My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #117: Learning to Cut Padauk on the Scroll Saw

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 09-28-2010 01:41 PM 5512 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 116: Finished Drawing - On To Cutting Part 117 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 118: Yesterday is Gone (Good!) »

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 ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

11 comments so far

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3170 days

#1 posted 09-28-2010 04:25 PM

uuh those pumkin´s look scary Sheila
and yet so delikat and crisp on the edge´s
and you are right about the colour of the wood
I don´t hope the finish darken it too much

don´t you think its time you make a section on your site with
realy tuff and delikat work so there is something for those
who realy wish a chanlange and crack some nerves over them …lol
maybee once in every ½ year after all you allso need the exstra chanlange
sometimes just for the fun of it

maybee even divide your patterns in to 3 or 4 different levels
just marked by 1to 3-4 scrollsaws

just a half cent thoughts


View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3091 days

#2 posted 09-28-2010 08:09 PM

Your advice on the Olsen blades, using tape and moving to a smaller rather than larger blade are invaluable. There is no substitute for the knowledge of an expert, practically acquired.

Could I suggest Silver for the moons (not an expert opinion) if its possible, as it would look more authentic.

Hope you cat flea problems are behind you. Ours have not been too bad this summer. Vets bills though, don’t get me started on that one.

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

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#3 posted 09-28-2010 09:14 PM

@Dennis – That’s what I need you guys for – to help keep it ‘real’ for me. Like everyone, I always try to do my best. That is all well and good, but as I get better in what I do, things become easier or even second nature. Talking to new and non-scrollers helps keep me a bit more grounded because I sometimes forget that everyone isn’t at the same learning level, as I am sure we all do. That is the best part of teaching. It reminds me that there are people who I can help do things a bit easier or better.

@Martyn – I love the suggestion for the silver moon. You are absolutely correct, silver will be far more realistic. When I look at the pearlized black that I was going to use for the bats, the metallic definitely has silvery undertones as opposed to gold. That is a great idea.

I am happy to think that I can help someone with your expertise and experience Martyn. That is exactly one of the things I was talking about. I have been doing things so long it just comes naturally to me and sometime I take things like that for granted. I don’t know if the tape trick works on the band saw or the table saw, but maybe one day if you are having a problem burning wood you can try it and let me know what you find. It would be interesting if it does help.

I like having smart friends :)

“No man is an island” – John Donne (1572-1631)

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

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3091 days

#4 posted 09-28-2010 09:46 PM

So do I, Sheila.

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

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3170 days

#5 posted 09-28-2010 10:03 PM

Uuh not that smart just a one thats like to make the aqward stupid questions to iretate the rest
of the class ….lol but knowing that the half of them think yes he saved us again from look stupid ourself
I just don´t understand theese kind of people , I think the only stupid question is the one thats never spoken

and the system with 1-4 scrollsaws is just something I have seen in a DIY magazin where they used hammers
to tell people in two line´s how skilled they shuold bee and how big they feel there toolbox shuold bee
as well as how much other knowledge they shuold have about the specific things as a background

have a great evening Sheila


View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3091 days

#6 posted 09-28-2010 10:49 PM

Here, here Dennis. Questioning things is the only way we can progress.

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

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2977 days

#7 posted 09-29-2010 03:29 AM

Nothing to ask from my side at this time… Just I wish to the 3 of you .. A fearful haloween a month hence!
Shiela, Just be extra careful with the dust of the paduak…. it stains. Just as well test first the finish because the paduak changes color with application of different liquids. Most I used here is the relative of paduak… the Narra. God bless.

-- Bert

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3072 days

#8 posted 09-29-2010 05:52 AM

Sheila, That Scary Punkin is gorgeous! We both love it!! Great job on that one!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Jordan's profile


1400 posts in 3179 days

#9 posted 09-29-2010 07:38 AM

Sheila – you’re the best! I couldn’t carve a real pumpkin that good!


View Monkman's profile


134 posts in 2339 days

#10 posted 07-30-2012 05:39 PM

Sheer Magic!

-- MonkeyMonk

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2974 days

#11 posted 07-30-2012 10:29 PM

Thank you all so much! :D


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

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