My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #2: The maple dresser tray

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 06-04-2010 01:25 PM 7326 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Beginning this Blog Part 2 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 3: To submit or not to submit »

First of all, I want to thank you for all your positive responses. I was able to look at some of the work and it was so impressive! I am trying to put faces with comments and projects so I can get to know everyone well, but as my brain gets older, it somehow takes me longer to associate one with the other. I get so embarrassed when I don’t remember someone. But there has been a lot of water under this bridge and after not traveling and living in the same place for the first thirty something years of my life, it seems that the last twenty years were filled with the adventures of three lifetimes.

I had a customer contact me last week who saw me from either Facebook or Steve’s forum and asked me if I remembered him because he made the gymnast pattern for me. I truly tried, but I honestly couldn’t remember who he was or associate him with any project. Did that ever happen to you?

First of all, I used to do gymnastics as a teen and I never remember anything about either making or seeing any type of gymnast pattern. Secondly, I have been doing my own designs from the get-go and I can’t remember ever asking anyone to make a design for me. I am just not that kind of girl. I would have at least attempted to do it for myself if the need were there and I think I would have certainly remembered how I would have theoretically struggled to accomplish such a task. I am not one to ask for help when I know darn well I am capable of doing it myself.

Now I know I am approaching the half-century mark in my life and my memory isn’t what is used to be (we all say that – but was our memory ever THAT good in the first place?) but for the life of me there isn’t even a dim recollection of any sorts of this. It took up way too much of my thinking process for the day trying to remember, so after a while, I did what most humans would do: I convinced myself that he had me mixed up with someone else and that in reality, HE was the one that was mistaken! Now, of course I didn’t call him on this. I politely told him that I didn’t really remember specifically but I did have a vague recollection of the pattern. By saying this, I would not only save face and not look like an idiot to him, but I was also hoping he would elaborate on “my” design and pony up some additional information so that my brain cells would reconnect and I would be able to remember.

But alas, it wasn’t to be.

So I sit here, still in the dark, wondering if that gymnast pattern I designed for him wasn’t the greatest pattern ever made by a designer since scroll saws were invented. Of course it was! Silly me, I just forgot about it. I just came so easy to me that it got lost in the sea of patterns that I have made over the past years and filed under the ‘all in a day’s work’ category. So (I convinced myself) if I could make THAT GOOD of a pattern and not even remember it, just think of the wonderful things I can make now! Boy, it was like lighting a match to a rocket. It sure is strange where we find our inspiration from, isn’t it? Hey, whatever works for you. :)

And now back to reality . . . .

I had a good day yesterday. I had been working on a design for a couple of days for a small tray to set on your dresser to throw your keys and loose change in. I wanted to do some classic fretwork, and came up with this design that to me resembled Batten burg lace. I drew it a couple of days ago, but I had the task of writing instructions for the six or so new projects that I had finished in the previous weeks. (Writing instructions ranks just above doing the accounting in the list of things I need to do regularly for my business – and that is probably at the bottom of the list). This design looked good on paper, and I couldn’t wait to cut it out and watch it come to life. So on Wednesday, I started cutting it.

I was right in the middle of sawing when ‘zap’ the electricity went out. It seemed my landlord forgot to tell me she was having the circuits worked on for the day. The scope of having no electricity is very far reaching in my life. I had no computer, no phone, no tv, no music, no stove, no clock and NO SCROLL SAW. For the first hour, I did some house cleaning. After all it was light out and that was OK. But once that was all finished, I paced around here like a tiger in a cage. I tried to read, but most of the magazines I had were about scroll sawing and I had read them before. This only fueled my need to cut. I looked at my half-finished project longingly and I even peeled half of the pattern off where I had already cut, daydreaming on how it would look when finished. Eventually, I did something that I very rarely do in the afternoon – I took a nap. If anything it helped to pass that time of anguish for me, as I am terrible at ‘doing nothing’. By about five-thirty they were done, but then my window of opportunity had passed, as I had dinner and other thing to tend to. So I waited to be fresh the following day.

I finished cutting it yesterday. I was glad I waited. If I learned anything in the years I have been doing woodworking it is that you don’t do something tedious when you are tired if you don’t have to. So far, my cutting was pretty good on this and I didn’t want to blow it now. So as difficult as it was, I waited until I was fresh the next day to finish. Sometimes we have to be mature about these things for the greater good of the project.

