My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #1167: Wonderful Progress (And a Bonus Mini-Lecture!) ;)

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 11-17-2013 12:22 PM 2236 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1166: Ready for the Saw Part 1167 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 1168: An "Unorganized" Blog »

I had another busy day yesterday, although it was a good one. Not only did I spend the afternoon cutting out my new ornaments on my new Excalibur (which was simply just FUN!) but I also spent the morning getting to work on my next pattern for another ornament set.

The set that I am working on (SLD445 Traditional Damask Ornaments) is not for the faint of heart. I wanted something that would push the envelope a little bit and I think these designs qualify.

I wanted to make them a bit smaller, as I am tired of making larger ornaments that can be heavy or look clunky. As a result, the detailed Damask designs can be a bit tricky to cut. (I do want to note though that people can certainly enlarge the patterns to suit their own taste or needs – making them a little easier to accomplish!) To me – it is best to start small and allow for others to make it bigger than expect the design to be reduced in size and made impossible to cut. Just my thoughts.

By the end of the day, I had finished cutting the entire set:

I really, really like how these look. I have a couple of different finishing options as well. While the ornaments can be left flat (I cut an additional set to leave as such) I also wanted the option of making them slightly dimensional using my favorite self-framing technique (as shown by those in the photo.) Since the average size of these ornaments are only about 3” – 3.5” in diameter, there is a need to be a bit more precise in cutting. I didn’t want to leave a large margin around the design area in case one wanted the ornaments flat. They would have looked too plain.

The picture above is that of the ornaments right off the saw. I didn’t even sand or vacuum them yet. I will be doing more of that today.

I need to note here that my new saw is outstanding. I can’t tell you how much pure pleasure I get from using a tool that is of such high quality. I am frequently asked to recommend a saw from people. Unfortunately, many people also add the footnote “under $300” or something similar. In all reality, it is like being asked to recommend an excellent airplane that someone can purchase “under $10,000.” It just doesn’t exist.

I am certainly not being a snob about this matter. Believe me – I am not a wealthy woman. Every penny I have I have to earn and I need to watch what I spend the money I do have on very carefully. But for ME, this is a priority and I honestly and truly think that the Excalibur 21” saw is the BEST on the market. It is only my opinion, but that is what people have asked.

When buying a cheap, $200 or so scroll saw, you are going to get just what you paid for. When people ask me to recommend a cheap saw, it is as if we are living in the 1970’s and they are asking if I would recommend a “Pacer” or a “Pinto.” (No offense meant and no letters defending them are necessary – I have owned both models of cars!)

The bottom line is GOOD QUALITY COSTS MORE.

We read all the time that people want to promote LOCAL industry. (Buy USA and all of that) Yet – they want to do so at China’s prices. I am not understanding this philosophy at all. North American workers demand higher wages than China. That is just a fact and one that I agree with. However, paying those wages comes with a cost. It means that we have to understand that those higher prices we are paying for local/home made items is going back to help our countrymen (women) and neighbors. Even those of us who do not excel in economics can understand that.

I find myself asking myself a simple question when I am in the store and purchasing something:

“Would I rather pay a little more for something and support my local economy, or pay less and support China?”

To me the answer is simple.

I find it odd that so many people complain about how much “stuff” they have and how they need to organize. The simple fact is – the cheaper things are, the more we buy and possibly – the more we waste. For myself, I find that if I spend a bit more for something, I tend to take pretty good care of it. I try not to look at everything that I buy as “disposable” and I try to make things last. That is a lot easier for me to do when I make an investment in something rather than get the cheapest thing possible.

After all – if you are paying bottom dollar for something and you know that the workers who created it (China) are getting pennies as wages (China) and that not only did it come from half way around the world (China) but also the original manufacturer made money off of selling it (China) to a store that is STILL selling it for a profit – how much quality do you think went into making it? Seriously?

Cheaper isn’t always better. To me – I would rather have ONE quality thing that I use than 10 pieces of junk that I got for the lowest price. The land fills are full enough, thank you.

