I was asked by at least a dozen people over the last few months how I do my portraits. Particularly, how I get up to the point of actually putting blade to wood. In other words…… the Prep Work.
I thought I would make Part 1 of my “Portrait Scrollsawing in a NutShell Blog” cover just that topic – getting everything ready to actually start sawing.
The only “prep work” part I won’t cover in this section is designing the pattern itself – that will be at LEAST one, if not multiple future blogs.
On with the show…………..
First, I decide on a pattern to cut – in this case it’s “Ceiling Cat” from the LolCats Website. I was asked to do this by someone else, so I thought it would be nice and simple for the blog.
Now, to choose what ‘canvas’ to use – For this image I don’t want something really busy, nor huge. My Father gave me a log from a Locust tree and I was curious as to what this looked like. Never used it before, but I am told it has a decent grain pattern and is a light color, so……. To the band saw!
I sliced a thin strip off the bottom of the log to steady it, then ran a few half inch planks from the log until I got a nice sized piece to use.
NOTE: Normally I would slice this entire log into thin planks, stack it with proper air flow in between the pieces, store it in my shop’s rafters for a couple of months and THEN use it. I “lucked out” on this piece as it’s very dry already and I was really impatient! ;-)
Now, on to the planer – I generally plane the side I don’t intend to use first and only until it’s generally flat.
The other side I plane down until it’s perfectly smooth. I plan on leaving the live edge on this one, so I have to take very thin passes so the bark don’t shatter.
Locust, it seems, looks really nice and is hard as a rock – this should work out nicely!
Now, it’s on to the radial arm saw to size the wood and get rid of any cracks.
All I really did here was to chop the short sides off until it was a decent size, which wound up around nine inches long.
Now, I use my ROS with 220 grit paper until its perfect.
This method forces you to finish the wood before you start – with the exception of any oils or stains. You have to fully sand and edge the wood first!
Now we go back inside the house for some more work on both the computer and the cutting mat…………
The first thing I usually do is to lay the wood down on my cutting mat and see what size the pattern needs to be prior to printing it out.
Looks like it needs to be around 5 ½ inches wide by around 3 ½ inches high.
Using my Image Editor of Choice (Adobe Photoshop in this case), I resize the image based on the above measurements. Notice I choose to “Constrain Proportions” which ensures the image doesn’t get stretched out.
I now print the image with the highest quality setting and choosing “Grayscale Only” – who cares about color when we have a black and white image.
Next step is to trim off the excess paper, while keeping the image fairly square – here’s where the cutting mat comes in really handy!
Now I set aside the image and pick up a roll of “Scotch” Brand Sealing Tape – the brand doesn’t matter as long as it’s good quality stuff. Cover the entire surface of the wood with overlapping rows of tape. The tape does two things for you. It covers the entire surface for glue-up later and it lubricates the saw blade – no burn marks at all!
When you are done, trim all the tape pretty close to the edges, but leave at tiny bit of overhang.
Now, take your image and get it aligned perfectly. Using a marker, draw registration marks on a couple of sides. Remember, the top is taped over so you can draw on this as much as you want! :-)
Now, back to the shop…………….
I set up my home-made glue easel (it’s really just a strip of wood attached to a corrugated plastic sign) and place my wood and image on them.
Spray them liberally with glue. I tend to use 3M products, but as long as it’s a glue that advertizes “permanent bond” it will work just fine. You can spray the entire surface now that it’s covered in tape – cool!
Let the stuff sit for at least 30 seconds to set up………
Then, using your registration marks you drew earlier, align the image and affix it to the surface. Be Careful – You only get one chance!
Now, you might be wondering how I go about getting rid of all that sticky glue still left on the surface?
Take your work and treat it like a sticky piece of dough – dust it with flour! Really. Honest.
I keep a bag of flour handy to dust each piece I am making. If the work is small enough, I just toss it in the bag and shake lightly. Bigger pieces I sprinkle it on and rub it around.
A quick spray with the air hose and we are ready for drilling!
This should not be new news to anyone who has done scroll work before, but it IS part of the prep-work, so I will quickly go over the process.
I start with a 1/16” drill bit and bore a hole into each separate piece that I need to cut out. This will be used to thread the saw blade through when you are cutting.
For those pieces that are smaller than 1/16” wide, I then switch to a #60 bit and drill the tiny pieces. A #60 bit is the smallest size that I can thread a blade through, so I naturally can’t go any smaller with my holes.
All drilled and FINALLY ready to cut!
This does seem like a lot of work, but each step is pretty quick and it gives you a really easy piece to cut later.
The best part comes later when you are finished cutting and need to remove the pattern from the wood. All you need to do is simply peel the tape off of the surface of the wood!
-No Heat Guns!
Just take your time and the tape peels off easily!
Well, we are now finally ready to actually take the work to the scroll saw and start cutting. That will be covered in a future blog.
I hope this blog wasn’t too long and as well provided a few tips to those looking to do this kind of work.
Remember, this is what I do – not what EVERYONE does. Do what is best and easiest for you as there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do this.
I learned most of these steps on my own or from reading about them here on LumberJocks.
If you have a tip or trick that you think would work as well or better, PLEASE let me know!
Above all…............ Enjoy your scroll sawing!
-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.rhoadesclan.com