Adding something to things doesn’t always result in improving them. Sometimes the best way to make something better is to take away from it. That is certainly true when you scroll saw.
There are so many reasons that I love scroll sawing. I like the way that it is something that doesn’t require a lot of tools. All you pretty much need is a scroll saw and a drill or drill press and you are for the most part good to go.
I like that the variety of work you can do with the scroll saw is so vast. Unlike with other large tools that are quite specialized in their function, when working on the scroll saw you can produce anything from large corbels to delicate, lace-like fretwork.
It is quite a safe tool, too. There is a kind of joke among scrollers where we say in order to cut a finger off, we would really have to work at it (and probably have to change blades in the process!) While it is possible to get ‘nipped’ from the blade, and get a decent cut, with a little attention to safety there is very little chance of serious injury.
This makes the scroll saw an ideal tool for introducing someone new to woodworking. I have tutored even children on the scroll saw. With a bit of guidance, instruction and practice, even a youngster who perhaps doesn’t have the patience that an adult would have can be successful in creating something fun. And sparking that interest is a great thing, as it usually leads to interest in other aspects of woodworking and being creative. It is good all around.
So why am I singing the praises of the scroll saw this morning? Perhaps because after over fifteen years of working with it, it still fascinates me how removing one small section of wood at a time can transform an ordinary board into a thing of beauty. I just think it is cool.
I spent yesterday cutting out my new piece for the magazine. My editor liked the drawings I had sent her and the project is all systems go for the February issue of Creative Woodworks and Crafts, which comes out early January. Due to that time frame, I thought that making a nice Valentine’s project would be good. And what depicts Valentines better than hearts and lace?
I decided to do a self-framing plaque that can be given as a Valentine itself. The message of the Valentine is “You are the key to my heart” because recently in my browsing, I have seen many beautiful Gothic-type keys. I love the look of ornate keys and I think that they are wonderful things to design to make on the scroll saw. (Don’t be surprised when in the near future I do another project which will contain some beautiful ornate keys!)
And then there is the lace.
While some may find it tedious to cut repetitive patterns on the scroll saw, I find it fun and relaxing. I also consider it ‘skill building’ because the more accurate you are, the nicer the pattern looks. For this design, I drew up a lace pattern for the border that mimicked the pattern that I used on the key. Of course I used hearts in the lace and key to tie the project together.
The plaque itself is made form 1/2” birch. For this type of delicate cutting, a tight, even grained wood is most desired. Using anything such as ash or oak could possibly work, but I am doubtful that the porous grain would withstand some of the intricate cutting – especially in the lettering areas. While I am sure that it is possible, I feel more secure in making it with the birch.
I had some beautiful maple to choose from – both curly and bird’s eye – but the beauty of the grain would be lost in the intricate lacy border and I opted to use the much blander birch. I felt this project gave me a chance to elevate the ‘ordinary’ into something ‘extraordinary’. I was not disappointed.
The key itself is cut from 1/8” walnut. Since the self-framing properties of this plaque lower the center of the piece just about 1/8”, the overlay of key makes the plaque look well thought out. The overlay gives the piece some interest and dimension, and balances the simple writing with the elaborate key and border. I like the results.
I kept the letters simple – as if they were hand scrawled. I thought that formal lettering would look too ‘stuffy’ and by keeping the writing to a casual hand, the piece looked more personal and far warmer than if I had used something more structured.
Here is a look at the entire piece:
This is just the dry wood, before I have finished it or even sanded it. I will be doing that all today, as I didn’t finish cutting until the evening and I was a bit tired and didn’t want to muck it up.
I am going to be offering this plaque in two finishes – one with just an oil/shellac finish that I like so much and the other using some of the acrylic staining medium to add some color. I cut two keys actually, one also of birch, that will be stained accordingly. I realize that many woodworkers like natural color, but there are equally as many who prefer to add some color to their pieces, so I like to offer both.
I am very pleased with how this piece came out. When holding it in my hand, it is something that I am proud of. It is not nearly as fragile as it looks, and it was fun to transform a lowly piece of “blah” birch into something so pretty. I sometimes forget just how much I love scrolling. Then when I am making projects such as this, I remember very quickly.
By removing little pieces, one at a time, you can turn wood into anything you wish – even lace! It truly is a great way to be creative.
I hope you enjoy the project.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"