I’ll get off of my soap box now, but I suppose that with the holiday season approaching and seeing all the “stuff” out there for the sole purpose of spreading “holiday cheer”, it really made me think. How much of what we see in the form of “decorations” etc. is just crap? How much of it will last one season (if we are lucky) and will be sitting in the garbage and adding to the mounting landfills by next year? I hope that this holiday season we all think twice before we purchase.

I know so many wonderfully talented creative artists that are painters, woodworkers, soap makers, sculptors and so forth that make incredible heirloom-quality items that would be passed down from generation to generation. Most of them offer very reasonable prices for their talent and while it may be a little higher than Wally world or the dollar store charges, I would think that it would be better to give ONE nice hand-made gift rather than ten pieces of garbage from one of the cheapo retailers.

Think about it.

I have never shopped on Black Friday – nor do I ever intend to do so. My goal is (and will continue to be) to support local talent and fellow artisans not only throughout the holiday season, but all year long. I would rather pay a little more and buy a lesser quantity of gifts and encourage and promote those among us who put their heart and soul into what they do. That is the only way that they will be able to continue on.

I think a lot when I am sitting at my saw cutting. It is quiet time for me when I am lost in doing something that I love to do. Yesterday when I was cutting these pieces out, the pure pleasure of the process couldn’t escape me. While I enjoyed cutting on my DeWalt saw, it just doesn’t compare with this machine. The control and precision that the Excalibur offers is unsurpassed. And it shows in my cutting:

(For those of you who want to know – I used an Olson #2 reverse-tooth blade on two layers of 3/8” ash to cut these. I could have used a #2/0 if I wanted a smaller blade, but the #2 offered wonderful control and I still got nice sharp corners and peaks.)

Today I am going to do some finishing on several projects. I am involved in some ornament exchanges and I am going to work on them and get them ready to be mailed out tomorrow. I also have some more drawing to do on the next set of ornaments, which will be a bit of a simpler pattern for someone who is newer to scroll sawing, but I hope every bit as beautiful.

I am also planning a couple of ways to finish these. As I mentioned, they aren’t even dusted off yet. I have a couple of ideas to make them really outstanding and look forward to seeing them done as well.

As always, there is so much good ahead. I look forward to another wonderfully productive day and I wish you one as well.

Happy Sunday! :)

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

11 comments so far

View Handtooler's profile


1553 posts in 2127 days

#1 posted 11-17-2013 03:18 PM

I appreciate your comments regarding quality and costs. You are very right. That being on your rating heirachy where you ld you place the Hagner 14” variable speed? If you’ve used it. I paid $750.00 then and it was considered near top of the line. I’m aware that the Excalibers have achieved that position now. I gave this saw to my wife for christmas about 1years ago and she used it a lot for several tears and got rather porficient. Embroidery now perks her interest. Hope she gets back to it smoe soon.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2915 days

#2 posted 11-17-2013 03:36 PM

Hi, Russell:
I also owned a Hegner saw when I lived in Chicago. I thought that the saw was rock-solid and steady, and a very well-made tool, but I thought it had some limitations.

-I didn’t like the way the blade was clamped in. I found the tool and blade holding piece to be awkward and cumbersome and it took a good deal of time to get it ‘right’. I don’t know why with a high end saw they couldn’t modify the blade holder to be easier and more efficient. I realize that they have an accessory piece that you can purchase separately to ease the blade changes, but when spending over $700 for a saw, I don’t feel that you should have to purchase something that should have been on there in the first place. Just my opinion.

-I didn’t like the tension as much, as (at least on my saw) it is located on the back of the arm. This again was rather a pain to get used to and it was hard to get it just right.

-The table was much smaller than either the DeWalt or the Excalibur. While it has a smaller ‘footprint’ in the shop, it is not as useful if doing larger pieces.

-I don’t believe the table tilts in both directions (please correct me if I am wrong!) I do a lot of bevel cutting with my self-framing plaques and ornaments, and feel this is an important feature for me. Also, I think that the tilting HEAD of the saw that the Excalibur is another superior feature. Just yesterday when I cut the above ornaments, I thought about how EASY it made to do the final bevel cut. It is FAR easier than cutting where the piece is on an angle and gravity has a play in it.