I finished about 1pm in the afternoon and I was really pleased with the pattern. I had bevel cut the center of the circle so that the bottom of the ‘tray’ would push through a bit and the scroll sawn rim would sit up a little. Before I did the inside fret cuts, I routed both the inside edge and the outside edge with a round over bit to soften the shape. The resulting edges are very delicate looking and flow very nicely. I am very pleased.

I was fighting with whether or not I should put some kind of design in the center, but as soon as I peeled off the entire pattern, I was also glad I didn’t. Sometimes simple is the best. The wood I chose for this tray was a piece of bird’s eye maple and I felt the wood itself should be the focus.

In the old days, I would have pulled out the can of poly urethane and sprayed away and called it a day. The project would have been quite pretty, and adequately finished. But after looking at the portfolios of others both here and on my Facebook and other list, I realize that there are much higher levels that can be reached. (Remember I said I wanted to fit in?) So I sat down and put on a couple of shows and began hand-sanding. First with 120 grit to get the remaining planer marks off the surface, then to 220 grit (wow, this really looking nice!) Then I went to 320 grit and you could begin to see the ‘shine’ and layers of grain through the wood. It almost had curly undertones and they almost looked metallic. Finally, I got out the 600 grit paper and gave it a good polish. It was beautiful!

I decided somewhere in the process that I would use mineral oil to finish it. I had used that once on a walnut cracker basket and after several days of coating and re-coating, it sits there on my counter with the beautiful warm luster of the walnut glowing. I made that basket almost two years ago, and even though I realize it will be due for a touch-up soon, it still has that warm, beautiful glow.

So mineral oil it was. I applied a healthy coat using an 1/2” paint brush inside the fret cuts. This, of course absorbed like a sponge and I realize that I will not be able to buff it, so I gave it as much as it would take. I then used a soft cloth to work the oil into the surface, taking my time and really pushing it into the pores. After two coats like this, I dipped a small clean piece of 600 grit paper into the oil and wet sanded the oil into the pores. All in all I spent about 2-3 hours. It was a labor of love however, and the results is just what this piece of maple deserves. It has a warm, rich, satiny glow and the grain is beautiful. Although it is one of the simpler pieces I made, I am very, very proud of it.

I think I am going to finish it off with some paste wax, but I need to see what is available here in my area. I haven’t really used that as a final finish before so it is new territory for me. Any suggestions would be helpful. :)

I am going to try to attach pictures to the post, but if it doesn’t work, I will put them in my profile pictures. It was rainy yesterday and I had very little natural light to photograph it, but I will try again today, even though it is overcast. As always, the pictures just don’t do it justice.

Thank you all for the inspiration. After seeing so much beautiful work done by everyone, I want to climb to a higher level. I hope you like the dish.



From Newest Scroll Saw Work
(Maple Dresser Tray)!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

8 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3261 days

#1 posted 06-04-2010 03:08 PM

it´s a beautyfull dish Sheila


View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3868 days

#2 posted 06-04-2010 04:33 PM

The scrollwork is quite impressive! I really like this pattern, it’s quite elegant and regal.

IF, you were to add a motif in the center plate area, maybe a very small and simple design that reflects the outer design, nothing too busy. Otherwise it’s beautiful as is. To make it more 3-D, you could sand the edges of the design a bit to round out the sharp edges, giving a more carved effect, but I realize what tedious work this would be. Again, it’s beautifully done!

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3723 days

#3 posted 06-04-2010 04:38 PM

Wow that is an amazing pattern and great work.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View sras's profile


4883 posts in 3275 days

#4 posted 06-04-2010 04:58 PM

This is a very nice pattern. The soft edges and recessed tray give it a 3D quality that I really like. Nice one!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View lumberdustjohn's profile


1263 posts in 3312 days

#5 posted 06-04-2010 06:29 PM

Looks great!

-- Safety first because someone needs you.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3920 days

#6 posted 06-04-2010 11:50 PM

Exquisite detail and design. Beautifully done. Thanks for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View rance's profile


4263 posts in 3306 days

#7 posted 06-06-2010 02:57 AM

It looks nice. Did you make the plate itself or just do the scroll and finish work?

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3066 days

#8 posted 06-06-2010 03:13 AM

It started out a board. I drew the pattern and bevel cut the center 3 degrees so that the inside is recessed. I drew the fretwork design myself and did all the cutting, routing and finishing. The depth of the drop in the center depends on the thickness of the wood and also the degree you angle your saw when cutting the inner circle. :)

Thanks so much, Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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