My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #788: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 08-13-2012 11:24 AM 9115 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 787: New Designs Part 788 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 789: Let's Have Some SNOW Already! »

I never for a moment think that I have all the answers. In fact, I often think that the day I stop learning will be the day I take my last breath here on Earth.

Sometimes learning something is an entirely new experience. We see something fresh and new and it is exciting to learn about it and expand our knowledge. We have a feeling of pride and accomplishment as we learn these new things, and it makes us feel great.

Other times, we re-learn something that we knew in the past, but over the years the knowledge seemed to have been pushed in to a back corner of our minds and we ‘forgot.’ Something may happen to trigger that memory and we feel quite foolish, for had we remembered what we knew in the first place, things could have gone quite a bit easier.

Yesterday I experienced the second type of learning I described.

I was really excited about cutting out my new patterns, and I couldn’t wait to get started. However, when I went to look for the appropriate wood that I needed to cut them, I found that we have a severe shortage of thicker wood here at our place. (By thicker I mean approximately 3/4” thick.) The project that I was doing was some lettering, so I needed the thickness so that the lettering stood up on its own and didn’t tip over.

Most of our projects are made from wood that is 1/2” or less, as they are usually ornaments or plaques. We rarely use wood that is 3/4” thick so we have very little of it around. I did remember seeing some however, but when I wen to look for it, I realized that there was far less on hand than I had anticipated. And that was not good. Besides – it was Sunday and everything was closed. We had some wood at Bernie’s, but he doesn’t work either on Sunday’s and going there was out of the question.

We all know the feeling of being ‘raring to go’ on a project and not having all you need to make it or running out of something. It isn’t great and I was a bit discouraged. But I dug deep in the pile and came up with some 3/4” oak and 3/4” cedar that would do the job. I was cutting two sets of the letters – one to leave natural finish and the other to stain – so they didn’t need to be the same type of wood. What was more important was that the pieces would fit on the wood with the grain going in the proper direction, and that they did.

So I laid everything out and began cutting. The oak pieces went fine. It was a bit slow going because of the density of the wood, and it took me a bit longer than I had anticipated to cut, but in the end they looked really nice and I was very happy. Then it was time to cut the cedar.

And the lesson began. . .

Many years ago when I was first starting scrolling, I cut some layered baskets of cedar. I loved how it looked and I loved how it smelled and I thought it would be lovely wood for the project. I was very wrong.

It wasn’t that it was not pretty or anything like that, but the airy grain of the wood is NOT a good choice for scroll sawing. The baskets I made were the type with the layers of rings and they snapped so many times, I believe that there was more glue on them than wood in the end. Doing them was a nightmare and I was very sad and discouraged and felt like a total failure. I swore I would never buy cedar to scroll again.

But with Keith making his pens, he had purchased a decent sized piece of 3/4” cedar to perhaps make some pens with. It was long enough and wide enough for the project I was doing and since desperate times call for desperate measures, I used it for one set of the lettering yesterday.

As soon as I began cutting, I remembered why I didn’t like using it. Besides being very dry and brittle, it was also slightly warped in the middle, causing the pieces to rock quite a bit when I was trying to cut them. Of course I didn’t figure this out until everything was glued up and I was already cutting. It turned what would have been a pleasant cutting session into one of very high stress, and I was just waiting for these pieces to snap.

I am proud to say they did not. I am pleased that I drew the pattern of the letters so that there was plenty of strength in the important areas and everything survived. Now I can only hope that they will survive the finishing process and subsequent shipping to the magazine for photography and publication. I will have to do an expert packing job to insure that they will.

By the time I finished, it was dinner time. I must admit that I was (for the moment) tired of looking at them. The anxiety of the afternoon somewhat ruined the thrill I felt in working with them. It was as if I was miffed at them for being what they were. I decided to walk away from them for the evening and call it a day and take the night off and start fresh on them in the morning.

But I was antsy sitting at my computer last night. I browsed through Facebook and all my other places and didn’t feel like playing any games. There were too many project that I had on my mind and I couldn’t sit still. So I drew.