Also – Ray at has a stellar reputation for customer service and he hasn’t disappointed me – even though I am a country away. I also know Hanns from Hegner, and he is a find gentleman and a wonderful businessman who stands behind his products. I also like him a lot personally, as he is a very nice guy. I have mentioned my concerns to him in the past and I think Hegner is happy with the way their products are, as they have been that way for a long time and I don’t see any change coming soon.

I hope this clarifies things a bit. When you look at all these things that are important to ME, you can see why I chose what I did. I realize that there are a lot of happy Hegner owners out there, and I am glad that they are happy with their saws. I do think they are excellent machines, but if I had to choose, I would still go with Excalibur. :)

Thanks for your input, Sheila

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

View Handtooler's profile


1553 posts in 2127 days

#3 posted 11-17-2013 03:58 PM

Thanks for your time this morning for the reply. Again, I totally agree with your comments. My wife has the wedged shaped blade holding attachments, but they are also cumbersome to take off for through hole cuttings; and; yes, the table only tilts left. I don’t know the correct tensioning, as I’ve only gotten to use it about three times; and when she uses it she adjust several times just a bit till she’s happy. The dust blower isn’t the most effective aspect either. But she selected it at the time because of the least viberations of any she tried, and table size was sufficient over the 20” which was over $300.00 more. So glad you’ve got the Exclaiber’s new product with the tilting head and very large table as you can really find the utility extremely useful as a professional scroll artist. Your designs are absolutely superb.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View justoneofme's profile


639 posts in 2475 days

#4 posted 11-17-2013 04:11 PM

Glad to hear that you are loving your Excalibur Sheila. 35 years from now you will still be loving it … trust me!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

View Celticscroller's profile


1269 posts in 2068 days

#5 posted 11-17-2013 09:25 PM

Hi Sheila, I agree with you – paying for quality pays off! As Elaine says, you will be enjoying your Excalibur for many years to come.
I love the new damask ornaments. I see some rhinestones in the finishing process! Did you stack cut these and then do the bevel cuts individually or did you cut each one individually? Looking forward to the pattern.

-- Anna, Richmond BC

View Bluepine38's profile


3379 posts in 3081 days

#6 posted 11-17-2013 09:25 PM

I agree with your idea of buying quality and supporting our own workers. How can we expect to earn a
living wage, if we do not help make it possible? Very beautiful ornaments, guess I am going to have to give
up, order your patterns and try it myself.

-- As ever, Gus-the 79 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2799 days

#7 posted 11-18-2013 12:20 AM

That little recess really makes these jump even more. Beautiful work, Sheila.

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

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 2978 days

#8 posted 11-18-2013 05:04 AM

Hi Sheila; I couldn’t agree with you more about NOT BUYING CHINA products. you do get what you pay for.
Can you tell me if there is a need to own a 30 inch excaliber vs. a 21 inch? I want to do marquetry at some point in a 20 inch tall cabinet door. but then, I may never. Is it better to be overly prepared, once; then wishing you had bought a 30 inch while having a 21 inch?

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2915 days

#9 posted 11-18-2013 12:10 PM

Thanks for all the support on this. I am glad you all see my point and happy that you agree with me. Bottom line – I would rather have LESS of something and pay a little MORE, knowing that I am helping the economy here than buy MORE of some that cost LESS and have inferior quality. We can’t have it all. :)

Doordude – I don’t regret getting the 21” saw at all. In fact, Keith and I have had the discussion that we probably would have done well enough with the smaller saw. (16”) I am not really comfortable cutting larger pieces and neither is Keith. In the odd instance we needed a deeper saw, we always have (UGH!!) spiral blades to fall back on.

I am truly happy with the 21” saw though, and you may be as well. If you don’t think you will use it, I would say go for the 21”. :)


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

View doordude's profile


1085 posts in 2978 days

#10 posted 11-18-2013 05:51 PM

Sheila, you’re right; I wish more people bought items like you and I. quality always trumps cheap!
thanks for the 21 inch feed back :)

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9228 posts in 2915 days

#11 posted 11-18-2013 08:56 PM

You are very welcome! Good luck! :)


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

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