In my recent posts, I have been discussing different ways to apply patterns to wood for scroll sawing. Since last year, I have noticed that the quality of the spray adhesive that I was accustomed to using had been on the decline. The brand I have used for the past several years has been Elmer’s, and while I first thought it just may have been an isolated incident (perhaps a bad batch) I have since purchased it from several different locations with the same results, and heard similar stories from others who have used it that live a great distance from me, so my only logical conclusion is that they have changed the formula.
I wrote to the company to inquire about this, and have yet to receive a response. This leaves me to assume that the formula did indeed change.
There are alternatives available as far as spray glue which work in applying the patterns, but the ones that seem to work the best are expensive (Supper 77 at about $20 per can) or don’t hold well (Krylon’s Easy Tack @ $8 per can.) I know there are other brands available, but they aren’t always available to everyone in different areas. This started me looking for completely alternative methods to apply the pattern that would be both reliable and cost effective.
One way was to use double sided masking tape. This is NOT the same as carpet tape, and turned out to be a bit of a task to hunt down. However, I have had a reasonable amount of success in tracking some down, and I will discuss that process in a later blog.
A third method, which I am going to discuss here in detail, is using full sheet labels, which are widely available everywhere. I posted a link to where I purchased mine in yesterday’s blog. I am in Canada, for those who aren’t aware, and I was able to purchase them HERE on Amazon. With taxes and additional shipping, the order came to about $30, which meant that each full sheet (8.5” x 11”) came to cost me 30 cents.
Here is the brand I purchased:
In the description, the labels were called “permanent.” While I don’t want them to be completely permanent, I do want them to stick for the time I am scroll sawing, so I felt that these would be desirable over the type of labels that can be repositioned.
I began by printing out my pattern on a full sheet.
I chose a pattern that had many curls and small details, as I find that is the type of cutting that causes the pattern to loosen up the most. When cutting thin slivers of wood, if the edges of the labels are even slightly loose, it causes the pattern to flap and lift and you spend more time trying to hold it down with your nail while cutting than actually paying attention to what you are doing. Any scroller that has experienced this knows what a pain it is and how distracting it can be. I have made many mistakes because of this happening and it makes cutting much more stressful and tedious.
You can see the fine detail in the pattern:
I also want to note that it is probably best to use this method on patterns that fill or nearly fill up the entire sheet. You wouldn’t want to cut one ornament from the center of the page, as you would be wasting most of the label. While you could probably go half and half and rerun the label through your printer twice, it isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
(NOTE: This is only ONE METHOD of applying the pattern. No one method is optimal for every situation. That is one of the reasons I am exploring several different ways that you can successfully and economically apply the pattern. You may use this for one cutting session and find that an alternative method makes more sense for another. I will explore other methods in subsequent posts.)
The first step was drilling. No problem at all here. Again, we have all experienced being half way through drilling the holes and having the pattern lift. It is very frustrating and difficult to replace the pattern in the exact same place to line up the already drilled holes. This stuck great!
In rough cutting the ornament from the board, I noticed something right away. You can see that the wood began burning exactly where the label ended. In all of my instructions, I recommend taping a full layer of either clear packaging tape over the entire pattern or blue painter’s tape under the pattern. This is the reason I do so. The adhesive in the tape helps the blade run cooler and pretty much eliminates any burning. It really WORKS and is much worth the extra effort to do so. The adhesive in the labels works the same way and when using them, it saves the cost and time and effort of applying a layer of tape over your designs. That is a big PLUS!
You can see in the picture that the burning started EXACTLY where the label ended. I was using 1/4” bird’s eye maple and a brand new Olson 2/0 regular reverse tooth scroll saw blade. I continued to use the blade for the rest of the ornament without any adverse consequences.
I cut the tiny lettering with no lifting whatsoever:
I then moved on to the curly border. If lifting was to occur, I would think it would happen here. But everything held nicely and I was able to really concentrate on my cutting without worrying or having to hold down pieces. The cutting continued perfectly.
I completed the entire ornament and the label still held. Now came the moment of truth – would I be able to remove it easily?
I began on the inside piece and used a small knife to lift the edge. It began to lift in one piece cleanly:
However, it did tear and I needed to use the knife a bit to assist me in removing it:
It did let go however, and it wasn’t at all like when I used too much spray adhesive and had the pattern cemented to the piece. With a little effort, it was fairly easy to remove.
The next part was the delicate fretwork border. Once again, the label didn’t come off in one piece, however with the help of the knife the label came off fairly easily:
Yes, it took a few minutes to remove it all, but in weighing the small amount of effort against the alternative of having the pattern lift as I was cutting, it was a clear decision. I would far prefer to have to work a bit after cutting rather than have a flapping pattern during the cutting process. To me it was a no-brainer.
Most important – when the label was removed, there was not a bit of tackiness or residue left behind to interfere with any finishing process that I would choose. In using the spray adhesive, I found that many times in order to keep the pattern sticking, enough was needed so that there was a residue left on the piece. This was compounded with the now bad mixes of the Elmer’s that I have been using.
Overall, I give this process a 7.5 on a scale from one to ten. On the upside, I was able to cut a very intricate pattern and not have to worry about the pattern lifting. Seeing that I was able to print six ornaments on one 30 cent sheet, this label cost me a mere 5 cents to use. Add to that I didn’t have to use an additional layer of blue painter’s tape to prevent the wood from burning and the cost went down even more.
On the down side, it did take a little time to remove from the piece. I suppose I could ‘blot’ it with something before applying it to the wood to ‘de-tack’ it a bit if I felt it was necessary, but I don’t see it as being that much of an effort in order to do so.
The bottom line was that I was able to really concentrate on what I was cutting and following my line, and it felt great to be able to not worry about the pattern coming off. It was well-worth the trade off.
With all the time and money we spend in supplies, I believe this is a very small cost to pay for a decent outcome. Had these pieces been stack cut, which is certainly possible, the cost of the label would naturally be a fraction of the nickel that it cost me.
Again – this probably isn’t the most efficient way to do everything. If you are unable to consolidate small pieces onto one sheet for printing, you may be better off using another method. But for things like full sheets of ornaments and plaques that take up the full page, I think this is a great way to do it. I know that is what I am going to be using from now on.
I hope you enjoyed this review. I will be reviewing other methods in the near future so that you can choose the right way for yourself to apply the pattern that is both cost effective and reliable and will make your cutting stress-free and pleasurable.
Have a wonderful day! :)
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"