My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #29: Subliminal Meanings in Scrollsawing

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-02-2010 01:06 PM 5630 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 28: Another New Project in The Works Part 29 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 30: Stolen Patterns - Seriously Sad »

As those of you who read this regularly know, yesterday left off with me anxiously waiting for that magic
‘decent’ hour to roll along so that I could get at cutting out my new project. After writing, I did all my morning chores and prepared the wood which I was going to use. I found a beautiful piece of ash that I really liked. Some people don’t like ash because of the difficulties it can present when scrolling. It is sometimes subject to breaking, as the grain can go pretty deep and on thinner pieces easily crack when cutting it. It also tends to warp a bit, or perhaps it was me and how it I store it. I had made that lazy susan with the strawberries that I had shown earlier out of three pieces of ash which I joined together and after several months I was horrified to see how much it warped. After a year of so it did flatten out again though so I don’t know if it was a temporary condition or what. I had sealed it after I cut it out, but I realize that it is impossible to seal the inside cuts when they are so small and perhaps it was just exposed to excessive moist air during its 6 month trip to New Jersey to be photographed for the article. All I knew was when I sent it it was flat and when it returned it was wavy, only to flatten out again in the following year. I think we sometimes forget that wood is a living and breathing thing. We need to respect that.

So looking at this pretty piece of ash, I knew it would be the perfect wood for my creation. It was flat and the grain was nice and I knew I intended to use a white stain on it (yes, I said white!) and it would hold the color well and yet the subtle darker flecks would allow the grain to show through even the white stain. Ash reminds me of oak in a lot of ways. There is a resemblence in the grain pattern that I notice as I sand, leaving little striated voids. It is very apparent also on the end grain, where you can almost see holes. I find the wood itself to be much lighter than oak, which is probably why when finished, ash seems to show a greater contrast then the grain on a piece of oak. I didn’t want to lose the grain completely with the white stain, as I would have done if I used maple, so I think this was the best choice.

I proceeded to glue up the pattern and get everything ready and around 10am I felt it was late enough to cut. It was, after all a holiday and even though my own rule of thumb is around 9am, I wanted to be sure everyone was up and about. When I heard the riding mowers going and the children who were visiting next door playing, I knew I was safe.

I cut the main part of the pattern and went outside to route the edge. Everything went fairly smoothly, but I do have a question to any of you who think you can help. How the heck can I route ash and not have burn marks on it? It seems to happen every time I do it. I try to keep the piece moving and I do admit that the edge isn’t straight and is quite flowing, but it just seems that it darkens and burns and I am wondering if there is any way to prevent it. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I am all open. I would love to know so that I can pass it on to my customers and readers too. I use a layer of clear packaging tape over all the hard woods that I scroll saw and it really does help to eliminate all the burn marks you would otherwise get when you cut. It works like magic. It is something about the adhesive in the tape lubricates the blade and it runs cooler. I have used this method and recommended it for many years and it works like a charm. However, I still experience burning over the routed area. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Other than that, everything went fine. I cut the little ‘charms’ that are going with the design without a problem. They are small snowflakes and each one has 30 cuts in them. I chose holly for that, as the wood is nearly pure white and there is no visible grain at all and it is perfect for the little pieces I needed. They were fun and actually quite simple to do. You just need to use a small blade (2/0) and things will be fine.

Pictures of the snowflake ‘Charms”:

From Snowflake Tray

When I finished cutting the charms, I moved to the ash base piece. All was going well, but I noticed when cutting that the painting “The Scream” by Edvard Munch kept coming to mind. My pattern repeated itself six times, and each time I got to a certain point in cutting, I couldn’t help but think it resembled that painting. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the painting, here is a picture of it:

From Snowflake Tray

Now here is the part that I was cutting that reminded me of it:

From Snowflake Tray

Can you see it? Eyes and the mouth and even the hands holding the head. I know you are all thinking that I went bonkers, but now instead of looking at this project as my ‘snowflake project’ I look at it as my ‘scream project’. Are there hidden meanings? Maybe I am afraid of winter (?) Maybe I am afraid of drowning in the melting snow (flakes) (?) Maybe I am just overwhelmed with things and watching too many Alice in Wonderland movies where everything comes to life. I think it is kind of funny.

