My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #6: Self-Framing Picture Frame Finished

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 06-08-2010 02:08 PM 7413 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: What's so bad about Monday, anyway? Part 6 of My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer series Part 7: Exploring New Territory »

Yesterday turned out to be a pretty productive day. Among other things, I finished cutting my matching self-framing picture frame, which will be the companion piece to the dresser tray I designed last week. In designing this pattern, I was fighting with whether I should or should not do additional scroll work in the center of the tray. To me it seemed that it was interesting enough on its own. I wanted the scroll work border to be the highlight of the piece, along with the beautiful character of the bird’s eye maple. I think I accomplished this with the tray, but it just didn’t seem like enough to offer in a pattern packet. I like to give a couple of versions of things, or at least make the designs versatile enough so that people can adapt it to their own need and change it to what suits them. I guess that is the teacher living within me. I always seem to want people to push themselves just a little to a higher lever. I believe that success feeds confidence and also inspires one to go just one step further. I have witnessed this many times when teaching and it is an incredible feeling to watch someone realize their own potential.

So many times when I taught decorative painting, my students would come into class and say ‘I could never do that!” as they look at the final piece. I found the best way to teach was by breaking the process down into baby steps that people can understand and grasp and didn’t find it so intimidating. I would usually paint the design in stages, and drop off a stage after each step, resulting in sometimes five to ten separate stages of the design that I would present to them one at a time.

“Do you think you can do this?” I would ask as I showed the first step of blocking in the base colors. “Well, yes” most of them would usually reply (even the ones with the least self-confidence). Then when they were comfortable with that stage, I would move on to the next “Well, now do you think you can do this?” and if they said “no” at a given point, I would demonstrate and ask what part of the process they felt unsure of and we would make sure that they felt at least reasonably confident before proceeding to the next step.

The interesting thing I found was that even as the steps may have become progressively more difficult as we continued, the confidence that the student or students felt from accomplishing the prior steps seemed to drive these students to move ahead with a new sense of pride and self-assurance. It was as if they fed on the success of the previous steps and it was as if a fog lifted and they went from being afraid and intimidated, to being eager and accomplished. I loved seeing that! I think attitude is far underrated. We follow where we focus. If we focus on what we CAN do and accomplish, it will far outweigh our shortcomings.

This is my favorite way to teach. I have a painting on my site called “The Cheetah” which I feel is one of my best painting accomplishments. I was happy that when I painted it, I had the foresight to take progressive pictures of it and I have a series of them there to show it being ‘born’. I have received many, many ‘How did you do that’’s about that picture and when I direct people to those pictures they can see that it isn’t magic. It is by organized steps and thinking. We need to look at the parts, not at the whole.

I was looking at Charles Neil’s Lowboy blog yesterday and thought “Holy Moley!” Now there’s a process! In reading at the time and care of each step, it seems quite overwhelming to me. But the way Charles explained and document every step of the way, even though I am not a cabinet maker (yet!) I really understood what he was trying to point out. There’s a good teacher for you! That’s why I like this forum so much. People are willing to share and teach and help just for the sake of helping.

So back to my little picture frame. I took some pictures to share with you so you can see some of the process. Many people who don’t use a scroll saw can’t fathom its capabilities. To me, again – it isn’t magic. It is using the right tool for the job and is really quite easy once you have it down. The blade I used for the inner design on the frame is a 2/0 reverse tooth blade. Now all that means is it is a very small blade, which is needed to make these detailed cuts and the ‘reverse’ means that the bottom inch or so of teeth are turned in the opposite direction (face up) so that there is minimal tear-out on the bottom of the piece. The last thing you want to do on a delicate design is heavy duty sanding. I use reverse-tooth blades most of the time, just because when I was young my grandmother taught me to embroider and told me that you can tell a good design by the BACK. Somehow I held that thought throughout my life and I make sure that the backs and unseen parts of the things I make are just as finished as the fronts. Nothing is worse than seeing a beautiful piece of furniture or wood or anything and opening a drawer or turning it over to sloppy workmanship. It makes a difference to me.

So following are some pictures that show how simple the process was:

I first used a #2 reverse tooth blade to cut out the frame (80 holes for those who want to know!) The #2 is a little bigger than the 2/0 blade but I feel it is more stable and easy to control in the 1/2” thick maple. I wanted this part of the design to be very precise and didn’t want the blade to wander so I use the biggest blade I can for the task at hand

From Self-Framing Butterfly

This is a picture of the 2/0 reverse tooth blade. For all you girls and guys who are used to band saw blades and table saw blades, it is a bit different!

From Self-Framing Butterfly

Here is a picture of me cutting the design. It really isn’t that difficult when you practice a little. Like anything it just takes getting to know your wood and tools. The little blade makes it easy to cut even intricate details.

From Self-Framing Butterfly

This was probably the most difficult part of the cutting (or maybe I should say the part that allowed the least amount of error) The curl. The trick here is to cut the inside line of the curl first, as the wood would then be a bit weaker depending on how tight the curve is and the type of wood. Cutting on a scroll saw is a continuous string of decisions of where to cut first. As you are more familiar with the process, you begin making these decisions sub-consciously and it becomes second nature. Just like with other types of woodworking.

