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 (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"