Well, you all should have had time to practice cutting all the inside curves and corners on the frames of the practice patterns that I gave you in the previous lessons. Now we should all be ready to move on to learning how to cut on a bevel.
One of the reasons that I like the scroll saw so much is because it is a very versatile tool. For a relatively minimal start up cost, you can get a tool that has the ability to make a great variety of projects. For many years, my scroll saw and drill press were pretty much the only power tools I owned. Yet, I was still able to create lots of wonderful things using them. With the addition of a few other small hand tools, such as a sander and a small router or laminate trimmer, it opens up a whole array of exciting techniques you can use to make your projects more interesting and fun.
Most scroll saws have the ability to make bevel or angled cuts. This is typically achieved by tilting the table of the saw either to the left or the right so that the blade is cutting on an angle. Some saws, like the Excalibur saw (the one I have) allows you to tilt the head of the saw and keeps the table flat. This makes is much easier for you to cut on an angle, as you don’t have to worry about holding the piece at an angle when you are cutting, and you can concentrate on the cut at hand.
While tilting the blade is possible, I wouldn’t advise you to do so in order to make miters and things that need precise angles. Since the blades are so thin on the scroll saw, they will flex while cutting, creating cuts that are not perfectly straight. This makes it nearly impossible to make a clean miter joint.
However, bevel cutting on the scroll saw can be very useful to create things like self-framing plaques and ornaments, as well as certain types of baskets and candy dishes. I also use this method to make all of my candle tray patterns, as I like the edge design raised up a bit from the center that the candle sits on.
For our purposes, in this lesson we are going to explore making bevel cuts to create a self-framing plaque. I like designing and cutting self-framing plaques because as the name implies, the frame is cut from the same piece of wood as the design.
Many of you may not have realized that the practice frame pattern I gave you to scroll saw in lesson 7 is part of self-framing butterfly plaque that I designed. Although I gave you the pattern for the outside fretwork of the frame, I left out the central picture in the middle because I didn’t want you to jump ahead. I have now posted the full pattern for you and you can download it HERE.
Please go to my Google Document account and download it now. If you already did the frame, just cut the inner portion of the design out and apply it to the frame as I instructed before (using blue painter’s tape underneath) If you finished cutting the fretwork border of the frame from the last lesson and have left the pattern in place, you could just stick the inner portion of the pattern over the existing pattern and go from there.
For the sample plaque, I used 1/2” maple and I angled the saw 4 degrees to the outside of the circle. Since I cut my piece in a clockwise direction, I tilted the head of my Excalibur scroll saw to the right that amount. If you were using a scroll saw such as a DeWalt, in which the table tilts, you would tilt the saw table so that the left side of the table is lower than the right side, causing the angle of the blade to be radiating outward from the center of the plaque.
I have made some drawings to help you understand what we are doing here. It shows a typical piece of this type from a cut away side view. The center portion represents the center of the plaque, while the two outside sections represent the frame. The red lines are the kerf lines left from your saw blade, angled to the outside of the piece.
Although these drawings are somewhat exaggerated to better illustrate the point, the second drawing shows the space that is left from the blade, or the kerf. This is why it is important to consider not only the angle of the cut, but also the blade size. If you wish the piece to drop down a bit farther into the frame, simply use a larger blade with a wider kerf.
Once the piece is cut, you can push it into the frame and lock in, leaving the frame protruding to the front. The frame can and should be glued to keep it in place once all the cutting is finished. I also found that it look quite nice if you slightly round over the inside edge of the frame with a router or laminate trimmer and a small round over bit. (Do this before gluing naturally!)
If you wish to have less of a drop of the piece, simply increase the angle by half a degree or so. The increased angle will not allow the center to drop as far through the frame.
I strongly suggest that you test your angle and blade size on a scrap of wood that is the same thickness as the piece you are cutting. For plaques such as this, I frequently use the waste areas from the corners for testing. Simply draw a small circle and cut a test cut at the given angle and then adjust your saw accordingly. it is better to be safe than ruin a nice piece of wood.
I made a short video of me demonstrating how I adjust my saw and also of me cutting the circle. You can see how easy it is to do on my saw, as the table is still level and I don’t have to fight gravity to turn the wood while it is on an angle. However, I owned a DeWalt saw for almost 15 years and the angle is so slight in cutting like this that it isn’t really a factor. Enjoy the video:
I have used this method with many different scroll sawn pieces, from pictures to baskets (like the one that Leldon cut here) and also on small items such as ornaments. This process really makes it easy to make an all-inclusive project and not have to worry about purchasing or making a frame for it. Once you try it, I am sure you will become a big fan of bevel cutting on the scroll saw!
Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have about this process. I will always try to be here to help you and I am sure that others on this forum will help with answers too.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"