My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #515: Baby Steps Can Take Longer, But the Results Are Often Worth It

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 11-07-2011 12:42 PM 5679 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 514: Bring on the Scroll Saw! Part 515 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 516: Quality Takes Time »

It seems that I am out of the gate quite early this morning. I wouldn’t think I would have been because I was simply exhausted last night and could barely keep my eyes open. But I awoke today well before 5 am and it was one of those times when there was no point in staying in bed anymore and I figure I may as well get something done and take advantage of the extra time. So here I am.

I don’t remember having much difficulty adjusting to time changes before. Perhaps I am getting old and set in my ways. The cats are in the same boat as I am. Someone forgot to tell Coco about turning the clocks back and she was ready and waiting for her supper at exactly 5 pm last evening – a full hour before their usual feeding time. I am sure she is confused and thinks I am slacking on feeding her. We gave in at 5:30, figuring we would ease her into the new schedule. Maybe I should do the same.

I worked pretty much all day on cutting the ornaments yesterday. Once again, I won the crown as the “Queen of Underestimation” because sometime around 7 pm my eyes were giving out and I was having difficulty focusing on the lines and needed to give up for the night. I was only about half way through cutting the 12 ornaments. My body was starting to ache from being at the saw all day and with the intricacy of the task ahead, I made the executive decision to go no further so I don’t make any mistakes. I was actually proud of myself for making that call. In the past I would have tried to be stoic and forge ahead – inviting disaster.

How optimistic I was to think that I would be able to cut all 12 ornaments in a day! After all, they took me two solid days to draw, why would I think for a minute that one day would be adequate time to complete them? I laugh to myself because I had visions of showing pictures of them here not only cut out, but finished too. I can see the finishing process taking me through tomorrow.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t really think so. Please understand that I am not complaining. I find it quite comical that after all this time of doing things that I am unable to accurately estimate the time it really takes to do these projects. It just goes to show that I am still learning and will probably always be learning until I decide to put the saw out to pasture and give it up. That’s OK though – it makes things interesting.

When I cut, I also think a lot. I know that should go without saying, but besides concentrating on the obvious I find it a good time to really think about stuff. I usually get a lot of good ideas for other projects while I am cutting. It’s that ‘one thing leads to another’ mentality that I really do like.

One observation that I realized was that these aren’t the easiest ornaments that I have ever come up with. In fact, they are quite challenging. Although the designs look simple, there is a certain amount of skill that will be required to successfully make them. I am going to be sure to put that on the pattern and also on the site where people can understand that before buying them.

I could have thought about making them easier, but I feel it would spoil the look and they wouldn’t be what I envisioned at all, so I didn’t want that. Besides, some people like a challenge (I know I do) and it will just make accomplishing them even more special.

Since they are so detailed, I feel that each one would make a fine small plaque on its own. (Say six inches or so tall) This would alleviate the difficulty of the pattern greatly, as most of the difficulty arises because of the small areas between the swirls and cuts. At a larger size, they will be quite easy to accomplish and may be a great stepping stone for the intermediate scroller to move into the advanced level. One baby step at a time and all of that.

It would be easy enough for me to split the 12 ornaments into two sets and in the pattern give not only the smaller size for the ornaments themselves, but also the 6” plaque size. I think that the customer will be getting a good deal for the money and by putting the possibility in front of them, spur them on to use them in different ways. The more I thought about it the more I liked that idea.

Another great accomplishment was that I figured out how to stack cut these (allowing me to cut two copies of the same ornament at once) even though they are self-framing and the center of the design is cut on a bevel. I experimented with the first one and I used approximately 3/16” bird’s eye maple for the top piece and I tried 1/8” Baltic birch for the under layer. I figured if I failed, the birch layer would be the one to suffer and it would be no great loss. But it did work out well and it would be fairly easy to explain things to others as to how to do it. Since there is so much cutting in these pieces (each frame has 23 cuts on its own, before the inside design) they may as well cut a couple of sets at once and have two sets. That makes more sense.

When I do the math, I figure the entire set has somewhere from 400-500 inside cuts in them. That is a lot when you think about it. No wonder it is going to take me two full days of cutting. These aren’t the type of ornaments that you would want to crank out to sell at craft fairs for $5.00 each. They are meant to be special and will be something that will command much more than that if you were to sell them and hopefully be cherished by those who receive them as gifts.

