Online Scroll Saw Class - Incredibly Fun Adventures in Scroll Sawing #6: Cutting Sharp (Acute) Outside Corners

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-06-2011 02:50 AM 16338 reads 8 times favorited 38 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Cutting Outside Curves Part 6 of Online Scroll Saw Class - Incredibly Fun Adventures in Scroll Sawing series Part 7: Cutting Inside Corners and Angles »

By now most of you should have a bit of a feel for cutting some nice outside curves on the scroll saw. As we know however, most designs also consist of some nice sharp angles. Making accurate corners can be a bit of a challenge when you are new to scroll sawing, but with a few quick tips and a little bit of practice, you will find it is not as difficult as you may have imagined. Before long you will be scrolling those angles with little effort or thought.

In order for me to show you some ideas I have on scroll sawing outside corners, I drew up a practice pattern by using and modifying part of the design from my Gothic Bats Candle Tray and Charms Set.

Since the bats in this design have many pointed areas, I thought they would be perfect for you to practice this technique on. I am also going to demonstrate how you can drill holes in the tops of them for hanging as ornaments or a garland. This technique can be used on many other types of projects and shapes and is very simple to do.

I have given you a couple of sizes of bats to practice on, so that you can try them with different thicknesses of wood and different blade sizes and it will give you a feel for this technique. You can download the pattern here at my Google Docs and print it out for yourself. Use the patterns for any personal use you wish. You can even cut out several for your kids to paint and play with.

Let’s start with applying the pattern. Below is a quick review.

Start by applying some blue painter’s tape to your piece of wood. For my sample piece, I used a piece of poplar that was just over 5/8” thick. (You may find it a little easier to use a piece of wood that is slightly thinner, like 3/8” – 1/2” when you are starting out.) You are going to line up the bottom dotted lines of the bat pattern on the straight or milled edge of your wood if you are planning on drilling a hole in the top o the bat to hang.

Next apply temporary adhesive to the backs of the patterns pieces. Wait a couple of seconds until they are sticky and apply them to the wood, right over the top of the blue tape.

If you plan to drill a hole in the top of the bat, now is the time to do so. First, mark the center of the piece of wood with a pencil:

Then place the piece on your drill press and line up the bit with the vertical dotted line.

Drill the hole into the center of the piece at the depth you desire. You can drill just a quarter inch or so deep so that you can attach a hanger, or you can drill all the way through to the bottom to create a garland. As long as you have flat edges at the top and the bottom, it is a fairly easy procedure to do.

For our purposes here, I used an 1/8” drill bit. That way I could knot ribbon or yarn and put a drop of glue in the hole and push the knot in to secure it to hang my bats. However, you may want to drill all the way through to the bottom so you can string several bats together. By doing this step before you scroll your piece out, you will greatly minimize the chance of breaking the bottom of the bat or tearing it out with the drill bit.

You are now ready to start cutting. For this piece, I used a #2 blade. I chose to start on the end point of the bat’s wing. That way when I come to the end, I can come out of the piece right at the tip of the point and not leave a mark like when we had only smooth edges to deal with. Begin cutting from the tip of the wing, going along the bottom edge. (I am working in a clockwise direction again. It is my personal preference to cut in this direction. You can cut either clockwise or counter clockwise – whichever is more comfortable to you)

Continue cutting until you reach the end of the first section:

Instead of turning to follow the line, begin turning the piece towards the waste area as you reach the tip of the wing, cutting very slightly into the waste area. This will be a pivot more than a cut. Once you begin pivoting the piece, very slightly lean the piece towards you so that the back of the blade is touching the wood, not the front cutting edge.

Turn the piece completely around so that you have tiny pocket in the waste area so that you can realign the blade to the line. Continue to cut along the line.

I have a short video here which will hopefully better illustrate this process. At the end of the video, when I was demonstrating the direction of the turn on the bat’s ear, I said in error to turn in a clockwise direction. I meant in a counter clockwise direction, or toward the waste area. I think that an easier way to remember is to always turn towards the waste area when cutting points and outside corners like this. It is much easier than figuring clockwise and counter clockwise while you are cutting.

