasons. One is for it being inexpensive. With varieties to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming. A favorite of scrollers is 3M Super 77. It applies quickly, dries fast, and can easily be applied evenly when done correctly. However, if left on too long, the strength of the glue might pull up the wood fibers upon removal if the wood is too soft.  It should also be used in a well-ventilated area. In order to remove it, you would need a good adhesive remover. Also, when spraying, for your safety, it is advised you use a respirator, goggles, and gloves.

There are cheaper options, such as elmer's glue, glue sticks, etc., but these are not as sturdy, and may come up while cutting if applied directly to the wood. It is recommended to use directly on tape, such as clear packaging tape or painters masking tape.


  • Fast application
  • Dries fast
  • Even application


  • You risk lifting the fibers of the wood if the strength of the spray is too aggressive, or the wood is too soft
  • If you work multiple days on your project, it may be more difficult to remove
  • You will need adhesive remover or sanding to remove the residual
  • Use in a well-ventilated area
  • You may need a respirator, goggles, and gloves when using some of the adhesives

Clear Packaging Tape - a.k.a Masking tape

Using clear packaging tape removes the need for sanding, or using adhesive remover to remove residual. Some scroll sawers place strips of tape directly on the surface, and glue the pattern onto the tape. Other scrollers layer the tape by adding an extra layer of tape on top of the paper template. It is recommended that even if you put on clear packaging tape, to use glue on the paper template as this decreases the chances of your pattern from lifting while cutting. When the paper lifts, you are more likely to cut yourself.

This method is a great way to ensure clean removal of the paper template. I advise you use clear masking tape for the thick or hard words because if left on too long on the softer woods, it may remove wood fibers, depending on the strength of the glue. Victor01 shares that clear packing tape left on for more than 3 days may remove fibers. This method is also ideal if you want to stain your wood pattern right after because there is no need to dampen your wood with an adhesive remover since the paper template comes off with no residual. The glue of the tape also lubricates your blade as it cuts, ensuring a smooth, clean cut.

The only down side of this method is that it takes more time to apply the paper pattern to ensure a smooth, even application of the tape. If the tape overlaps, it leaves your surface uneven, but if there are gaps between the tape, then glue can get on your wood surface defeating the purpose of the tape.


  • Removal is with minimal residual, depending on how long your pattern was on your wood
  • Great for cutting thick or hard woods
  • Glue of tape can lubricate your blade while cutting
  • Allows you to begin staining immediately after you are finished cutting, unlike when using adhesive remover, which may take a day or two to completely dry


  • Use caution when using for softer woods, leave the tape on for no more than 3 days because it may remove wood fibers
  • Takes more time to put on layers of tape, and ensuring an even application
  • Overlapping tape will cause creasing, and may be an annoyance when cutting

Painters Masking Tape

Another alternative is painters masking tape. The adhesive on the tape isn’t as strong, which decreases your chances of removing wood fibers days after you first put it on and finish cutting. Some scroll sawers place strips of painters tape directly on the surface, and glue the pattern onto the tape. Other scrollers, similar to when using clear packaging tape, layer the tape by first putting the painters tape on the wood, glue the pattern onto the tape, then add an extra layer using clear packaging tape on top of the pattern.

The advantages of using painters masking tape are the same as using clear packaging tape, but painters tape can be used for any type of wood because it is a lot less likely to remove wood fibers when you try removing it from your wood pattern. The disadvantages are also the same as using clear packaging tape in that it takes time to apply to ensure smooth coverage of your wood surface, and may be an annoyance when cutting if the layers are overlapping.


  • Removal is with minimal residual, depending on how long your pattern was on the wood
  • Great for cutting any woods
  • Glue of tape can lubricate your blade while cutting
  • Less likely to remove fibers of wood like clear packaging tape might if left on the wood surface for an extended period of time
  • Allows you to begin staining immediately after you are finished cutting, unlike when using adhesive remover, which may take a day or two to completely dry


  • Takes more time to put on layers of tape, and ensuring an even application
  • Overlapping tape will cause creasing, and may be an annoyance when cutting

Clear Laminate Shelving Paper - a.k.a Contact Paper

This method is not known by many, and takes the best of both worlds of using tape. Clear laminate shelving paper is a clear sticky sheet of plastic, like the clear masking tape. Place the laminate shelving paper directly on your surface, spray adhesive to pattern, and press onto the laminate shelving paper. If you prefer, you can also add an extra layer of adhesive paper to the top of the pattern.

This is another great method because it has all of the benefits of using clear masking tape, but it’s faster to apply without having to worry about layering. The price is similar to clear masking tape and leaves no residual. Bubbling can occur, so use a credit card while applying to prevent any bubbling.


