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David - Machinist in wood
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I thought I'd post these carvings I did for Christmas presents for some friends. I guess they're sort of like Guitar or Lute rosettes only much larger and not quite as delicate. I have done several of these and they are well received. They aren't difficult; just time consuming and tedious. They do LOOK difficult, though, and are therefore impressive to most non-woodworkers, but the big effort is time. I've done some big ones that took 80 hours to complete, and these little ones, about 11" x 7", take me about 25 to 30 hours (but then, I'm maybe a little slow). I'll apologize in advance for the lengthy post, but I assume the following techniques, while normal activity for some, may be new to others. Also, by outlining each step, y'all might point out better ways to do this sort of project. Enjoy.

Drilling, Scrollwork, and Design
Mahogany seems to work well and looks good, so that is what I use most of the time for this sort of work. I first resaw the mahogany and finish plane and sand to about 1/4" thick. The pattern is drawn in CorelDraw and I typically use the Lincoln font. (It should be noted that this is a design I just came up with one day and I don't have a clue whether the leaves and grapes look like anything real.) My goal is to make the design light and airy with as few points as possible connecting the letters. This tends to make the piece fragile and delicate, but that is the look for which I strive. That is probably why I take so long to make one of these. For me, it gets very tedious and I can't usually work more than a few hours at a time without getting sloppy. I usually leave some room around the pattern, so my work piece ends up being at least an inch larger all the way around than the finished piece. I print the pattern on 24 pound paper and glue it to the mahogany with yellow glue drastically weakened with water. Setting the piece aside for at least a week to let it stabilize is one of the hardest steps - I usually want to start right away. It will definitely curl slightly toward the paper. I've thought about gluing paper to both sides but find that it stabilizes regardless.

Next, I drill as many holes as necessary to get the scrollsaw blade through the design. After doing a few, you begin to learn the best places to drill and don't waste so much time with extra holes. You still end up with many holes! I cut the thinnest and most delicate areas around the letters first. That way, if I mess up, I can start over early in the project.

If I slip up on the leaves or grapes it doesn't really matter. However, people take exception when you misspell their name by accidentally turning a "T" into an "I" ;)

By the way, unless your finished project looks exactly like the pattern, don't give a copy of the pattern with the gift! At least if you do, go back and modify the pattern to match the finished piece.

Carving
I use both a Dremel and very sharp carving tools to shape the leaves, grapes, and vines or branches. I use the Dremel with a router base and drop the branches at least 1/8" below the surface of the letters. I drop the leaves at least 1/16" where they meet the letters, but I usually do this with carving tools. The rest of the carving is up to individual interpretation of the ultimate design. Sometimes the leaves and grapes are well contoured; other times I just lightly relieve the edges and sand to suit.

Border
The border is simply mahogany cut to fit and mitered at the corners. I've always just glued the border on with yellow glue and that seems to do just fine. I miter the corners on my disc sander. Masking tape is a suitable clamp until the glue sets up. Before gluing the border, I remove the remaining paper with a little water dripped on and rubbed off with my fingers. Seems to work just fine.

Finishing
After the wood is fully dry from removing the paper, I sand lightly to prepare for the finish. I wouldn't begin to stain something like this because I'd be afraid of breaking some of the more delicate portions in wiping the stain. I've thought of using analine dye and compressed air to blow off the excess. However, I think the best approach is to use toning lacquers to achieve the color, then topcoat with a few coats of Nitrocellulose lacquer. This way I don't have to handle or rub the carving.

Please understand, this is no Grinling Gibbons carving! Not even close! Just a design I came up with one day and everybody I've given one to has really enjoyed the end product. I could probably make some changes to the design, and may one day, but this works and it's fun. Give it a try, I think you'll enjoy making some.

Thanks for viewing!
 

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HALL OF FAMER
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This is an awesome looking project and you definitely do some beautiful work. I love the entire piece.
I am a little confused as to why you have so many blade entry holes and from my experience, I would think that you could save yourself a lot of time and effort by minimizing your holes to one, per interior cut. I would think that by drill so many holes, you may weaken the wood causing some breakage during cutting.
I would also suggest a spray adhesive for your original pattern application. You can spray a generous coating on a pattern, let it dry for 3 minutes to allow it to tack up, and then rub it down to the wood. That would also eliminate having to wait for the diluted yellow glue to dry. The removal of the pattern is as simple as applying heat from a heat gun to soften the glue and the pattern peels right off. A little mineral spirits on a paint brush easily cleans off any glue residue in even the most delicate of areas with no breaking of your work piece.
These are the only two things that I would do differently and of course, whatever works for you is what works best. That's what I love about woodworking. There are about 550 ways to do each individual process and as long as you are being safe and having fun, who cares what method you are using.
Thanks for sharing this project with us. It really is awesome. :thumbsup::thumbsup:
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I never really thought about a spray adhesive but might give that a shot on my next one. Of course, I have plenty of yellow glue and water so my built in 'frugal meter' kicks in.

As for the holes, I typically only use one entry point per section. The additional holes are there for convenient places to make turns and stopping points when needed since I seldom have the luxury of standing at the scroll saw for an extended period without interruption. Stopping and starting with the blade in a hole large enough for there to be no surprises makes this an easy project to do over an extended timeframe. I haven't really noticed that it gets weak in any area until the pieces get real then and then the holes and interior sections are gone anyway but I have not considered that before - good point, thanks! Maybe that's why these take me 25-30 hours to complete! ;)
 

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Very nice. :thumbsup:

Another thing I've had success with is re-positionable glue sticks. The stuff holds the patterns nicely and pattern removal is a breeze. An additional plus is that the sticks are not going to apply glue to the surrounding area the way spray glues do.

The mineral spirit trick works great to remove any excess glue from the wood.
 

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I would also suggest a spray adhesive for your original pattern application. You can spray a generous coating on a pattern, let it dry for 3 minutes to allow it to tack up, and then rub it down to the wood. That would also eliminate having to wait for the diluted yellow glue to dry. The removal of the pattern is as simple as applying heat from a heat gun to soften the glue and the pattern peels right off. A little mineral spirits on a paint brush easily cleans off any glue residue in even the most delicate of areas with no breaking of your work piece.

+1 for the spray adhesive. I always have a can in my shop. It's cheap (~$5/can) and seems to go a long, long way. It doesn't get much easier than just grabbing a can off of your shelf and having it hold perfectly for as long as you need. When I use it, I try and let it pre-dry long enough that it's at the point where it won't be permanent but isn't like a Post-it note, either. Sort of an in between level of tacky. That way it holds for as long as I need it to, but peels off nicely without a bunch of fuss.

Also, very, very nice scroll/carving work. As a rookie scroller, I'm impressed. :thumbsup:'

Jonathan
 

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That's artistry. The other thing that I really like is the vintage saw, itself.
No need (apparently) for a 2014 Rolls-Royce version! Good for you.
Q: What brand of blades do you prefer? Anything special about those?
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the comments - I have a blast doing these. I've never used one of the newer scroll saws, only this vintage (mine is late 30's, early 40's - looked it up but forgot the actual year). The blades are just standard Delta issue - 5" long, .024" thick, .062" wide, 9.5 tpi.
 

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Thanks for the info. I have a fairly modern Delta, gathering dust and wood carving chips.
Couple of projects that I should tackle when I get home in a few weeks.
I need to make a stock extension for a Savage .22cal bolt. Trolling for ideas to cut & carve something
absolutley outrageous. Guerini it ain't but there's fun in trying.
 
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