My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #344: Poopie Happens

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 05-19-2011 12:46 PM 5045 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 343: Getting Back to Normal Part 344 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 345: Another Tray Finished »

I had a fairly good day yesterday. The past several days when I wasn’t feeling so well, I was able to draw up three new candle tray patterns and they were all at the point where they were ready to be cut. In keeping with my own tradition, I like to tackle the most difficult/time consuming one first. I don’t know why I like to work this way, but for me it always feels good to do the hardest thing when I feel the freshest.

I really liked the way the butterfly candle tray looked (at least on paper). I decided to do a negative type design for a change. By “negative” I mean that the design was removed from the wood rather than being what was left of the wood. This wispy type of drawing translates well to scroll working, I think. The appearance of the design is far more delicate than it actually is. Since you are removing only thin slices of wood, the overall strength is much more than if you removed the background. This allows me as a designer to make a beautifully flowing drawing without (much) fear of the piece being too fragile.

The choice of wood I used for this project was aspen. I had first used aspen when I lived in the States and I liked its light color and clean look. For those of you who haven’t worked with it before, it is quite soft and feels much like pine, although it is not as sappy and the grain is tighter and more even. I have learned from this lesson that it probably wasn’t the best choice of wood that I could have picked. I would have probably been much better off using maple. After I began cutting, I could feel the sponginess of the wood and it cut very easily – almost too much so – and I found that it was necessary to slow down the saw quite a bit so I would be able to control my cuts.

Cutting at less than top speed is good for designs like this. You need to have some resistance in order to stay on the lines. I used a very small blade in cutting this piece (a 2/0 reverse tooth blade) and it still went through the wood quite easily. Another problem you may have when cutting slower than normal is what we call “chatter”. By running the saw slower, the teeth on the blade have the time to catch the wood and pull it up slightly, causing it to kind of rattle on the table. Usually when you get chatter it s caused by one of two things – the blade is too large or your saw is running too slow. Both problems are easily adjusted, and it usually only takes a couple of cuts to get the right feel and settings for cutting the piece.

One thing I found when designing things with this style is that it is very easy to wind up with LOTS of inside cuts. Even when I don’t count the round drill holes that are part of the design, I believe this piece has over 160 cuts in it. That is quite a bit for a design that is only approximately 7.5” in diameter. However, it is what it is and on paper it looked pretty cool so I thought I would give it a try.

Everything went fairly well. This was the first time that I really got to use my new saw for a number of hours. I had made the two pull toy animals on it, but besides the little bit of fretwork on the wheels, I didn’t really get the time to get the feel of things. This project allowed me to give the saw a real work out.

All was going well until about 2.5 hours into cutting. I don’t know if I lost my concentration or what happened but before i knew it the saw grabbed the piece that I was cutting and I lost the tip of one of the butterfly wings:

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

As you can imagine, I was not happy. I was already more than half way through cutting and I didn’t want to start over. I spent several minutes sifting through the sawdust and pile of waste pieces that had accumulated under my saw until I finally gave up. In looking at the proximity of where I had lost the piece, I decided to forge ahead and see if I could make a prosthesis for it when I was finished. I completed the cutting without incident.

When I was done, I evaluated the damaged part. In looking at the grain direction, I realized just what happened. The piece probably caught on the blade and just snapped off along the grain.

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

I fished a scrap piece from the garbage pile and cut a small pattern piece of the area that I would be replacing. I placed it on the scrap and proceeded to cut it out.

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

In order to make the piece fit properly, I needed to make a straight cut along the damaged edge. I had to be brave and just cut the piece straight off in order to have a good edge to glue the add-on piece to. After a couple of attempts, I carefully dry fit it onto place:

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

I then applied clear drying wood glue to both pieces and after allowing it to get a bit tacky, put the piece into place. I used a toothpick to scrape off the excess glue on the surface:

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

I then used the toothpick to apply pressure to the joint and hold it in place. After this step was the most difficult part – to leave it alone until the glue was thoroughly dry:

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

After several hours, I was able to gently sand the top of the piece, being sure to support it from the bottom as I did so. The repair is barely visible:

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

I am planning to sell many of my prototypes from now on, and it was pretty sad that this happened. I don’t feel that I can expect to sell this one, or if I do, I will need to reduce the price on it and certainly let others know that it has been damaged. However, I think the repair is barely detectable and it is certainly good enough for the pattern pictures that I need to take of the finished tray.

From SLD353 Butterfly Candle Tray Repair

I still need to finish sand this piece and then apply a finish of sorts to it. I wanted to wait until it was thoroughly dry to do so. I don’t think I will be applying mineral oil as intended, as I think it may loosen up the glued joint. I think I will just spray it with clear polyurethane and call it a day.

