We had a really good day cutting yesterday. One thing that I learned early on when doing a project was to do the most difficult parts of it first and save the easiest part for the end. That way, you tackle the most difficult parts when you are fresh and excited.
It wasn’t as if cutting any of the pieces were difficult, but some of the shapes were certainly easier and quicker than others. Of the four different sets of pieces, the Christmas stockings were definitely the fastest ones to do, so we left them for last.
I also feel good about the way we divided our time on this project. We kept our cutting sessions to about five hours maximum per day (give or take.) That is a long time to be sitting in the same position at the scroll saw – especially several days in a row. While the cutting wasn’t particularly difficult, it does require concentration no matter how simple and staying focused for any longer than that would have been pushing it.
I also liked the way we divided the cutting into 10” x 10” sheets. Each sheet had anywhere from 10 to 13 pieces on it and took between 12 and 20 minutes to cut, depending on the pieces. It was good to see each sheet completed and it gave me a sense of accomplishment every time I was done with one. Usually too I would stretch a bit then, get something to drink, run the shop vac over my work area, change the blade and have a fresh and clean working space before starting the next. Overall it kept things a bit neater and had a lot to do with my positive attitude throughout this project order.
Throughout most of the cutting, I used the Olson Size 3 Mach scroll saw blades. They were really great and zipped through the four layers of 1/8 birch plywood very quickly and cleanly. I changed the blade with each 10×10 pack that I cut, because I wanted the job to get done as soon as possible and didn’t want to fool around with burning or breaking blades. I probably could have pushed the blades longer but at $2.89 per dozen (the price from the Wooden Teddy Bear at http://www.woodenteddybearonline.com) I figured my time was worth more than the aggravation of trying to stretch the blades longer than necessary.
For this final group of cutting (the Christmas stockings) since there were no sharp corners or edges on the pieces, I decided to try the Olson #5 reverse tooth blades to see how they would fare. This blade is slightly bigger than the #3 Mach blades and I wanted to see if they would cut even faster. I tried both the skip reverse tooth and the double reverse tooth blades and I found that I preferred the skip reverse tooth because it left a slightly smoother cut for the speed and thickness that I was going. I was also able to cut two of the 10” x 10” packs (which had 20 pieces total on them) without noticing the blade dragging very much. By the 20th piece though, I did notice that I had to slow down a little bit and that there was a slight bit of burning on the corners at times. This was a clear indication that it was time for me to change blades.
Both the Precision Ground Skip Reverse Tooth and Precision Ground Double Reverse Tooth blades were priced slightly higher at $3.89 per dozen, but given the fact that they were able to cut TWO sheets as well as the Mach blades cut through ONE, they could have been the better choice.
Here is a diagram of a Precision Ground Skip Tooth Blade:
And here is a diagram of a Precision Ground Double Tooth Blade:
The differences in these blades is that the skip tooth blades are supposed to be a bit more aggressive so that you are able to cut faster while the double tooth blades are suppose to offer a bit more control. I did find the skip tooth to be a bit quicker and that is why I wound up sticking with them on this particular project.
However, the only reason I was able to use these blades was because the designs were much simpler and using a #5 was possible. The smallest size that either of these Precision Ground blades are available is a #5, which is too big for the other pieces that I was cutting. I didn’t have a Mach blade in a #5 to make a comparison, but I suspect that it would have performed equally well. I find the #3 Machs are one of the best blades I have come across, and I will be purchasing some in the #5 size in the future. Fortunately the #3 Machs are precise enough to do the other pieces, even with the sharp turns and corners. I even used them to cut four layers of my littler skaters last year and they were able to cut the skate blades through four layers of 1/8” plywood cleanly and with great precision. I wish they came in a size 2 though, as the #3’s are the smallest that they are available.
Even though I have been cutting for over fifteen years now, I am still learning new things with every project that I make. I think that is one of the great things about woodworking – there is always a new challenge ahead.
Today we will be finishing up cutting the last of the 6000 pieces for this order. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute of this project. While some people would roll their eyes at the thought of taking on such a large order, it has really been a lot of fun to do and I know it has improved my cutting skills quite a bit.
Next week when I finally get to cut out my bird cage ornaments, it will be an entirely different experience. It will be interesting to see how it will feel to be cutting precision pieces again and a great contrast to this simpler speed cutting that we have been doing.
I am printing the last 150 patterns out today and tomorrow too. As soon as I am finished cutting, I will begin stapling them and packaging up the patterns. Keith will begin drilling the hang holes in the 6000 ornaments while I work on the packaging. I expect to see this order go out the door either on Tuesday or Wednesday.
I think we are doing pretty well on this. Besides cutting the pieces, I have been working on the other articles and patterns for the magazine and also for the two Christmas kits. Now that they are finished, I can move on to some scroll saw patterns that I have in the works.
Keith has been still rebuilding his entire computer. Since he got the new case and components a couple of weeks ago, he has also purchased a new motherboard, hard drives, video card and memory. What started with purchasing a new heat sink cooler for his CPU has turned into an entire overhaul of his system. I smile as I say this because I can’t help but think that NCIX (the company he is getting the components from) certainly knew what they were doing when they put that heat sink at a great low price. They probably lost some money on that one piece, but it caused a domino effect and they sold LOTS more parts as a result of it.
I don’t think I mentioned too that now I am upgrading my computer, as I am getting many of the “run-off” components of Keith’s old computer and using them myself. I suppose that is part of living with a high tech guy! I am inheriting Keith’s old motherboard, as well as some hard drives and other things. We are, in essence building an entirely new computer for me (thankfully, my own investment is only a couple hundred dollars!) and we will use the left over parts of both of our computers as a back up computer to have here “just in case.” Not really a bad idea.
All this week, Keith has been fine tuning his own computer and building mine. He has already copied about 95% of my things onto the ‘new’ one and I only need to transfer my monitor and I will be pretty good to go. Those of you who work frequently with computers know how long it can take to transfer setting and so forth and reorganize things so that you know your way around a new computer. By doing it this way, I will be absolutely certain everything is in place and backed up and where I want it before I transfer over and only after I am working on it for a while will we reformat the computer I am on right now, leaving it fresh and clean as a ‘spare’ for us.
This is especially important for us having our business.
The good thing is that I actually understand most of what he is doing. The more questions I ask, the more I learn about the technical side of things and while I don’t have a great grasp on things like overclocking and some of the other things that Keith does, I do have a good amount of knowledge on the system and network in general and each time I rebuild or upgrade, I have a cleaner and more efficient system. And you know how I love organization! :)
So it is off to the scroll saw for me! Hopefully, we will finish cutting early this afternoon and be able to start packing up this job to send it on its way. And then it is on to other things!
I wish you all a wonderful Saturday today! Remember to take some time out to have some fun and do things that you love to do. Having fun is what most of us work for. And if what you are working on is fun for you, you certainly have it made!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"