My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #65: New Musical Instrument Ornaments (With Pictures!!!!)

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-07-2010 03:16 PM 6308 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 64: Back to the Scroll Saw (Finally!) Part 65 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 66: The Same Thing Can Be Very Different »

Well, I started today off with a bang. Literally. I barely had the sleep out of my eyes and a couple of sips of coffee in my body and I began finish sanding the set of ornaments I was working on. I accidentally caught the corner of the sand paper on a holly leaf and it broke off. I went to the freezer to get my cyanoacrylate glue and I had a not so nice surprise.

It seemed that yesterday I was pretty hot and pretty busy and I had put a can of Diet Coke in the freezer “just for a minute” to get it cold quickly. Needless to say, I forgot and it had exploded all over the inside of my freezer. Yuckky! Since it was frozen and the mess wasn’t going to get any worse, I figured I would wait until I woke up a bit more to deal with it and proceeded to get on with my repair.

I finished gluing up the spot and then applied oil to all ten of the ornaments, as I had sanded them all down last night. I love working with mineral oil for many reasons. I used 600 grit sand paper to rub the oil into the wood after quickly dipping them into a shallow dish of it. It looks so pretty – especially on the cherry I used for the ornaments. It really made them come to life.

This is the first time I used the dipping process for applying oil. Many people do, but a lot of my things are simply too large. But these ornaments are quite intricate and delicate in some parts and I didn’t want to risk breaking any more of the pieces by using a brush to try to get into all the corners. I quickly dipped each one and then placed it on a paper towel to drain and then very gently with the 600 grit paper sanded them for a few minutes. The color really intensified and looked beautiful.

I had heard from a friend that he used to use a salad spinner to remove the excess oil from delicate ornaments such as these. I am curious as to how it would work and I think the next time I am in town I will pick one up to try it. Even though the oil was pretty thick on them, it quickly absorbed into each one and I wonder if the spinner would even be necessary. It is nice that most of the modern scroll saws (along with the great blades available) leave a nice and polished edge on the pieces, eliminating the need for an sanding of the edges at all. The harder the wood, the nicer the edge it seems.

I also use reverse-tooth blades almost exclusively. With the reverse tooth blades, the bottom inch or so of the blade has the teeth placed facing upward, which greatly reduces the tear out you get on the back of the piece. This is quite important to anyone who is doing any type of detail work at all, as it really cuts down on the sanding and reduces the risk of breaking delicate pieces. You can see the benefit when making items such as these ornaments, where both sides need to be polished and finished.

I stack cut the ornaments with one layer of 1/8” cherry and one layer of 1/8” Baltic birch. I haven’t yet finished the birch ones, but I think I will spray paint them white and then apply a gold wash and also a light stain on the holly and berries. Just to see. It is actually better when cutting thin wood such as this to stack them a couple of layers high. You not only get double the mileage of your cutting time, but it also gives you more control, as cutting through one thin layer even with a 2/0 blade (the smallest I use and the one I used here) is very aggressive and it go through like butter. I find a little resistance is far better and lets you go exactly where you need to when cutting.

There are ten ornaments in the set (each measures about 3.5” at the longest part):

From SLD325 Musical Instrument Ornaments

And the other five:

From SLD325 Musical Instrument Ornaments

The pictures aren’t great, but I think I will retake them when the light changes. The color of the ornaments is really much richer than shown, but it just wasn’t the proper light for taking them I guess. In addition, my camera battery was on its last breath and I kept trying a few and throwing the battery back into the charger for a couple of minutes and then trying again. I don’t think I am supposed to do that, but I won’t tell if you won’t. I was just getting where I wanted to in trying different settings on the camera and it would just die. :( I did take the opportunity to clean the freezer out while waiting for it to charge once and apparently that took long enough and I did get these. But I am going to give it time to fully charge and try again for better pictures before I put them in my gallery.

I have seen scrolled musical instrument ornaments before, but they were very plain and not very pretty. I guess the trickiest part of drawing these up was being able to show the details without having pieces fall off. The technique for this type of cutting is called “veining” when you use the blade like a pen and “draw” the details in. Of course, you need to asses each area and have breaks in the lines so that the pieces are sturdy and can hold on. This is particularly challenging in places like the holly or where the bows are. You need the breaks in there, but you want to place them so they aren’t noticeable and your eye fills in the breaks without you even thinking about them. It is easier to put overlay pieces (another layer of wood) for details, but I don’t think you get the same effect. With ornaments this size, I think they would look clunky and not as delicate. So I took my time and really tried to make them attractive.

