My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1048: Scroll Sawing a Dinosaur? I think not!

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 05-31-2013 10:48 AM 3096 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1047: Ready for the Scrollsaw Part 1048 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 1049: Getting There . . . »

Yesterday evening, I was directed to a forum topic here on Lumberjocks. The title of the post is “Scroll saws vs Lasers – Is Scroll sawing Doomed?” and you can read it here.

Naturally, being in the position that I am in, I am somewhat curious as to what people think about this subject. After all, if scroll saws are doomed, then my own doom as a pattern designer for the scroll saw is soon to follow.

For now however, I am not very worried.

In reading the comments so far, while there are a few that are certain that the scroll saw will go the way of the dinosaur, for the most part people seem to feel that they are here to stay. I also think that scroll saws are going to be around for a while. Even though lasers can be used in several applications, they do have their limitations and I can think of many instances where the scroll saw is preferred over the laser.

First off, lasers are limited by the thickness of the material that they cut. While they may be good for some purposes, in general, the material needs to be very thin for a laser to do the job. This is fine if what you intend to cut is somewhere around 1/8” thin, but I would find that quite limiting as to what you can produce. I realize that it is possible to do multiple passes to achieve cutting on greater thicknesses, but I wouldn’t think that it would be very efficient to do so. And I am assuming that efficiency would be what you are aiming for if you are using a CNC.

One advantage of using a CNC or similar machine is that you are able to “sculpt” pieces using the machine. My friend Lis here on Lumberjocks (tyskkvinna) does some amazing projects using the CNC router. One of my favorites of hers, which I purchased for my son, was this awesome Periodic Table that she carved with her router. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of thought and programming that went into her work! Lis certainly brings programming the router into a high-tech art form. It is far more than a matter of “pushing a few buttons.”

Yes, the scroll saw is what some would consider “low tech” – just as a non-computerized sewing machine is considered “low tech.” But there are still people who love to create and design and sew their own clothing and find a great deal of satisfaction from doing so.

A large part of why we do woodworking in the first place is because it fulfills our need to be creative. I realize that some here (like myself) are involved in woodworking to earn a living, and I am lucky enough to realize that what I do for a living also feeds my need to be creative and give me a wonderful sense of accomplishment with each design I draw, cut and finish. While some people may use woodworking strictly in an industrial sense, many others are able to gracefully blend and marry their passion for creating with making a living.

Dan Mosheim comes to mind as someone who has successfully made a living from creating pieces by hand. If you browse his project gallery you can immediately see that not only does he create functional pieces, but pieces that are beautiful too and will over time become heirlooms to those who are fortunate enough to own them. This is accomplished not only with the use of power tools, but also by many hours of hands-on “low tech” labor. Not everything can be automated successfully to provide the same level of excellence.

These are only a couple of examples of the many hundreds that are here on the Lumberjocks site alone.

In speaking with Ray Seymore from Seyco (one of the leading distributors of the Excalibur Scroll Saw in the USA) they are selling so many Excalibur saws these days that it is difficult to keep them in stock. I have heard from several customers of mine first-hand that there is a waiting list for a new Excalibur saw. That certainly wouldn’t indicate to me that people are ready to put the scroll saw out to pasture quite yet.

I am sure that there are many people that find that CNC machines and routers are a useful tool for their woodworking purposes. One day, I hope to own one myself perhaps. But even if I were to have one sitting here, I don’t think that I would be ready to retire my scroll saw any time soon.

I was happy when I read the responses on the above mentioned forum. While there were some that said they thought the scroll saw was on its way out, most of the people who checked in who actually used the scroll saw voiced that they thought it was here to stay. I believe the reason for this is that the people who scroll saw, do so not so much for the finished results or project, but also what plays a huge part in it is that the process of scroll sawing is in itself enjoyable and satisfying and leaves us with a sense of accomplishment.

Just like when Britboxmaker finished one of his amazing boxes, and sits back and thinks of his accomplishments and starts planning the next one – what he would do differently, what he liked about this one, etc., when I finish a scroll saw project, I sit back with that same sense of accomplishment and think about not only the final piece, but how much I enjoyed creating it. It is something that feeds the soul of any creative individual (INCLUDING people like Lis who accomplishes the same with her programming expertise and woodworking skills!)

Whether your tools are scroll saws or band saws or table saws or even programming a computer, we all enjoy doing something that is challenging to us and we love that feeling of accomplishment that accompanies the successes that we achieve doing so.

