Fretwork is a craft that utilises numerous apertures cut with a fine and very narrow blade, into thin timber or other material to produce a picture or decorative pattern. It also refers to any work done with a fretsaw where intricate tight curves and shapes are cut. A fretsaw is a deep throated, but otherwise small frame saw that clamps a pinless, very fine blade under tension by the springiness of the frame. A jewellers saw or piercing saw, which is usually employed to cut fretted work in metal, is similar to a fretsaw though with a much shorter throat (depth).
Both the fretsaw and the piercing saw have the blade attached with the teeth pointing toward the handle and cut on the pull-stroke or down-stroke, because the saw is usually used with the blade vertical with the work supported on a 'bird's mouth'.
The 'bird's mouth', almost always used in conjunction with a fretsaw, is a small platform with a 'vee' cut into it for the passage of the blade. The bird's mouth is attached to a bench or table edge with the 'vee' extending past it and the work sits on top of this, here it can be intermittently held, turned and slid by pressure from one hand while the other hand works the saw.
A great deal of control can be obtained using a hand fretsaw after a little practice – probably no more practice than is required to use a powered scrollsaw. However maintaining a perfectly consistent cutting angle to the surface of the work, when that's necessary, and it sometimes is, must require quite a lot of practice , I haven't been able to master it, though I have used a fretsaw much longer than I have a Scrollsaw... Maybe you can.
A coping saw has some similarities to a fretsaw and it is mostly used in a similar manner. The coping saw uses a relatively coarse, pinned blade and is useful for heavier less intricate work, in thicker timber. The coping saw gets its name from its original use, cutting coped joints.
An important difference with the coping saw is that it is a turning saw. A turning saw's blade can be rotated with reference to the frame, making it possible to cut gently curved line parrallel to a long edge. A bowsaw (also a turning saw ) is similar in fuction but on a larger scale. It's a useful saw if you don't have a bandsaw and it's also fun to make. You could use a fretsaw or coping saw to make a bow saw, but this is probably not strictly fretwork.
Scrollsaw and fretwork are woodcrafts where intricatley shaped and tight curving cuts are cut into thin timbers to produce a variety of decorative frames, panels, brackets, components for toys models and pieces for puzzles.
The scrollsaw can also, more easily than the hand- fretsaw, cut three-dimensional pieces from thicker pieces of timber.
This three-dimensional cutting requires an outline of an object's shape, (eg its side view ) to be cut on one face of a block, then cutting another outline of the object's shape, ( eg its front view ) on another face, of the block after re-assembly and finally a third outline of the oject's shape (eg its top view ) onto yet another face of the re-assembled block. This is called three dimensional cutting and is more easily shown than described.
Scrollsaw work or scrolling is the craft of cutting, mostly curved components often with very intricate curves and the cutting of apertures ( inside cuts ) in timber up to 40mm or a bit more, including stacks of thinner material up to this thickness.
All of the work performed on a scrollsaw can be referred to as scrollsaw work. Fretwork which is work that contains many inside cuts is also scrollsaw work. A scrollsaw is in fact simply a powered fretsaw and does the same work, except the work is taken to the saw instead of the saw taken to the work.
A quick look at the scrollsaw above will show the basic form of a fretsaw with a motor and the 'bird's mouth' which is now the tilting saw table, all assembled as a small machine.
The manner of working, unlike the hand fretsaw, now requires the use of both hands to guide the work into the continuously stroking blade.
Given the proper orientation of the saw table, sufficient tension on a reasonably sharp blade, an appropriate blade choice and no undue stress or force on the blade, perfrectly vertical cutting or at any other angle up to 45 degrees, is now just a matter of course.
This is an essential requirement in some work, for example jigsaw puzzles cut in material over about 3mm thick, where the interlocking pieces need to fit smoothly both from above and below their neighbouring pieces.