Boy, I really enjoyed cutting yesterday! This project is turning out to be everything that a project should be: somewhat challenging, a chance to learn new things, and most of all FUN.
I haven’t really cut padauk on the scroll saw before. I had heard stories of how difficult it was however, and I have been a bit intimidated by it. However, even though it has some challenges, once I figured them out things went like clock work and it turned out to be a really pleasant experience. And the resulting design just looks SO COOL!
I was so happy that I took the time the other day to redraw things and fine tune them. I do believe that I would have been able to cut the design as originally drawn, but I also found when cutting it that if I had left it, it would have been really pushing it for many others and they may have not been successful in accomplishing it. After all, I need to keep reminding myself that when I design most of these patterns, I want them to appeal to all levels of scroll sawing. Although I want to expand my creativity, I also need to make patterns that not only appeal to the masses, but that they can also execute without much trouble.
Originally the vine work was much thinner than I have it now. There aren’t too many vines, although the pattern repeats around the try, and it could be somewhat frustrating if they were to break. Although, even if one or more of the tips were lost due to breaking, I don’t think it would adversely affect the overall design. That being said, I think it would be suitable for someone who was fairly competent on the saw.
The padauk, however was another story. Although it is extremely beautiful and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again, I will be sure to put adequate warnings, if you will, letting people know that it is quite different from cutting the more common hard wood such as maple and cherry.
It started out fine. I did my usual preparation of the board by sanding it fairly smooth and then after applying the pattern, placed a layer of clear packaging tape over the entire design area. I am surprised at how many people who work with hard woods don’t know this trick. Apparently the adhesive in the packaging tape (even the cheap dollar store brand) acts as a lubricant for the blade and helps it to run cooler and virtually eliminates burning of the wood when cutting. I am not a big believer in snake oil type fixes myself, but I can’t deny the benefits of this simple procedure. I have done many experiments on wood such as walnut and maple and I was amazed that every place that I had the tape there was no burning when scroll sawing it and even if I missed a half of an inch or so of the design, it would immediately show signs of scorching or burning. I now put that suggestion on all of my patterns and would never cut hard wood without a layer of tape first. It is also supposed to lengthen the life of the blade.
I began by cutting the outer perimeter and inner tray section of the design first using a #5 blade. This went beautifully (the wood by the way was 1/2” thick) and without incident. I wondered what the ruckus was about and why everyone feared this wood so much. I also routed the edges without incident and everything was good.
My next step was at the drill press. I use the smallest holes to accommodate the blade that I planned on using and I did notice that the bit gave a small ‘squeak’ when drilling. It is as if it were protesting somewhat to me. I took extra care to drill carefully and slowly enough to let the bit do the work and not break it. Many times I wind up breaking these bits on the upstroke by drilling too fast and allowing the wood to pop up with the bit. The slightest angle can easily snap it. But I continued to drill and all went well.
Since the design was not that intricate, I decided to try to cut with a #2 reverse tooth blade. (I always try to use reverse tooth blades, as the bottom inch of teeth on the blade are facing upward so that there is less tear out on the bottom of the piece and therefore less sanding when you are finished.) I noticed that I had to work a bit harder then normal, and push a bit more than I like to. After several cuts, I went down to a #2/0 reverse blade – the smallest I generally use. My thinking on this is that the smaller blade would offer less drag and resistance and as long as it would still follow the line without much trouble, it would be the blade to go with.
Many people think that if you are having trouble or cutting thicker or harder wood, a bigger blade is in order. That isn’t necessarily true, I feel. Many times, it is better to use a smaller and thinner blade, as the resistance and drag on the wood is the problem and not whether the blade can go through that piece. Sometimes by using a larger blade, you are exaggerating the problem and making it worse by causing more drag and friction. As always, trial and error is the best way to resolve this issue if you don’t know.
I found the 2/0 blade to preform no better than the 2. There was still a considerable amount of drag and I felt it was a lot more ‘work’ cutting than I wanted. So I checked my arsenal of blades and came up with these Olson Mach 3 blades that the manager at Busy Bee tools gave me to try. They were different because they had less teeth and there was more room between the teeth so that the wood would clear out easier and the blade would run cooler. I believe they are also a ‘precision ground’ blade meaning that they are a better grade of scroll saw blade, but don’t quote me on that.
I gave them a try and I found that there was a measurable amount of improvement. And like all the Olsen blades that I have and do work with, they followed where I wanted them to go dead on without wandering. You will get tired of hearing me talk up those Olsen blades, but I don’t really know how people cut with anything else accurately. There is no floating or drifting that I found with ALL of the other brands that I have tried. No, Olsen doesn’t pay me to endorse their blades, but I think they are hand’s down the best on the market and I wouldn’t recommend anything else.
I continued to cut the entire piece without incident. I will tell you that it did take four blades to do so. I think that is the nature of the beast though when working with padauk and one just needs to be prepared to change blades more often. To me the results is very much worth it.
Below is a picture of a segment of the tray:
|From SLD331 Spooky Pumpkins Candle Tray|
It isn’t sanded or finished, as that is on my agenda for today, but that is the natural color and I think it look incredible. I am toying with the thought of doing a tinting of the bats with black metallic using the DecoArt Staining Medium as I did on the other trays, but I haven’t decided yet. I can also make the moon a shimmery gold which will be cool.
I want to include staining instructions anyway because I figure that most people will cut this out of maple or other wood that is easy to obtain and I think it will look pretty cool with it colored like some of the other trays are.
All in all it was a really good day. I spent the morning doing errands and cleaning and the cats have had their flea drops so we are 100% certified “Flea Free”. That one little flea cost me $50 in medication, but I guess I am glad that I caught them early before they were all infested. With three cats, that would have been a real pain in the bottom.
So I get to finish everything up today which is going to be a fun process. I can’t wait to see how this will look when it is all finished. I expect it will be a bit darker than it is now, but that is OK as it will still look cool, I think.
I will have more pictures of the finished try tomorrow for you to see.
Until then, have a great and fun day!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"