I think that there is plenty of room for BOTH the scroll saw and the CNC machines. I think that each of them have their purpose, and there will be loyal followers for each of them. It is a matter of personal choice it depends on what you like to do best to be creative.

While a scroll saw may only be as perfect as the person operating it, the CNC in all its perfection also has its limitations on thickness and speed. It is like comparing apples to oranges.

I didn’t want to hijack the aforementioned post by offering a lengthy reply there. As you see, I had a lot to say about the subject. I invite you to go to the original post and voice your own thoughts on the matter, as it is very interesting to see others thoughts on the subject.

I am glad that this topic was addressed. We are all different people here with different goals and reasons that we do our woodworking projects. These differences are something that makes woodworking so interesting, and the diversity of we woodworkers, along with our passion for what we do is what keeps it fresh and exciting. At least that is how I feel about it.

No matter which method you use to be creative, the most important thing is that you are enjoying yourself and having FUN being creative. Life is too short not to enjoy every minute of it you can, and we need to make the most of our time and spend it doing something we love with passion. For me, that is scroll sawing and painting. For you, it may be something different.

I know however, that doing something that I love every day really makes for a good life. And sharing it with you all only adds to that happiness.

I wish you all a wonderful Friday! I got my cutting done yesterday, and I should have something to show you by tomorrow. Have a great weekend!

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

18 comments so far

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3556 days

#1 posted 05-31-2013 11:47 AM

Long Live the Scroll Saw Sheila!
Mine is already a fossil (twenty years old this year!), but I won’t be trading it in anytime soon… It’s too versatile!
It’s also just plain Fun… :)

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2973 days

#2 posted 05-31-2013 11:54 AM

Hummm . . . If your scroll saw is a fossil at 20, I am 2 1/2 times a fossil! (YIKES!!)

I agree with you Mike. Nothing can replace the fun of scroll sawing. There is something magical about removing tiny pieces of wood and being left with something awesome! It certainly is something I enjoy! :)


-- 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 2938 days

#3 posted 05-31-2013 12:16 PM

Many years ago, in a former life so to speak, I programmed CNC machines. I can tell you that the amount of work is HUGH. Now I am sure the process is most likely much easier these days. YES they have limitations. Also, when considering price there is no match. A person could purchase a god entry level scrollsaw for $150.

Yesterday I was making three dimensional Christmas ornaments. The thrill of finally getting to peal all the parts back and seeing the finished ornament just can be replaced – in my mind. Sure, getting ready for a craft show would be much easier. Just punch a button and create 100 of an item. I will stick with my DeWalt as long as it runs and I can run it.

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

View scrollsaw's profile


13032 posts in 3907 days

#4 posted 05-31-2013 12:24 PM

The scrollsaw it bring out the art in woodworking just like inlay work does .Great blog Sheila

-- Todd

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2973 days

#5 posted 05-31-2013 12:31 PM

Thanks to both of you for sharing your points of view. My friend, Rick Hutcheson has a great article on CNC vs the Scroll Saw and you can read it here:

It is just another angle at the same idea. :)


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

View kepy's profile


293 posts in 2327 days

#6 posted 05-31-2013 02:02 PM

Another factor to consider. How many of the people using scroll saws today could afford to buy a CNC machine or even want to do the production that is necessary to justify them.

-- Kepy

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2973 days

#7 posted 05-31-2013 02:37 PM

Yes, that is another good point, Kepy. We found that when Keith got his lathe, not only did he have to pay the initial outlay for the lathe itself, but as all you lathe workers know – there is a huge sinkhole of tools and “accessories” that you need to purchase with it. While the initial cost may be affordable, it is the add-ons that get you, and make it difficult to justify the expense as a hobby and not an income generating tool. With the scroll saw, all you need is a drill or drill press and blades and you are pretty much good to go. While I don’t highly recommend entry level saws ( they are more trouble than they are worth sometimes) they are OK for someone who is just testing the water and don’t require a huge outlay of cash to experiment.

Good thoughts! :)


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

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3090 days

#8 posted 05-31-2013 03:04 PM

I doubt very much whether the scroll saw is on the way out. People still use hand planes, yet there are power jointers (planers). People use routers, yet there are CNC machines and lasers. Etc, etc. Each to their own. Different tools suit different styles and needs ( as well as pockets). Scroll on, Sheila.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2976 days

#9 posted 05-31-2013 04:24 PM

I like the technology growing but only when people needs them. When I posted a forum about handsawing to make 1/8 ” the best is rip by band saw. Almost all prevented me from using the hand saw because of loosing the wood.Your scroll sawing will not perish because people still believes on hands of those people who can produce extraordinary work….. I never see a wooden violin made from CNC because no one will buy it. There are now plastics combined with wood laminates in terms of violin but what counts is the sound that only wood and handcrafted can produce. Paul on chevalet for marquetry… Benji is on his gouging and carving tools…. and many of us using conventional techniques.
Btw. I miss Liz and Larry who has laser… please note that they had not posted scrollwork done by laser cutting. I think, the machine still depends on the person who uses it. So keep it going. Remember the hard days that you fought from the years back. Now it is different…people had a lot of plastic boxes but they like more boxes from me. I am proud of my work too because it is anachievement.

