You’ve been scroll sawing for awhile and are ready for your next adventure. You’re tired of cutting out silhouettes, puzzles and names and you simply want to try more.
But where do you start? What’s involved? Do you need other tools?
The answer is simple. Yes, you’ll need more tools, you’ll need some joinery skills (or be ready to start learning joinery), a little bit of patience and you’ll need to think about how your overall project is going to look when it’s finished. Planning is essential!
You’ve probably gotten away with cutting your lumber to saw up until this point with your scroll saw or bought the boards cut to a close dimension of what you’ve been looking for. Once you get into the larger woodworking projects, you’re going to need to go a step or two further.
Grab your scroll saw pattern and let’s get started with these great tips on building more involved scroll saw projects!
Tip #1: Study the Scroll Saw Pattern
You've figured out the big scroll saw pattern you want to build and have the pattern in hand. Let's open it up and take a look at what you're up against.
If you understand the plan before you start, everything will go a lot simpler. It's ok if you still have questions. You'll find your own answers by starting the build and maybe a little help.
Scroll Saw Patterns are normally full size vs being a blueprint. This allows you to copy the pattern to the piece of wood and cut it out. The difference with an advanced pattern is that you want to make sure that you understand where each of the pieces belong, how many you need and the exact size of the exterior of the piece.
The dimensions are very important for your scroll saw project to work. If they are not correct, it's like building a house that isn't square. You'll end up frustrated and your project won't look like you had anticipated.
Speaking of building houses, we want to build our projects like we're building a house. Studs and structure before the finish carpentry. Blueprints and architecture before the studs and structure. For the most part, we're building some kind of geometric square.
Some scroll saw patterns may have detailed instructions. Some advanced scroll saw patterns may rely on your woodworking skills.
The scroll saw patterns from Wildwood Designs are drawn just like you are going to build. Start building from the bottom up in the case of a standing piece of art. For something that hangs on the wall, it’s the same theory but from the back forward. Any structure needs a base, with a solid basement or base structure you’ll be off to a great start.
Tip #2 Start Cutting the Structure
Grab your ruler, it’s time to get started. You’ll need to identify the size of lumber you need.
Purchase the thickness necessary or plane the lumber to your desired thickness. Rip the piece to width and cut it to length.
You’ll need a table saw, a mitre saw and even a hand saw if your project isn’t a perfect square. You’re only going to start preparing lumber and working on the first layer (don’t get ahead of yourself).
If the layer calls for lower or upper support pieces. Cut the support pieces first. If there is an upper and a lower support on any floor, make them at the same time and make sure they match each other exactly. These are the pieces that you will attach your base panels to.
- Start with the pieces that make the walls. If they are all the same height, you’re going to want to set up a stop and cut them at the same time. Measure your first piece of wall (I like to start with the center front piece and work to the back. Remember if you are making a 45° angle on the pieces they will need to be cut so the back side fits your support piece.
- Cut the next piece and fit it to the first. Use green or blue tape or mini clamps to keep the pieces in place. Continue to cut and dry fit each piece into place. Once all the pieces of the base layer are fitting the way you’d like them, mark each piece with a pencil to identify it.
- If you’re stack scroll sawing, you can start setting up to scroll them out. Adhere your scroll saw pattern that matches each of the pieces and make those interior cuts. Scroll saw all the pieces on the first layer.
Tip #3 Starting Assembly
You’ve cut the pieces, you’ve scrolled them out. Now sand every piece and start your assembly.
I use the natural color of the wood on my pieces and don’t usually stain. Therefore, I sand to 120 grit or 150 grit. I like to glue and pin nail each piece to the support pieces, then glue to each other. Again, start from the front and work back.
Add your upper support piece, if called for, to the top making sure it is flush. Glue and nail it in place.
Don’t worry about the nail holes from the pin nailer (23 gauge nailer), you can easy put a spot of glue on them and sand lightly. They will fill and not be seen. You’ve mastered the Base Floor!!
Tip #4 Continuing the Assembly
Add the top floor layer onto the base by glueing and nailing it into place. Make sure your overhand is the same from side to side. The front normally has the same overhand as the sides. Depending on the pattern, the back of the layer may be flush or have an overhang.
You can add any extra trim or embellishments to the base layer. Window overlays, trim, steps etc. Once you’ve finished that, move on to the next layer.
Build it in the same manner as the first layer, from the bottom up. Make sure that it is centered and fits on that first layer. Continue with any successive layers until you’re to the top.
Tip #5 Roof Angles, Sloped Edges and Curves
You’re doing great and now you’re starting to approach some of the hardest parts. Most projects have a top, a roof or some other fancier procurement that is going to take a bit more work to get the fit and angles cut.
There are a few different ways to get your angles if they aren’t provided. You can use a protractor and lay it on the rise and run of the roof line. This will give you the angle. You can also use one of the many roof pitch calculators that are available.
Some of the angles that you may come across are a little more difficult to cut then what you may be used to for your advanced scroll saw project.
There is good news. You can cut those angles, you'll just need to think a little harder and use or learn a few more skills. How do I cut a 39° angle or worse yet a 53° angle. This is where a couple of practice pieces are critical.
You can set up a sled and your table saw to safely cut these. Even though most table saws will only cut to 45°, you can simply tip the board on its side and run it against the fence to create the steeper angles. If that doesn’t feel safe or you’re not comfortable, you can set up a shooting jig for your hand plane or if you happen to have a stationary belt sander, tilt the fence to your desired angle and sand away.
Most curved areas are made by making a series of trusses or supports. Place them along the curve and cover with a material overtop to make the curved area. You can also kerf the lumber to make it bend a little more for you.
Tip#6 The Proper Finish is Important
You have everything built and put together. The finish you put on your scroll saw project it what gives it the final touch.
Scroll sawn pieces can be a beast to finish. I prefer spray finishing.
Blow down your piece. Check for any glue spots or any other impurities that you need to fix. Get everything as clean as possible before you start.
Make a lazy susan turntable to use to finish your scroll saw project. This will let you move the scroll saw project quickly and easily as you put the spray finish on it.
I prefer a water based finish and sometimes put a little bit of tint into it to make my project pop. Experiment with any tint or toners on some scrap pieces of wood to get the color and effect you like. My first couple of light layers are always gloss spray finish. This will seal the wood and keep everything clear, even if I don’t want a gloss finish on it at the end.
I then apply another couple of light coats (these could be with the toner). A clear gloss coat over those. Sand lightly any rough spots with 400 grit sandpaper. And now you’re ready for your final coats, usually two light coats of my preferred finish.
Let you advanced scroll saw project dry and harden in between coats. Don’t get in a hurry when it comes to putting a finish on your scroll saw project! You’ve spent tons of time on this advanced scroll saw project.
After the final coats are cured. I like to take a little spray wax on 600-800 grit paper and touch up the surfaces. If someone touches your piece of art, it will feel smooth and perfect. Hey you might even think it is a great gift to give someone!