Now that we have had a chance to practice casting on and off, we are going to practice a bit more on cutting outside curves.
Cutting curves is probably one of the easiest things to do on a scroll saw. Most designs consist mainly of curved lines, with occasional straight runs from time to time. Once you get used to cutting curves and turning corners accurately, you are well on your way to being a great scroller.
One thing that is important to remember is that the blade is stationary and you are going to be moving your pieces through and around it. Unlike other types of tools like a circular saw or a router, where you actually move the tool over your piece, you will be doing the opposite when using your scroll saw by turning, pivoting and guiding your piece through the blade. I know that may seem obvious when you first read this, but it is important to tune your mind into that way of thinking and it will make scrolling much easier for you to accomplish.
Because of this way of thinking, the more control you have over moving your piece through the blade, the more accurate your cutting will be. This is something that is not always easy at first for some people, but with a little time and patience will become almost second nature. In order to show you some of the little tips I have learned over the years, Let’s begin cutting a shape.
Let’s start with the simple ’s’ shape that I provided in the practice patterns in Lesson #2. This piece, although simple, has both left and right turns for you to practice on.
Begin by casting on from the right side, aiming for the mark that I indicated as a starting point on the pattern. Remember to use the time you are moving from the edge to the point of beginning the design as a time to make any necessary adjustments to your saw such as speed and to get a feel for they type of wood you are doing. Also remember to slow down a bit before you get to the line, so you give time for the blade to relax and get ready to turn. This will soon come naturally to you and you won’t have to even think about it anymore.
Turn the piece in a counter-clockwise direction and begin to cut out your shape and follow the line. I have had several inquiries regarding whether I cut ‘inside the line’ or ‘outside the line’ and although that I know of several scroller that use one of these methods, I prefer to cut directly ON the line and follow it as close as possible.
While you are cutting, remember to keep your elbows down and your arms relaxed. Have your saw going at a comfortable pace – not too aggressive at first so you can become accustom to moving through the wood. You will have plenty of time to speed up later on if you wish as you are more comfortable with what you are doing. Keep your wrists relaxed, too and use your fingertips to gently guide the wood through the saw. Continue using gentle and even pressure around the slight curve until you are coming up to point ‘A’ in the diagram.
As you approach point ‘A’, you are going to begin to apply slightly more pressure with your left hand to make a pivot point and use your right hand to gently guide the wood around that pivot point, causing your wood to turn to the left. Since this is a wide curve, the action is subtle and does not need to be over done. Use a slight shift in the weight of your hands and the movements will come to you naturally, like turning the wheel of a car. As you approach point ‘B’, redistribute the weight of your hands so that it is again almost equal by the time you are at point ‘B’. This will all occur very quickly, but will also begin to come to you naturally as you practice. (I have indicated when most of the pivoting will occur by using a dotted line)
Continue around the figure, once again leveling off your pressure as you work around the curved area from point ‘B’ to point ‘C’.
Once you begin to approach point ‘C’, again begin to place slightly heavier pressure on your left, or pivoting hand and begin turning the piece counter-clockwise with your right hand. This time we are doing a full curve, so you will want to turn in steps, carefully lifting and replacing your right hand further toward the bottom of the piece so that you can guide it through the blade. For the most part, during this turn your left hand will remain in place, holding the piece down as you are turning. (Again, the place where you will be pivoting most is indicated by the dotted line)
As you pass point ‘D’, you will again begin to relax both hands and equalize the pressure you are using from both hand to continue to guide your piece through the blade. Continue to cut until you approach point ‘E’.
As you get close to point ‘E’, this time you will once again begin to put a little more pressure on your left hand, but this time you will begin turning the wood in a clockwise direction, following the line to point ‘F’ where you once again equalize the pressure between your two hands. (Pivoting most where the dotted lines indicate, between points ‘E’ and ‘F’)
Continue around the piece until you approach your entry point. You will continually be adjusting the pressure of both hands and steering the piece through the blade. As you get close to your entry point, slow down and aim for the point where you started your cutting on the line. Allow the saw to do the work and guide the piece so the blade meets up with the entry spot as seamlessly as possible.
I have a short video which shows me cutting the piece out. I apologize for it being slightly dark, as I was experimenting to see if you would be able to see the lines better without my bright light. Problem was that I also was not able to see as well as usual to stay on the line! :) I may try to reshoot tomorrow, but I am not sure if it is necessary or not. Let me know if you get a chance what you think. I think that it gets all the points that I wanted to across so I left it as is.
I suggest you practice on some of your shapes that I provided for you on the training pattern in Lesson 2. The rounded shape such as the circles, ovals and stars will help you get a good feel for the blade and saw in general. I am going to stop here, and next time we will be learning about outside soft corners and hard corners. Remember if you have any questions or comments I will be keeping watch so that I can help you quickly. I am sure that others here will have some thoughts to share too.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are enjoying things so far.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"