I have found that people are often asking the same questions regarding the Excalibur and thought it would be best to try and get all the info in one place for everyone's convenience. For now, I will mainly cover the front-to-back motion issue. I will, however continue to add more info to this page in the near future and try to make this as comprehensive as possible. While much of what is on this page is about the Excalibur specifically, some of the info will be useful for other saws as well. This saw, once properly adjusted, has certainly brought my scrolling ability to a new level and I never want to go back... I recently used a Dewalt DW788 for a small project and the difference in the intricate detail work was even greater than I rememebered.
*NEW* Blade clamp info: Seyco (www.seyco.com) has a comprehensive PDF article on the subject of the Excalibur's "Quick Clamp" blade clamps. The article has a great deal of information on proper use, maintanance and on renewal kits to keep your blade clamps working like new. Click here to view the Quick Clamp PDF article. Also, if you have lost the manual for your saw, Seyco has them all available for download at http://www.seyco.com/links.html. Ray Seymore from Seyco is "THE Excalibur Guy" for the USA and we highly recommend that if you are in the market, you purchase your Excalibur or accessories from him. His level of dedication and quality of service is second to none!
Please note that any adjustments to your saw you do at your own risk. While I believe that the methods I use are safe, and the chances of something bad happening are slim to none, I will not be held responsible for anything that could go wrong.
A note on vibration: It has been my experience that this saw does vibrate at certain RPM's if you use it on a bench top. This can be greatly reduced by using the supplied stand, making sure the stand is assembled securely, and having it on a level and solid floor. Since a scroll saw essentially has a vibrating blade, it is in it's nature to vibrate. This is true of all scroll saws. Oftentimes, people think that it means something is wrong with the saw, which I don't believe is usually the case. The only thing that can be done to reduce the vibration is to add solid mass to it. The stand, on a solid floor, does make a pretty big difference. All this being said, I personally own a stand but am unable to use it due to space constraints. I have the saw on a small cabinet that is none too sturdy and I still find the vibration to not be detrimental to my scrolling in even the most delicate work.
The "tension" knob: Referring to this as a tension knob can be misleading. Turning this knob raises and lowers the angle of the upper arm. If you make this adjustment after you have a blade attached at both ends, it will increase or decrease the tension by moving the upper arm. As soon as you undo the blade from one of the holders, your tension adjustment is lost. This is a moot point however, since the flip lever provides the right amount of tension for almost any situation and is all most people should ever need with regards to tensioning.
Another thing people often use this knob for is to lower the upper arm and expose an unused section of the blade after it begins to get dull. While this does technically work, there are reasons not to do this and we will get more into this subject below. Also note, The knob will often turn a tiny bit when you lift the arm and can move when your table vibrates if there is no tension on the saw.
Upper arm position (set with tension knob): I have been informed by Ray (of seyco.com) that the saw performs optimally with the upper arm set parallel to the table. The vibration should be slightly better in this position and, when it comes to tuning the blade motion, upper arm position is critical. When you change the upper arm angle, you change the motion of the blade as well. Whatever postion you have the upper arm in when you do the blade motion adjustment (explained below) is the only position that it will be optimized for. Therefore, it is obviously best if you do this with the upper arm parallel to the table.
To get your arm parallel to the table, you just have to measure the height at the back of the table and at the end of the arm. Adjust the "tension" knob until your upper arm rests at parallel. Take note of which direction the white mark on the knob is pointing. Later on, if your knob gets turned, you can eyeball the upper arm until it is near parallel, and then turn the knob until it is in that correct position. This is important to remember because the knob will often turn a tiny bit on it's own when you lift the arm and can move when your table vibrates if there is no tension on the saw and you wouldn't want to have to keep repeatedly measuring the upper arm to get it parallel. Check the knob's postion every once in awhle to be sure it's close to where you want it.
Optimizing front-to-back blade motion: Please read the "Upper arm position" section before doing these adjustments; The position of your upper arm affects the motion of the blade and the following adjustment will only help if your upper arm at the position as when the adjustment was done. To adjust the front-to-back motion, we will be rotating the motor.
A side note on blade motion - before you make this adjustment: If you genereally don't cut very much intricate work, the improvement you notice from this adjustment may be small. One thing to note, is that the less front-to-back blade motion you have, the slower your saw will cut. This can be a bad thing if you routinely cut thick wood with no intricate detail. Having recently experimented with 1/2" plywood, I found that the saw would cut in the neignborhood of 20% slower with the minimized front-to-back motion. Don't let this stop you from making this adjustment because the downside can very easily be remedied: If you want your front-to-back motion to increase for a thicker but easier project, you simply have to lower your upper arm out-of-parallel and your blade will have a nice arc in it again for faster (but less precise!) cutting. I found that about 1 to 1.5 turns of the tension knob will make the blade arc enough to cut noticeably faster. Just remember to put the upper arm back into parallel before doing any intricate work.
Step 1: Set upper arm to parallel as shown above.
Step 2: Put a blade on the saw and flip the tension lever. Get a piece of wood to put behind the blade, this may help you to better see how much front-to-back motion you are getting.
Step 3: Loosen the screws that hold the motor in place. As you can see, the motor has slots which allow you to rotate it. You shouldn't have to loosen the screws very much to be able to turn the motor. If, while doing the adjustment, you feel that you might be able to get it better by turning further than the slots allow, you can move the screws to the next set of holes. You can see the next holes in this picture.
Step 4: You can use a screwdriver to rotate the shaft of the motor (pictured below) and watch the blade motion. Use a piece of wood behind the blade to help you see how much movement you are getting. Then you can turn the motor's mounting position slightly and check the blade's motion again. By doing this, you will find a very small "sweet spot" where the front to back motion of the blade is significantly better than anywhere else. The motion won't be perfectly up and down, but the difference when you cut small, intricate fretwork will be huge if your saw was not optimal before.
You can choose to run the saw on the slowest setting to watch the blade motion rather than using a screwdriver to rotate the shaft. You should be able to rotate the motor mount while it runs... just be sure that the screws holding the motor are only loosened just enough for you to be able to turn it!!!. I use both methods myself to be sure I have it set as good as it can get.
Step 5: Once you are satisfied that your front-to-back motion is minimized, tighten up your motor mounting screws and watch your scrolling go up another level!*