I began cutting my next design, and I had some issues with how that was coming out too. I decided to modify it a bit and recut it so that it is workable for most people. I will have that done by today and should have pictures of for my blog tomorrow.

All in all it was a good day. Sure, I wasn’t thrilled about the mistake, but I was happy that I was able to repair it to the point where it was barely visible. Mistakes like this happen to all of us and looking back, I think I wouldn’t recommend using softer wood such as aspen for a project such as this. I don’t believe this would have happened if i had used something harder like maple.

So I will leave you with a little saying that came to mind yesterday while I was doing the repair. I hope you keep it in mind too if (when) you are in a similar situation.

A man’s errors are his portals of discovery. -James Joyce

I suppose it was my turn to discover. :D

Have a great day!

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

9 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6851 posts in 3948 days

#1 posted 05-19-2011 02:01 PM

Hi Sheila;

We often joke in the shop; “cabinetmaking, the fine art of fixing boo boo’s”.

Mistakes and accidents do happen. A true master knows what to do to make the most of the situation, hopefully in the least amount of time.

I guess that makes you a true master, huh.

My guess is nobody but you will ever see the repair.

Have a good day.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2584 days

#2 posted 05-19-2011 02:24 PM

Good to hear your feeling better Shelia .
If you have not said you did a repair would not of know it . Good job at repairing it . Nice looking candle tray
Enjoy the day

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2853 days

#3 posted 05-19-2011 02:40 PM

Now I know I am a real scrollsawer – I have done that, also.

Glad you a feeling better and love your patterns.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3272 days

#4 posted 05-19-2011 05:42 PM

yep i agree with lee…to me regardless of your experience level…poopie happens…and with the wood piece …yep knowing it was with the grain , it was just the right things happened at the right time and it snapped off…ive had to get down on the floor to look for the same kind of thing..problem is …it always gets into a spot where a mound of debis has collected…and hell can freeze over before im going to find it in there…lol…...well i hope your on the mend today and continue to feel better…go get em tiger…....grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View stevebuk's profile


57 posts in 2653 days

#5 posted 05-19-2011 07:00 PM

thats one seriously busy piece of woodwork, i meant to mention yesterday in the other post just how intricate the cutting was, hats off to you.
i doubt if anyone would ever know the piece had been broken before, and even so, who would n’t want to own a ‘Sheila Landry’ first edition.. put the price up, not down..8)

View HerbC's profile


1744 posts in 2828 days

#6 posted 05-19-2011 10:17 PM

The repair is merely proof that this is a handcrafted original rather than something cut by some automated machine (laser anyone?) somewhere.

Glad to see you feel well enough to return to the shop.

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View Woodbutcher3's profile


400 posts in 2855 days

#7 posted 05-19-2011 10:35 PM


I do a lot of chp carving. I learned this trick from Dennis Moore (of Chipping Away), who teaches and has a web site for tools (a Canadian out of Kitchner). When I break a piece out (and it hasn’t gotten lost) I glue it back in using one of the yellow glues for bass wood and a dark glue for the butternut (the two woods i use most). Since many of my projects get a stain, the glue would show. So, Dennis taught me to finish with a clear poly urethane first. Then use a urathane stain on top. That way the glue does not show through and the damage is invisible.

One other comment – I never tell clients or giftees where there’s a mistake. It is a custom piece. Each is unique. I often tell them to let me know if they find a mistake. No one has called yet.

-- Rod ~ There's never enough time to finish a project, but there's always time to start another one.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2889 days

#8 posted 05-19-2011 10:47 PM

Thanks everyone for the nice comments. I appreciate all the tips of gluing too. Of course I read it after applying the finish on it. :) You can see the hairline if you really look for it, but other than that, I think it is OK. I like Steve’s idea of charging MORE for the damaged one. After all, aren’t those the coins that are worth the most? (The mistakes!)

Seriously, I had forgotten how soft the aspen is. It is almost like pine but with little or no grain pattern to it. It sanded up really smooth and nice though. I will have finished pictures tomorrow, along with another tray that I cut out today. I have been a busy girl! I still have one more to cut too. I will probably do that one tomorrow.

I want to play with the chip carving stuff too. And do more segmentation stuff. And more pull toys. And more candle trays . . . etc., etc., etc., . . .

;) Sheila

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

View Woodbutcher3's profile


400 posts in 2855 days

#9 posted 05-21-2011 05:10 AM

@HerbC – When people ask what machine I use to do the chip carving, I tell them a five finger router.

-- Rod ~ There's never enough time to finish a project, but there's always time to start another one.

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