I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in computer land today. I only have an hour or so of work left on the final pattern that I am getting ready for the next update. In tallying the new things that will be up on the site, my contribution alone will be five patterns and I will also be offering a kit. Keith has some very nice patterns to add also. Since we only updated the site a couple of weeks ago, I think that is a good accomplishment. I am wondering why I have been feeling like I haven’t done anything lately. Humm . . .
Included in the new patterns, are the three that I have been working on for the past week or so. They are to date, some of the most time-consuming patterns that I have done. They aren’t actually patterns of a project, but they are patterns of alphabets and lettering sets that can be used in conjunction with any project you wish. Now this may sound simple, but believe me, it is not.
When scroll sawing lettering, there is much more to it than just cutting around fonts. Since fonts are produced for type, there are usually several spots in them that wouldn’t tolerate cutting out of wood. Many times I use lettering in some of the plaques I make, which involves either cutting letters individually out of thin stock (usually about 1/8” thick) to overlay on the piece, or by cutting them right into the plaque or ornament. I don’t know if people who don’t do it realize how much is involved with getting the designs to work properly. Often the letter drawing takes longer than drawing up the rest of the pattern.
I have seen some computer programs that are available to do this, but the only ones I am familiar with only offer a limited number of typefaces to work with. They are fairly expensive and the customer needs to know how to work with the computer.
A couple of weeks ago, I had received a request from a customer for a full set of letters from one of the plaques that I had designed. He had liked the typeface that I used in the plaque, and he wanted to make something on his own using the same font. Typically, when I design a plaque like that, I don’t take the time to work the entire alphabet into letters that you could cut – only the ones used. But this request got me thinking. There are many people who want to offer personalized products such as ornaments and plaques for friends and family and to sell. Perhaps since I knew how to do this, I would offer complete alphabets for them to make their own things with.
The light bulb in my head went on. I thought about it and didn’t remember seeing any patterns of this nature before. It is one of those simple things that we just haven’t seen done yet.
I ran the idea by a couple of my friends who design scroll saw patterns and they thought it was a good idea too. With all the ‘word art’ and the popularity of personalized items, it may be a good seller.
My next step was to find fonts that would not only work, but would also not have copyright issues. Even though I was changing them quite a bit, I wanted to be absolutely sure that I would be able to sell the finished pattern without having to worry. I was able to come up with several (actually, quite a few) fonts that are both beautiful and would also work well with cutting. I was well on my way.
I spent most of the couple of weeks working on three patterns that I will be offering on the update. As usual, in the beginning, I had thought that it would take me only a few hours to rework each to be functional for cutting. I suppose that much of the surprise that I had was the reality that it has taken far longer than that – up to a couple of days – to really make each letter workable. I found out the hard way that even if the letters were workable at 1.25”, by the time I made them smaller, they would have pieces so fragile that it would take a miracle for the pieces to not fall off. After taking a couple of days on the first set in the 1.25” size, I reduced the size to .75” to see what it would look like and I was both saddened and discouraged to see that it wouldn’t work on many of the letters.
Back to the drawing board . . . literally!
I decided to offer the sets at the .75” size as a starting point. In making the letters, I first converted them to vector graphics which meant that they were line work and you could pull and push the lines around like rope. Most of the time I needed to work at a 1600x magnification to see what I was doing. I had to clean up the lines and make sure that there were no jagged edges left from the conversion process with meant that I needed to pick through each letter carefully. I then had to re-size everything so that they were consistent with each other. Many of the letters had flourishes which went above and below the base lines so it wasn’t just a matter of typing in a figure and hitting the button. I had to measure each from the body of the letter to make them look good. No wonder my eyes hurt.
But finally they are coming together. As with most things we do, we learn as we go along and figure out the most efficient ways to draw and present things. I am finally getting it down to a system.
Even with these realizations however, I have found that there is no quick and easy way to do this. I can’t see it taking any less than about eight to ten hours per set to get them to look nice and work at multiple sizes. But that is a good thing for me. I am hoping that everyone else sees the value in this and would want to spend a little on the patterns rather than taking the time. I suppose we will have to see.
Each set contains a full alphabet and numeral set, as well as some special characters. I was debating on whether to have multiples of the popular letters such as ‘e’, but the patterns were already six to eight pages and I didn’t want them to be any bulkier than they needed to be. Besides, many of my customers buy PDF patterns to print out themselves, which will give them the opportunity to print out only what they really need. The customers who get hard copies will be able to go to their usual place and do the same, as well as size them to their liking.
I also have a gray grid around each letter for easy placement and alignment. I find that to be very helpful in going around curves and customizing them to ones’ needs. I think that people will find it very useful and easy to work with. Sometimes taking a step back and doing something ‘low tech’ is still the easiest way.
It may seem a bit silly to work so hard on something like this. As a graphic person, I have always thought attractive lettering was important. When I used to sell my mohair teddy bears, I included pretty parchment hang tag with each that had all their particulars hand lettered in calligraphy. It was a nice touch and I believe added to them a lot. I even did all my Christmas cards in calligraphy one year (notice, I said ONE year. It took forever!)
I think that others will also appreciate the beauty of these letters and hopefully they will no longer just settle for the basic balloon letters that are pretty much the only thing available to them now. I hope this will open a whole new avenue for scrollers and help them to also be creative in their work.
I find that there can be beauty everywhere, even in something as simple as lettering. You just have to know where to look.
Have a great Wednesday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"