I love scroll sawing so much because it really gives me a chance to think. I come up with many wonderful ideas while I am scrolling and it is a wonderful place to get lost in. I seriously don’t think that I am in any danger that this foretells my demise or anything. I am looking at it with tongue in cheek and it kind of amuses me. I know sometimes in writing our meanings can get lost. It just struck me as funny and each of the six times when that section of the design came around, I couldn’t stop thinking of that painting.

I did finish up the cutting by around 1pm. We had lunch and we needed to spend the rest of the day picking up three cabinets that we found that would work perfectly and add much to our storage. Two were floor to ceiling (almost 7 ft high) and totaled about 50 inches wide and about a foot deep. Although we have a small place, the bathroom is quite large and they fit in there perfectly, with about 4” to spare. They are in decent shape for what they are and will do wonders to alleviate our storage issues. The color even matches our bathroom perfectly so they look as though they are built in.

The other unit is actually two piece and are cabinets on the bottom with a drawer on the top of each. They total about 40 inches in width and will replace the deacon’s bench we have in the bedroom and use the space much more efficiently. It is pretty exciting and it will really allow room for wonderful organization and access to everything we need.

Although any woodworker would cringe at the construction (crappy particle board) the surface on them is clean and unmarred and for our temporary situation and with the price being what it was (free!) we couldn’t go wrong. I jokingly said we should show them in our ‘gallery’ because I was admiring the incredible maple and walnut tool bench that was presented there in the last couple of days and felt it would be in good company. But that was only my weird sense of humor trying to get out and probably most of the seasoned woodworkers wouldn’t appreciate it. So I will just leave it to your imagination. It is functional and not too much of an eyesore and I am happy with it. Although I must say, moving it was an absolute bitch! I am not a large woman and closer to a ‘summer chicken’ than a ‘spring chicken’ and it was HARD to load that stuff up and get it here. Blissfully, my neighbor Lee (the one I feed from time to time) was home and helped on this end when I pooped out. Who says good deeds go unnoticed?

We spent the rest of the evening cleaning and assembling and starting to reorganize. At about 9 I decided to sand my new project and got back to that. I finished about 11 and want to finish it up today. We also may go to Bernie’s shop in Digby and get some more wood (now that we have room for it) but I am not sure what the day will bring. I only know I will be busy. Hopefully I will have some good pictures tomorrow of the finished project to put up here. I have given some teasers, so that should hold you until then.

Please remember to send me suggestions regarding routing the ash if you have any. I surely would appreciate them. As always, thanks for reading and I hope you all have a terrific , productive day! :)

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

3 comments so far

View Jason's profile


659 posts in 3561 days

#1 posted 07-02-2010 05:23 PM

That is too funny Sheila. I can definitely see it.
I’ve used ash on a couple of occasions and I enjoy it. I’ve burned it too while routing or even cutting if the blades are dull. The only suggestion I would have for routing is to take small, steady passes.

-- Jason - Colorado Springs

View Handi75's profile


377 posts in 3527 days

#2 posted 10-28-2010 06:55 PM


I’d recommend only 1 thing bout routing. I call it nibbling.

Where you route clockwise, nibble away a little about every 1/4 to 1/2” counter clockwise, this will give you kinda star effect of course if it’s round or semiround. You will end up with little concave patterns in it, then go back clockwise and nibble the rest of it away, this should help with some of the burning.

If it don’t, then the only other I can think of is your bit needs to be sharpened or replaced. You can get a Diamond File and sharpen your bits fairly easy.


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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2972 days

#3 posted 10-28-2010 07:30 PM

Thank you so much Handi! :)


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

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