I am on the final day of cutting my new little Valentine’s day ornaments. While it is a bit slow going, it isn’t at all unpleasant, and I have been enjoying making them very much.
Since I am cutting these pieces several layers high (four to be exact) and using a very small blade in order to make the detailed cuts necessary, it is very much a lesson in patience, and I have to resign myself to the fact that I am not going to be zipping around the pieces at the speed I do when only cutting one layer.
I have no problem doing this, but I fear that others may find this to be much too slow for their personal preference. Of course you could easily remedy this by removing one or more of the layers, but then you would be doing twice the work in order to receive the same result.
One of the most beneficial reasons to stack cut pieces such as this (besides the obvious reason of cutting multiple pieces at a time) is the remarkable amount of precision that you can achieve.
The above picture shows the cutaway side of one of the sets of ornaments. The top two layers are maple and the bottom two are 1/8” Baltic birch. The maple pieces are slightly thicker than 1/8” but that is inconsequential for these purposes. The blade that I used is a #2 regular reverse-tooth blade by Olsen, which is the second smallest size that I typically utilize. (the 2/0 reverse tooth being smaller).
I initially started cutting the first pieces using the Olson Mach blades in a #3 size, but I found that spinning the piece for the ends of the curls brought me a bit wider than I wanted to be and I had to work a bit harder to stay where I needed to go. So I opted to go down a size, knowing that it would also slow my progression a bit, in order to be at the level of precision that I was striving for.
When cutting pieces such as this, where precision is the number one priority, it is also quite important not to ‘force’ the wood through the blade and allow the blade to do the work for you. Pushing too hard and forcing the piece through the blade will not only cause excess heat build up and premature breaking of the blade, but also distortion of the design – especially on the lower pieces – due to flexing of the blade from excess pressure. These blades are quite thin as you can see:
The teeth on them are tiny.
While this allows you to maneuver very accurately, you do need to give them a chance to work and not force the issue. They need to have a good amount of tension on them too, as any flex in them will in all probability distort the design on the bottom and give you undesirable results on your lower pieces.
The trick here is to find the right amount of resistance that will slow things down enough for you to have the control you need to accomplish the design. If I were to cut only one layer, I find that the tiny blade goes through the wood like a hot knife through butter and it is much harder to control the cutting. Since I am making two full sets of these twelve ornaments (one set in plywood to stain and the other in maple which will be natural color) I found that cutting all four at once was not only possible, but a very relaxing way to do things. It may have taken me a bit longer, but in the end, the results was very good and I am very happy with it.
Here is a shot from the back of the pile. You can see that the curls are all in good shape and the design is true.
Now I need to separate the pieces and reassemble them in pairs so that I can cut the lettering into the centers. I had stacked the pieces with the two maple layers on the top and the two plywood on the bottom, instead of alternating them maple-plywood-maple-plywood. I had done this because there was a very slight cupping in the maple pieces and it gave me a better chance of holding together well by stacking them this way. Now that the cutting relieved most of the tension in the small pieces, there should be no problem at all stacking the maple with the plywood. I will simply use the hot melt glue gun to re-glue the layers together in pairs of two for the lettering. I will also probably drop down one blade size to the 2/0 reverse tooth blade size for the small lettering.
I hope that this gives you a little bit better idea of what to consider when doing cutting of this type. It really isn’t difficult at all. As with much of woodworking, it is knowing how to set up your work and what wood tolerates which blade size and all the stuff that comes from “practice”.
I was considering shooting a video of setting some things up like this and showing how easy it is to control the blade and cut these out. I was pretty focused on finishing though yesterday and didn’t get to it. If some of you think it would be helpful, just let me know and I will see what I can do. I think once you see how easy it is to control things when set up properly, you will give it a try.
So it is back to the saw for me today. It’s a good way to spend the day I think!
Have a wonderful Tuesday everyone!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"