I came up with a wonderful frame for some new ornaments that I thought of a while back and want to make. I thought I would just get started on it, but I kept going until about 11pm and finished the frames for them for the most part. And they looked really cool! Here is a sample for you to see:

It is not my ‘usual’ style and is quite Victorian. The design is rather free form and I think it came out kind of cool. Wait until you see what I am going to do with it! ;)

When I awoke this morning, on my table sat the letters from yesterday. As I looked at them sitting there, I no longer felt the anguish that I experienced yesterday. They also looked rather cool, and I will spend the day today finishing them up – cedar and all. (The cedar set is at the top and the oak set is on the bottom.)

I suppose using the cedar wasn’t a disaster after all. However it was quite a reminder to me that I should NOT use it for scroll saw projects. At least the kind of projects that I do. I feel very, very, VERY lucky that all the pieces are still in tact, and it will only be with gentle handling that they will survive the rest of the process.

For this project, I will tell my customers to “do as I say and not as I do” and pick a wood that will hold up better than the cedar that I used. While it should do OK for the purposes that I am using it, I don’t think it will hold up well to normal use or handling.

You (re) learn something new every day.

Have a great Monday!

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

7 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2820 days

#1 posted 08-13-2012 11:44 AM

Sheila, they really pop!

Yup, learning all the time. :)

If I buy a book and I get one useful tip

I always feel I got a bonus


In a Sunny, rainy, moggie Scotland

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2883 days

#2 posted 08-13-2012 11:50 AM

Thanks Jamie:
They are still raw wood and will look much better when finished. I am fortunate they are a bit larger than the little snowmen were or else they would have broken already for sure. I will just have to be gentle.

Now I am torn in two directions, but it will be an exciting day. It is warm and muggy here too, and rather foggy and overcast. I think if the sun comes out we will cook though, so I am happy for the cloud cover. As I said, we don’t have air conditioning because it isn’t really needed most of the time, but on days like we have been having, I sure miss it. I was up at around 4am this morning because I was designing in my head and I was hot and sticky. I think a combination of everything contributed to my sleeplessness. :/

I will be sending you some information in a bit on what you asked about.

I hope you have a wonderful day today! Thank you for the comment. :)


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

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6851 posts in 3943 days

#3 posted 08-13-2012 12:20 PM

Hi Sheila;

You talk about having all the answers… I don’t even have all the questions yet, so I think you’re doing pretty good.

Both sets look great. When you mentioned having a problem with cedar, I though you were going to say you had an alergic reation to the wood. Many people can’t cut cedar without developing some problems. Sometimes just a nuisance, other times fairly serious. As I recall, one guy in my shop would start sneezong , ALOT, and another guy got a nasty rash. You might want to mention that, if you don’t already.

Do you have a list of woods, or a spreadsheet, showing which ones that are better suited for scrolling, and in what thicknesses, on your website? Maybe showing ones that could cause reactions, as well. That may be another method of continuing to establish your site as the authority site, and resulting in more traffic, and more sales. Just a thought.

Have a great day.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Roger's profile


20923 posts in 2767 days

#4 posted 08-13-2012 12:25 PM

Those letters actually fit the snow theme very nicely. The frame work is lookin very good too.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2883 days

#5 posted 08-13-2012 12:27 PM

I have heard about problems with cedar too, Lee. Most wood in fact causes some people discomfort or worse if we aren’t careful. When Keith turns certain wood for his pens they really bother him (and he does wear a mask.)

I like the chart idea for the site. Although I put on my instructions stuff like “use a tight grained wood such as maple for this project” I think a general chart would be very useful for some people. Last week, a friend/customer was doing one of Keith’s basket patterns and had problems with the outer rings because he used oak. Oak is not good for more delicate fretwork that needs support, and we both felt bad that he was having such difficulty, but we didn’t foresee the problems. When Keith made the sample, he used maple and it worked fine.

The chart would probably help a lot of people. Thanks so much for the suggestion. :)


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

View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 2848 days

#6 posted 08-13-2012 12:30 PM

Great looking pieces – they really stand out. And YES I know what you are talking about about the wrong wood but I will get back to you later this week on that.

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2883 days

#7 posted 08-13-2012 01:10 PM

Well, Jerrell. I am supposed to ‘know these things’ and I found myself in the same boat is you were in last week. Keith did do an article on North American Hardwoods and the Scroll Saw which gives the characteristics of many common types of wood and also would be helpful in deciding which wood would be suitable for projects of different types. I had forgotten that was up there on the site. Perhaps a better link to it would be warranted so people could be guided to it a bit better.

Thanks Jerrell for the comment. I will be looking forward to hearing from you with positive news! :)


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

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