  • Easier application than tape
  • No residue
  • Similar price as tape
  • No overlapping


  • For larger projects, it can be difficult to lay evenly without getting bubbles

Graphite or Carbon Transfer Paper

This method, though not commonly used, has some benefits. But first, let's go over the differences of graphite paper vs. carbon paper.

Graphite comes in a variety of colors, is easily removed from the wood, but is more expensive.

Carbon paper is less expensive, but is more difficult to remove from the wood. We recommend using 220-grit sandpaper to remove the lines. Carbon paper also doesn’t come in a variety of colors so it can only be used on light colored woods.

When using graphite or carbon transfer paper, tape one edge of your pattern onto the wood first. After, slide the carbon or graphite paper underneath the pattern, and tape one corner down of it. By using this method, it allows you to put the paper pattern right where you want it on the wood surface, and check your work while drawing. Lastly, take a fine pointed object, such as a pencil or pen, and trace your pattern.

Tip: You can also trace onto transparent transfer paper first, then use it as a clear stencil in order to see exactly where you would like your lines to be on the wood surface before you begin tracing onto the wood. One disadvantage of using this method is that continual tracing and retracing can slightly alter the design, depending on your ability.


  • You can see how the design looks on the wood before cutting
  • Doesn't cost a lot ($4-$15).


  • Requires more time and may alter the design slightly while drawing the lines on

Large label

Some scroll sawers prefer printing patterns onto large sticky labels. This is one of the best options. All you would need to do is purchase large blank labels, and print your patterns onto them using virtually any printer.

This method is the best because it is the cleanest and fastest of all of the application methods. You just print your pattern on a large label sheet using any printer, apply it easily, and then remove it without a trace when you are done. There is no layering, and it's smooth and easy to cut. Labels are also relatively inexpensive because you don’t need any other adhering supplies. The only disadvantage is that if left on for too long, depending on the adhesiveness of the label, it may be a little difficult to remove in one piece.


  • Less layering, no creases unlike when using tape
  • Depending on the adhesiveness of the label, and thickness of the wood, it can be easily removed


  • Need a printer to produce labels

How do I remove my pattern?

Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits is a go to for many scroll sawers in removing residual adhesive. If you have a lot of paper stuck on the wood, apply some mineral spirits using a towel, then allow the mineral spirits to soak through the paper. A “Supporter”, Dick, recommends allowing it to soak through the paper pattern and adhesive, at least 15 seconds, before attempting to remove the paper. This will allow for all of the paper pattern to come off of the wood in big pieces, and without leaving tiny pesky pieces of paper behind, or residual glue. Mineral spirits is also a relatively cheap option for removing your paper patterns, and for those who are bothered by the smell, there are odorless options. However, you should still use gloves and a respirator, and allow one to two days for your wood pattern to dry before applying stain.


  • Works really well in removing all residual
  • Doesn’t take too much time if allowed to soak through the pattern down to the wood
  • Doesn’t cost a lot ($12-$17)
  • Odorless Mineral Spirits are available


  • Gloves and respirator are recommended
  • Must allow drying time of one to two days if you desire to stain your wood
  • Use in a well-ventilated area

Adhesive remover

Adhesive remover is a general category that encompasses acetone, paint thinner, and glue gone. The application is similar to mineral spirits: use a towel when applying the adhesive remover, allow for soaking time, and gently scrub away stubborn pieces of paper and glue. These options are also relatively inexpensive, but still require drying time after use before applying stain to your wood. They may also have a strong odor, so it is recommended to use gloves and a respirator. Be sure to use in a well-ventilated area.


  • Doesn’t cost a lot ($3-$15)


  • Removal may take more time depending on how strong the adhesive is
  • Requires gloves
  • Must allow drying time of one to two days if you desire to stain your wood
  • Some tend to have a strong odor
  • Use in a well-ventilated area


Sanding is a great method to remove residual adhesive. This method is great when you only have a little residual glue left, and without dampening your pattern with mineral spirits or adhesive remover. This method is great because it takes very little time, and requires no drying time if you want to stain your pattern. However, you would need to remove most of the paper off first, otherwise it will clog your sand paper.


  • Takes very little time and effort, if you are able to remove most of the pieces of paper
  • No drying time needed like when using mineral spirits or adhesive remover


  • Need to pick off bigger pieces of paper first, pieces of paper can clog the sand paper


Ultimately, there are many methods to make your pattern adhere to your wood base. If a label printer is available to you, the label is the best as it leaves no residual, goes on smooth, and it less likely to remove wood fibers from your project.

However, if you prefer a more inexpensive option, contact paper and gluing on you pattern to it, is a great alternative that costs very little. This method is less likely to remove wood fibers like clear packing tape might, and is fast to apply.

In the end, every scroller has his or her preferences, try some of the suggestions above, and see which one you like best.