DeWalt DW788 20" Variable Speed Scroll Saw

The DeWalt DW788 20" Variable Speed Scroll Saw was the 17th scroll saw that my wife and I purchased! We’ve owned several Delta 16”, and C-Arm saws; Several Shopsmith 20” scroll saws, a Hegner 14” and even a couple pieces of trash from Dremel, Skill and Craftsman. Around 1991 I was asked by my former employer Shopsmith, to spend a couple days in their lab testing a dozen saws. They were about to introduce a major improvement in their scroll saw and wanted an impartial opinion. This was the first time I had the opportunity to use an Excalibur scroll saw, which was made in Canada by Somerville Designs.
In the early 90’s most scroll saws had a 14” throat, with just a few breaking this barrier. The problem was the larger saws were simply enlarged versions of the small saws, and as they increased the size they also increased the vibration.
This saw from Excalibur featured a unique action that was smooth as silk! It had what they called a double parallel-link arm design, which dramatically reduced vibration and noise, and contributed to extremely accurate cuts.
The problem was the Excalibur was very expensive. If I recall correctly it was over $900 in 1993.
Shortly thereafter I was paying a visit to Mark Adam’s shop in Indiana where he showed me some prototype saws that he was testing for DeWalt. Hey! It’s the Excalibur Parallel-link system! It was then that I learned that DeWalt had worked with the folks at Somerville Designs to develop a new saw based on their patents.
The parallel-link assembly is driven by a crank and pivots up and down on bearings. This system used by DeWalt has shorter pivoting members to reduce vibration, but more parts and bearings; keeping the blade square to the table throughout its stroke.
Within a year we owned our first DeWalt DW788, and in 1999 we purchased a factory reconditioned DW788R, which we still use today.
The DeWalt DW788 features exclusive tool-less blade clamps that allow blade changes in seconds. They had me confused for a short time because I couldn’t understand why the blade didn’t fatigue at the tips where they are clamped rigidly in place. It turns out that the tips of the screws that lock the blade in feature floating pads that grip the blade tightly, but allow them to pivot without fatigue.
The on-off switch, electronic variable speed, flexible dust blower and blade-tensioning lever are all located on the front upper arm, within easy reach.
One feature that wasn’t obvious at first is that the upper arm pivots from the back of the saw and lifts so blade can be easily threaded through the material for inside cuts! There’s even a nifty aftermarket device that adds a spring-lift-assist to hold the arm up while you tinker with the blade and wood.
The Parallel-link system shortens the arm movement for smoother, quieter operation, despite the large throat. Additionally, the unique arm design keeps the blade perpendicular to the work, dramatically reducing the weird wobble and shake common in many scroll saws.
The oversized cast-iron table is HUGE, and provides excellent material support and bevels 45° left and right. Be careful when you tilt the table to the right though, because you’ll need to swap the lower blade-holding knob to the left side of the saw, or you’ll be buying a new one when it smacks the bottom of the table! (Not that I have any experience with that…)
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  2. Sir,

    I enjoyed your info on the DW788. I am curious as to when the saw was introduced and wonder about how many of them might be in service?

    I've had mine since 2008 and have cut a lot of projects on it. One thing that always bugged me is the fact that the saw arm will not stay in the UP position when moving the workpiece to another position. The old block of wood does work but just seems pretty crude and clumsy.

    So I decided to try to come up with a solution. In Dec of 2013 I first marketed my LIFTER. Since then I've been glad to have helped many scrollers solve the arm problem. You can check out the LIFTER at PAPASWORKSHOP.ORG