So today I will be playing around with the birch set. I will have to see how they work and what options I can give. I have some gold leaf that I have been wanting to play with and I may try to see if I can work with that. I also have some other effect paints and may want to give them go too. I have a paint that crackles, but I don’t know if it will work on something like this because they are so small the the details will be lost if i use something too thick. I guess the only way to find out for sure is to try.

I hope you all like them. It was a good effort for the week I think. And although it doesn’t shake the Earth design-wise, I think that they are nice enough for people to want to do.

Have a great day and make some sawdust! :)

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

10 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3080 days

#1 posted 08-07-2010 03:29 PM

waow Sheila you realy cought the instruments lines beautyfull
thank´s for sharing them

have a great wekend

Edit : by the way why don´t you use on of those square flat plastic bowls
we use in the darkroom to put you ornaments in and pure oil over them
you can get them in size that has the right size for you
or one of those big plastic-pans that is used to clean the webergrill in

just a thought

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3787 days

#2 posted 08-07-2010 03:39 PM

Sheila, I have to agree with Dennis that the details on these pieces are outstanding. It takes a great deal of patience, talent and imagination to be able to produce projects of this caliber.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View RonPeters's profile


713 posts in 2845 days

#3 posted 08-07-2010 04:29 PM

Very fine work. It looks laser cut! Good eye.

And I’m sure most the fellows here can appreciate your “coke can” logic: It won’t get any worse… That’s what i would have thought too! Time to get on with what’s important in life!

-- “Once more unto the breach, dear friends...” Henry V - Act III, Scene I

View woodbutcher's profile


592 posts in 4130 days

#4 posted 08-07-2010 05:06 PM

Now that is one more productive week, for sure! Those are the most delicate looking instruments I’ve ever seen. The viening is just excellent. For an entire series of instuments the attention to detail is superb. Each one has its’ own minute detail, which makes it so unique. Tell me the truth, what power magnification do you use when cutting something this small and delicate? Congratulations on most excellent design work and darn nice cutting as well. Thanks so much for sharing these.

Ken McGinnis

-- woodbutcher north carolina

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3001 days

#5 posted 08-07-2010 06:37 PM

Sheila, these are incredibly detailed. Patience and skill, thats all I can put it down to.

I’m still experimenting with different blade types at the moment. Not much to show but a lot of fun had so far.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2885 days

#6 posted 08-07-2010 09:15 PM

Thanks so much for the nice compliments everyone. Part of me felt like I took too long with these, but I really picked at them to make them work. I think that taking my time with them was the best way because the results is better than if I hurried with them. Quality not quantity and all of that!

Ken – I don’t use a magnifier, but I have to use my dollar store bifocals when I cut now. I know some people use magnifying lights (the round ones with the lens in the middle) but my eyes can never adjust properly to them. In the past five years or so, I have had to get bi-focal contact lenses because I just couldn’t follow lines anymore. I guess that is part of getting old. When I was fitted for them last year, we went through several prescriptions to get the best mix of powers. My eye doc said that in order to get perfect vision at a distance, sometime you had to compromise in the close work. She said the dollar store ones are fine so I use them all the time when I cut and paint and do detail work. :)

Martyn, I am glad you are having fun with your saw. It gets easier the more you do and get used to it. If you have any questions, you know where to find me! (Oh, and your hair looks like mine does after a ride in the convertible! I love your new pic!)

Have a great day, Sheila

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

View Jordan's profile


1400 posts in 3089 days

#7 posted 08-08-2010 01:49 AM

No point retaking the pictures, these are fabulous. The tiny detail and precision cutting captured these instruments so fabulously!!! The nice thing about these is there’s pretty well something that everybody could choose from for a gift or just an array for one’s tree. Very very good Sheila!


View Rick's profile


9432 posts in 2997 days

#8 posted 08-08-2010 05:41 AM

UMHUMMM! These are Very Cute.

-- LIFE is what happens when you're planning on doing Other Things!

View tdv's profile


1188 posts in 3035 days

#9 posted 08-08-2010 07:40 PM

That is stunning work, You’re a clever girl Sheila I’ve gotta find time in my life to get more use out of my scrollsaw.
Best to you & yours

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View Cozmo35's profile


2200 posts in 3001 days

#10 posted 08-09-2010 07:00 PM

Shelia, (Not to sound creepy, but) I usually lurk in the shadows and read your blogs. These ornaments are beautiful! I was sorry to hear about your explosion in the freezer. I have done that before. Now I put the cans in a freezer bag, push all the air out and seal it. That way, if it does go boom, the mess is minimal.

The ornaments must have taken a long while to cut and design. I am sure they will be a huge hit!!

-- If you don't work, you don't eat!.....Garland, TX

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