My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #346: And Yet Another Tray

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 05-21-2011 12:51 PM 5046 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 345: Another Tray Finished Part 346 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 347: Photographing Your Projects »

Will I ever get tired of seeing how walnut seems to come to life when it is finished with oil and spray shellac? I doubt it. Walnut is just one of my all time favorite woods. I think that I could make just about anything using walnut and as long as I take the time to finish it properly, it will look impressive.

I cut another candle tray out yesterday. The wood I used was (you guessed it!) walnut! This time I made a moose scene and it seemed to me that walnut was really the only choice I had. The deep chocolate brown of the walnut just naturally complimented the design that I had drawn up. I then used my old stand by of mineral oil finish followed by spray shellac and the result was really nice. Warm and satiny and rich looking. The design was simple, but it looked like a piece of fine art with the finish on.

Yippie! :D

Photographing things made of walnut has always been a challenge. Even my editors at the magazine tell me that they would prefer that I don’t use it (too much) in my projects. They say it “sucks up the light” and it is very difficult to get it to look nice. But since this piece was not heading for the magazine I let caution to the wind and decided to use it anyway. I figure that I will learn something in the process of photographing it and will possibly be able to make it look (almost) as beautiful as it does to me as I hold it in my hand.

This morning I took a couple of pictures for this blog entry. I don’t think that they came out all that bad. I am getting better and better with my Photoshop skills and I am learning to use many of the new tools that are offered in the program to correct even the bleakest pictures. Besides, I love a good challenge and I feel good and up for one today. I will be taking other pictures later on of the new stuff for the site and hopefully be able to make them look good.

So here are the preliminary shots of the new project:

From SLD352 Moose Candle Tray Set

And the detail view:

From SLD352 Moose Candle Tray Set

At least you can kind of see what is going on.

The grizzly bear candle tray has been very popular, as are most of the wildlife things that I do and I thought it was high time to make another wildlife scene themed holder. I also need to do a white tail deer in the immediate future and I also want to do several ducks and perhaps fish. A mallard duck comes to mind and I believe that he will be the next one up.

I have had a great amount of suggestions for trays, as well as the list of my own that I have been compiling and it seems that there is no end in sight. Since they are selling well, I see no reason whatsoever to stop creating them and hopefully I can also weave some other projects in between making them. I honestly can say that I have many more ideas than I have time on my hands to make them reality. I suppose that is a good place for a designer such as myself, and I realize that I just have to keep moving on and producing while the proverbial iron is hot.

Sawing again was pure pleasure. I truly find it relaxing and almost therapeutic. When I cut on the saw, I play a little game with myself to see how accurately I can stay on the lines. Once I get going and warm up, things just seem to kick in and I hit a kind of rhythm and cruise right along. Of course, I usually have some good music playing while I am cutting (yesterday’s choice was Jackson Browne – a reminder of my high school days) and I find myself totally absorbed in the work and the songs and it seems like before I know it, I am done. I suppose this happens to most of you also when working on a project. It is almost like an addiction. I can’t help but feel a bit of a let down when the sawing is completed.

But I am finding that finishing the project and bringing it to life can also be quite a bit of fun. I know many people don’t like sanding and finishing, but I am finding it to be another layer of the creation process that can be very rewarding. In the beginning of my woodworking ventures, I used to just give the project a quick sand and spray it with poly and call it a day. The results as you can imagine were mediocre to average and I would photograph the item for the pattern and be done with it.

Now however, I have learned that taking a little bit of time to finish an item properly can bring an average project up to an entirely new level. My “magic formula” of spray shellac over mineral oil works well for the type of work I do, as most of what I make doesn’t need a heavy duty finish – just something to protect the wood and bring out the color and grain pattern. These small steps can elevate a project from being average to something that is a lifetime keepsake. I now feel that a project is not completed until these steps are followed. After all, I spend all that time drawing and cutting. Why fall down at the finish line?

With that said, I did finish the tray and charm set yesterday. After that was done, I spent the evening working on the web site. We recently made a page so we can sell our one of a kind items and also I wanted a place to sell my note cards and prints of my paintings. Keith has made about a dozen beautiful pens in the past couple of weeks (although he didn’t put all of them up for sale) and he has posted them there too. I am once again amazed at how quickly he is learning to work on the lathe and I enjoy seeing his new creations. He is very picky with what he makes and that is why they are not all on the site for sale. He doesn’t want to put “sub-standard” items there and tarnish his reputation. I honestly can’t see the errors in many of what he considers rejects, but I suppose that I am the same way with my own work. I can usually pick out ten errors that most people don’t even see. In any case, it will be interesting to see how this new avenue will go for us. We desperately need an outlet for our prototypes and samples, as well as for his pens.