Have a nice weekend.

-- Bert

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2973 days

#10 posted 05-31-2013 04:32 PM

I think most of us feel that way Martyn. Just because there is one type of tool available, doesn’t mean that everyone will use the same thing. There are many paths to a single destination.

I truly agree with your thinking Bert! There are so many wonderful artists here (too many to name) whose work I admire so very much. Yours included! Part of the creation of these pieces is the process, and hand’s on techniques that can’t be replicated by machines. I am not at all putting machinery down, as scroll saws are also machines, but as with most of them, it is the operator that dictates the task and therefore the outcome. I still maintain that just because the CNC machines are here to stay, doesn’t mean we need to scrap our scroll saws. Many scrollers will tell you that the journey is the best part of the process. That is what I always think, and I don’t think I am alone!

Thank you for your input. I miss seeing Lis here too. I do see her on Facebook though and she is busy as always making wonderfully creative things and inspiring many others to do the same.

You have a wonderful weekend as well. :)

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

View Celticscroller's profile


1269 posts in 2127 days

#11 posted 05-31-2013 05:03 PM

Hi Sheila, creating is the important thing and the end product can be achieved in many ways. I enjoy the process and I’m quite happy to use my hand tools to carve a project and take a lot longer than someone who is doing the same project with power carving tools. I like to feel the wood and see the piece coming together slowly whether I’m using a scroll saw or hand tools. I also still have my old 30 year old sewing machine which still gets used from time to time.
Have fun with the journey. Enjoy your day.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Clovis Perryweather's profile

Clovis Perryweather

1 post in 1875 days

#12 posted 05-31-2013 06:35 PM

CNC today is easy to program we use CAM software and there is simply no way you can compete with a scroll saw however a good scroll saw does not cost $120,000.00 . Anything that can be done by hand can be done faster and easier with CNC in fact you can do much more intricate work with a CNC machine but it just is not the same to me at least as some one with skilled hands. You do not need to have any artistic skills at all to cut out anything on a CNC anyone can do it but not many have the skills to make these creations by hand and have them come out as good looking as some of the things I have seen here. I have a shop full of high dollar CNC machines but I consider something made by a skilled hand to be far more valuable than something I can pump out on my equipment and I think it kind of takes the fun out of it as well. Lasers are not limited to 1/8 material thickness they can cut steel 1/2 thick or more and are very fast and very accurate but they are made for cutting through material not for pocketing they are working on new technology called laser caving for pockets but it is not perfected yet. I have seen a lot of 3-D puzzles created out of wood using a laser and if your plan is to mass produce and sell them then yes a laser is the only way to go. The pride in your finished project to me at least is much more satisfying when done by hand rather than by machine

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3090 days

#13 posted 05-31-2013 07:07 PM

Oh and thanks for the mention in your blog :)

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2973 days

#14 posted 05-31-2013 07:52 PM

Like you Anna – I love the process. Seeing things come to life that I made are much of the fun of doing them. I used to sew all my kids clothes too and I made my daughter matching hats with each outfit. It was fun and adorable and she remembers that to this day!

Clovis – Thank you for the information on the laser cutters. I haven’t researched them at all and I am amazed that they can cut that deep. It must be something to watch. As I said, I think there are uses for both methods and it is up to the individual to decide which one suits them best, as well as their budget.

Martyn – you are someone who has been a great inspiration for me to step one step higher and do better. Seeing your work evolve these past three years has been a pleasure to watch, and I appreciate all you share with us here on Lumberjocks. Congratulations on your 100th project! It is incredible how they just keep getting better and better! :)


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

View quicksilver's profile


195 posts in 2641 days

#15 posted 05-31-2013 08:53 PM

I have always looked up to the designers, artists, innovators, and disrupters like the Tesla company.
I’m not going to look up to a machine, much less any politician.
Don’t want to live long enough to become a Borg like Ray Kurzweil (futurist) is now talking about.
Keep up the good work all

-- Quicksilver

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