From Self-Framing Butterfly

A scroll sawing really is just removing pieces of wood, one piece at a time. I had to take a picture of the piece of the curl that was removed to show how thin it is. You don’t have to remove the pieces in one step like this, as a matter of fact, usually you divide each section up and remove it in several steps. This came out in one piece however, and I guess I just had to ‘show off’ a little! It is amazing how strong that thin piece of maple is!

From Self-Framing Butterfly

And here you have the finished frame. Total time to cut was about 2-3 hours. I didn’t really time myself. I have a DeWalt saw and the blade change is a breeze and I put on some good music and it is so relaxing and fun, it isn’t even like work!

From Self-Framing Butterfly

I spent the rest of my day sanding and finishing the frame. I still have several coats of mineral oil to apply, but I wanted to take a picture of the completed project before it was too shiny.

As for today, I absolutely, positively am going to work on my stuff for my editor. I got an email from them yesterday and they are still working on the Holiday issue and needed some additional pictures. They took four (yes, FOUR) of my projects for that issue and even though I am not sure if they are using them all in that one magazine, I am pretty darn proud. I have never had four things in one magazine before. I feel fortunate when I have even two! (or even ONE for that matter) I was on a good roll and didn’t even show them all of my stuff that I had so that was pretty good, I thought.

I also have to do the thing for SAW today and I am going to donate a painting pattern and instructions to a wood show they are having in Wisconsin this August that I can’t attend. They wanted me to teach painting there, but I just can’t make it so I am sending the stuff to one of my former students and she will be doing the class. It will be fun and at least I can help in some way and feel like I am part of the show.

So I had better get hopping. I hope everyone makes a lot of sawdust today!

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

7 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


113013 posts in 2365 days

#1 posted 06-08-2010 05:03 PM

Super blog Sheila

-- Custom furniture

View Handi75's profile


371 posts in 2263 days

#2 posted 10-27-2010 12:41 AM


Very nice Pattern. I love it.

How do you do these patterns? Do you have an Art Degree and you just Sketch some of them and scan them into the computer? or do you have a Graphic program with the Pen and you draw right on the computer?

And the center area of your Pattern, I’m assuming that it’s about 2 or 3 Degrees so it will push threw without falling out?


-- Jimmy "Handi" Warner,,, Twitter: @Handisworkshop, @HandisCreations

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7975 posts in 1708 days

#3 posted 10-27-2010 12:51 AM

Thanks Handi!

I am pretty much self-taught on the computer and everything I do. I always liked to draw and paint (there are paintings in my gallery on my site under the painting tab) and I love to do woodworking and scrolling was a natural way to do all of the above.

I have a Wacom pen tablet and I do draw right into Adobe Illustrator for the most part of my designing. Sometimes I do pencil sketches, but mostly I go right to the program.

You are right on the tray and also on the candle trays. I tilt the saw about 3-4 degrees and cut the center so it locks into place when pushed through. It makes what I call a ‘self-framing’ project and it easy for most people to accomplish.
Thanks for your comments.


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

View Handi75's profile


371 posts in 2263 days

#4 posted 10-27-2010 04:05 AM


Sweet, thanks for lettin me know, I’ve seen some people with them tablet and pens for the computer. I like to draw what I see from time to time, althou I’ve not picked up a pen and paper for sometime, I don’t know if I could get the hang of it on the computer or not, it would be kind of cool thouth.


-- Jimmy "Handi" Warner,,, Twitter: @Handisworkshop, @HandisCreations

View davidc's profile


43 posts in 2096 days

#5 posted 01-05-2011 03:03 AM

I’m experienced in intarsia so have a handle on operating the scroll saw. What bothers me on this fretwork is how do you accomplish the black background to these projects? I’m thinking of doing the figure of Christ and I have no idea what to do with the figure once I have it cut out. I cut out some fret-work for a 6” round trivit.
The pattern I took it from showed a red background. you can’t paint wood red and glue a fret-work pc of wood to that paint and expect it to hold.

I understand the frame and the insert glued in, but the black background throws me.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

7975 posts in 1708 days

#6 posted 01-05-2011 03:27 AM

Hi, David:
On this particular piece, there is no background. The black you are seeing are shadows. Many times I use a thin veneer as a backing on pieces such as these. You can use a dark piece such as walnut if you want nearly black. The dark wood along with the natural shadows will be almost black.

When cutting the outside edge of the piece, place a layer of veneer underneath it, and then a piece of thin chip board or a piece of maybe 1/8” birch to support the veneer. Sandwich this together with your wood on the top, the veneer in the middle and the scrap chip board or thin wood on the bottom. Cut the perimeter of the piece and then remove the veneer and support piece. Set these aside and cut the remaining piece. You can then glue the back piece in place when everything is done. I then finish sand the edges so that they are flush.

I hope this helps you a bit. Just let me know if you have any more questions.


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

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 2949 days

#7 posted 01-18-2011 12:27 PM

ditto to above

now.. what are you going to use that swirl for? Don’t tell me that you threw it out….

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

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