So today will be spent doing some more photography and also writing up some packets for the new items. If I have time I will hopefully get some drawing done, but I do need to back up my computer again and before I do that I want to do some organizational work. I suppose I will just have to see how much I have time for.

It looks like a busy day ahead. It is slightly overcast and that should be good for the picture taking. When it is too sunny and bright outside, the shadows that are cast are quite harsh. The softer light is far better.

I hope you all have a great Saturday and enjoy your weekend. Let the sawdust fly!

-- 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 William's profile


9949 posts in 2864 days

#1 posted 05-21-2011 12:57 PM

Glad t see that it looks like you’re back in the swing of things.
I think we all have a favorite wood. Mine is mahogany. Once you have a favorite though, it seems like you will make anything and everything out of it and never tire of seeing it. That’s a fascinating thing about wood though. You take one certain species. If you ever think you’ve seen all there is to see with that species, turn it over and look closely, or use a different finish. That familiar species will all of a sudden take on a whole new life and you’re back again.


View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3137 days

#2 posted 05-21-2011 05:00 PM

this and the last blog has been a pleasure to read
to see you are back on top Sheila :-)
I don´t think I ever will be tired of seeing any wood poping out the buty they hide
when applyed the finish its an amazing transformation that happens
who ever made the first experiments about it should have a big applause if it was possiple to
travel back in time :-)

have a great day

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3058 days

#3 posted 05-21-2011 05:47 PM

Good to see you up and running again, Sheila. Also at one with your saw.

Walnut is nice. Can’t think why I don’t use it more often myself.

Carry on cutting.

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

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3607 days

#4 posted 05-21-2011 05:51 PM

Sheila You’re a true artist why not write a book about scroll saw work? They seem to be popular these days. I have avery nice top quality delta the big one anyway I had trouble with holding the blades but a friend looked at it and showed me a good way of tightening them.I was doing it ever so slightly incorrectly .Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3213 days

#5 posted 05-21-2011 07:08 PM

Yup, walnut is a favorite. I share your excitment when it comes to finishing
walnut. I make the occassional walnut step stool for my customers, and
I usually sell it within a few weeks. You can get a nice spectrum of colors
and textures from walnut. I have a very hard time knowing exactly what
I have until I actually mill the wood down and wet it. My wood supplier
has a interesting selection in his common stock pile. Some of his select
is just outstanding. Your Candle Tray set would look outstanding on my

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18283 posts in 3698 days

#6 posted 05-21-2011 08:18 PM

Hi Shelia, Try photographing the walnut at a slight angle instead of straight on. It may help??

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2942 days

#7 posted 05-22-2011 02:18 AM

Wow! It is nice to come back and see all the positive comments! Thank you all so much! I had a busy day taking photos of everything and I think I got good pics of all the new stuff. I did take the pictures at a slight angle when I shot the walnut and it worked out very good. I also re-shot the bear pull toy and it looks much better. I’ll post the new ones up tomorrow.

I really am seriously thinking about doing some sort of book or something. I was thinking about it last autumn before all the plans for the show got in the way. After teaching there, I want to do one more than ever. I have to think it though though. Next month MsDebbie asked me to do an online class here. At first I didn’t know exactly how it would work, but I have been thinking it over and I think I have some promising ways to teach a lot of the basics and even some more advanced techniques. I see a lot of people are looking for some guidance to help them get started and I will hopefully be able to help them. I think it will be a great start.

Anyway, if I don’t sign off now I won’t have anything to talk about in the morning. :) (Fat chance, you are all thinking !)

I do appreciate all of your comments and friendship very much. It is great to feel back to normal again, too.

Have a wonderful evening!


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

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2637 days

#8 posted 05-22-2011 03:06 AM

It looks very nice Shelia . the book ideal I think you would do good but it does seem like alot work to put one together

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

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4045 days

#9 posted 05-22-2011 06:41 AM

Hi Sheila. I love walnut also. Built my firt set of kitchen cabinets with it. At the risk of repeating something already suggested, a photo cube made from white foam board would highlight and brighten for your mag pics. I think the pics are great already, but for print production the other should certainly work.

As alway great stuff


-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

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