Below is the first video which illustrates the process.

Now I will show you a video of the actual cutting. When you are practicing, I would suggest that you choose a larger piece of wood so that you have a bit more to hold on to. Although you need to follow the dotted lines at the top and the bottom of the bat if you are drilling, you can cut it on a wider piece and it will give you more waste area to hold and feel more comfortable for you.

You may also wish to use a thinner piece of wood to start out. I used a 5/8” piece of wood, but you may want to try 1/2”. I also used poplar, which is a softer wood and I would suggest something like that or basswood to begin with. Something with an even grain works best. Of course you can use maple or other harder woods, but I would suggest you keep your pieces to about 3/8” or so until you are more comfortable.

I hope these help you understand how I do sharp outside corners. Please feel free to ask me questions here on the forum. Chances are if you have questions, others may also be wondering the same thing. Maybe try a couple of practice pieces and then let me know what you think. I hope that I explained everything in a manner that you all can understand. I will be happy to clarify anything that I missed.

Remember too that it may take a little time to become comfortable with these techniques. I didn’t learn them over night and I don’t expect you will either. The main thing is to relax and have fun with them and pretty soon you won’t even have to think about what you are doing.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson and learned something too. Thanks for reading.

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

38 comments so far

View lanwater's profile


3111 posts in 2932 days

#1 posted 08-06-2011 07:26 AM

Great blog.
Although I have a scrollsaw, I only used it very few times. Totally inexperienced.
I dread sharp corners.
your videos shed some lights. No excuse not to practice now.


-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3158 days

#2 posted 08-06-2011 09:40 AM

Thanks again Sheila. :)

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2613 days

#3 posted 08-06-2011 11:25 PM

Sheila very well done explaining ,

I know it hard trying to explaining things that you do natural after doing them so many times . Like Sheila said , Practice after awhile it will come natural . Trust me you will know if your not doing it right . Because you will get some chatter (board bouncing like a rubber ball) an scare the sawdust out of ya.
Keep up the good work

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

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3076 days

#4 posted 08-07-2011 01:00 AM

That was very interesting, Sheila. Now I can cut sharp corners instead rounded ones. Thanx!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2918 days

#5 posted 08-07-2011 01:13 PM

Thank you to all of you. I hope you are all successful in trying this if you haven’t done things this way before. Be sure to get back to me and let me know how it goes for you. If you have any questions, I am here and I will be happy to clarify things and help. ;)


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

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3500 days

#6 posted 08-07-2011 09:31 PM

Good Blog Sheila!!
I’m still following along… I had wanted to print out your patterns for the class, but my new security upgrade won’t even allow me to… (I know, another excuse right!!)
I swear, the security has more control over the computer than I do…
I’ve never seen that before, the little turn-around waste cut, but I’ve never used thread-type blades.
Being a flat-blader I’ve always drilled holes at the tips of acute angles (or anyplace needed) to provide a place to reverse direction or for an access… It can get pretty hole-y at times, but it works…Working on letters
I drew these little critters for Halloween about ten years ago and cut them the same way as the lettering… The beady eyes worked great for hanging them… Depending on which eye I thread through, it gives them a different tilt…Bat close-up...

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View Maveric777's profile


2693 posts in 3074 days

#7 posted 08-07-2011 09:59 PM

Well I feel flat out ashamed I just not got around to checking out one of your scroll saw lessons Sheila. Especially now after I took the time to sit down, check it out, and actually learned me something….lol.

I would of ever thought about doing to loop technique. Now I am going to have to go back and catch up from the beginning to see what all cool stuff I been missing out on.

Thanks for all your hard work Sheila…. Very much appreciated…..