That’s the kind of designs I like to do.

I am fighting within myself because these have taken such a long time to accomplish. There is the side of me that wants to feel productive and the other side of me that wants to be the best. When I see each piece finished though, it is a ‘no brainer’ for me. They are something that I am proud of and I don’t really care how long they are taking me. I would rather have one pattern like this available than ten that aren’t of this level. That’s just me.

I also want to note that just because they are taking me a long time, doesn’t mean it is bad. I find a great deal of pleasure in my time at the saw, as well as the planning of these designs. As I remove each sliver of wood from the piece, I enjoy seeing the design unfold before my very eyes. It is quite exciting and relaxing for me. I have never been one to hurry through cutting, nor do I want to. I find that looking at even the most intricate design with a ‘one hole at a time’ philosophy removes most, if not all the anxiety when cutting higher level pieces. There is something therapeutic about watching even the tiniest pieces of wood fall out, revealing the design within. Ask any scroller.

So I have no pictures for you today of the finished ornaments. I several of them here that are done being cut, but I am waiting until I can sand them and finish them and then I can present them in all their glory. Anticipation is a good thing anyway, isn’t it?

Here is a picture for you today:

It’s a somewhat cuter rodent than the one that I saw the other day. I didn’t take the picture and I am sorry to say that I am not sure who deserves the credit. But I liked the colors and he is quite a cute little scoundrel. It reminds me of how nice it is around here and the beautiful warm colors that fill the woods around me.

I wish you all a great Monday. I know I will have a full day and be happy in my cutting. I hope you all have a great creative day too!

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

6 comments so far

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4214 days

#1 posted 11-07-2011 01:08 PM

Hi Sheila;

I guess I’m like your cat. My clock is off too. I was wondering why I’m sitting at my computer at 5:00 in the morning.

Estimating the time involved in something is always tough. That’s part of the cause of a “bad reputation” for so many contractors. Thirty years ago I would have gladly told someone how long a job will take. Now I know, I don’t REALLY know! Too many variables that are out of my control.

Have fun finishing your cutting.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3154 days

#2 posted 11-07-2011 01:23 PM

Yes, Lee – it is a good thing I don’t have to bid on jobs according to time. Keith always teases me about how I underestimate things and most of the time he is right. I can easily see why it can get out of hand with many construction projects, which are multi-dimensional. I suppose that the only one I need to answer to is myself on these, and I tend to be a bit forgiving with myself on messing up time frames. Unless it is a catalog or the magazine that needs things by a certain date, I am usually OK. I try to stay a project or so ahead of the magazine so I don’t put myself in that do or die position.

Have a good day, too. Enjoy your early start! :)


-- 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 3003 days

#3 posted 11-07-2011 03:56 PM

The other day my son told me he’s learned to take my time estimate, for a first time project, and multiply it by 4 and it’s pretty close. He’s a clever guy.

Fortunately I very good at estimating at work.

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

View ArtistryinWood's profile


107 posts in 3921 days

#4 posted 11-07-2011 05:41 PM

Personally i like the challenging designs, there are plenty of simple ones. I am somewhat disappointed with the Christmas Editions for that reason.

I usually cut my ornaments in the 4”-6” range and stack cut 4 or 5 high at 1/8”. I find people like the larger version.They retail for $12-$15.

As you said you can stack cut the interior leaving only the bevel cuts.

I also love watching the design come to life as i cut. It reminds me of the reason i first got into photography many years ago, watching that image appear in the tray was amazing.

Keep up the good work.

Andrew in Ontario

-- It seem's to me i could live my life, a lot better than i think i am. Andrew, Midland, Ont.

View stevebuk's profile


57 posts in 2918 days

#5 posted 11-07-2011 11:23 PM

hi sheila, do you not have any red squirrels over there..

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9237 posts in 3154 days

#6 posted 11-08-2011 02:38 AM

Thanks, guys. I was actually working all day at the saw and this is the first time I have had a chance to answer mail. So far so good on the ornaments. All are holding their own very well and only a little tweaking is necessary. I think they will be nice for those who want detailed cuttings. Steve, yes there are red squirrels and also grey ones. Not as many as I used to see when I lived in Chicago though. Just the occasional one. I like squirrels. They are cute and fun to watch.

Have a nice evening all. :)


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

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