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View CherieLee's profile


60 posts in 2516 days

#8 posted 08-08-2011 02:42 AM

I know i am behind on the lessons. I like Mike’s idea of placing holes close to pivot points and all. I also try to do the same within my work. I have also realized that placing holes where you know you will not BREAK a piece off is handy. Remember the issue I had with one of your cross patterns a couple years ago? You talked me through that and now I use it on everything. I just have to make sure and study the pattern before I cut.
Another term for what you are using on you pivot points which I learn at the Texas Scroll picnic in 2009 is call a “keyhole”. This took me some practice, but I am getting there!
Keep on going girlie with the class. I will eventually get caught up…but you know what I have been doing. LOL

-- Cherie Lee

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2840 days

#9 posted 08-11-2011 04:43 AM

I’m a terrible student. I’ve fallen way behind already.
Great lesson Sheila. I don’t know of a single thing I could add to this lesson that you haven’t already covered. For sharp corners the trick I believe is practice, practice, practice.
When I first started scrolling I though I would never get the hang of sharp corners. I did fair on anything forty five degrees or less. Sharper than that and I’d do so poorly that I was getting aggrevated. one day I just took a piece of wood and started practicing all day doing nothing but very sharp corners. I figured out with this little exercise in frustration the real key though. That key was to just relax and enjoy it. I was trying to put too much effort into it. When I learned to relax and just enjoy it, the sharp corners started coming naturally to me.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2918 days

#10 posted 08-11-2011 12:03 PM

Thank you all for your input. Don’t feel like you are falling behind. Remember that I said that there is no time frame here. You all just follow along as best as your schedules allow. I will always be here to answer questions and so will everyone else. It is summer time and I know it is hotter than heck at many of your shops and I don’t expect people to be working when it is like that. This is to be fun, not stress. William is right in saying that the key is to relax and have a great time. I am sure it is hard to do that when you are sweating and saw dust is sticking to you!

Again – follow along as you get the time. Enjoy yourself. Most of all have FUN!

:) Sheila

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

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2766 days

#11 posted 08-12-2011 05:10 AM

Great lesson! The example with the red marker rely helped make it clear what you were doing. Nice bat by the way. I’ve never be able to draw anything symmetrical free hand. Thanks for putting this all together.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View Vicki's profile


1099 posts in 3342 days

#12 posted 08-12-2011 05:24 AM

Hi Sheila,
Loving your classes. Thanks so much!

You mentioned somewhere on this site about your finishing technique. Was it linseed oil and then spray lacquer? How long for the oil to dry?

Pls excuse the bad memory.

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2918 days

#13 posted 08-12-2011 11:10 AM

I am glad that the video clarified the process for you Dan. I kind of decided to do it last minute because it seemed that everything moved quickly on the saw and I didn’t feel that I had the time to explain the process properly.

Hi, Vicki:
I use mineral oil (the kind you get in a drug store) and I just brush it on and let it sit for a bit (or dip smaller pieces with lots of holes into a small pan of it, such as a cake pan) I then allow the pieces to sit for a couple of hours on a wire rack and the oil gets absorbed into the piece. If there is lots of oil caught in the small fretwork holes, I blot the piece on folded paper towels first before allowing it to set. I then leave this anywhere from overnight to a couple of days and finish it with spray shellac. You can pretty much tell if the piece is dry enough because it isn’t greasy to the touch. I have never had a problem with the shellac lifting and I have really grown to love this technique because of the simplicity and how beautiful the finish is.

Shellac is a great choice for scroll work and small pieces because they don’t need a durable finish such as a table would, but it does offer protection and help keep the wood from drying out and possibly splitting. The oil is absorbed into the piece like a sponge and never really ‘dries’ completely, being oil. But it helps keep the piece moist and brings out some beautiful color in just about any wood. The shellac then seals in the oil.

I hope this helps you. I am sure there are many others who have other methods, but this is my favorite and quite easy and inexpensive too.

Let me know how you do! Sheila :)

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

View Vicki's profile


1099 posts in 3342 days

#14 posted 08-12-2011 06:41 PM

Hi Sheila,
Thank you soooooo much for repeating this. I saved to my HD just now. lol I’ll let you know how it worked for me. I’m doing a bunch of items for a bazzar and I’ll post some pics when they are done.

-- Vicki on the Eastern Shore of MD

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2918 days

#15 posted 08-12-2011 07:03 PM

No problem, Vicki! You can ask me anything. I know that there is a lot of information to go through and it usually will be quicker for you to ask directly.

Take pictures and send some! :)


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

showing 1 through 15 of 38 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics