Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Scroll saw walnut box part 2

Hi All,
Carrying on from last week regarding the walnut box here is the next step. I took the image of the single fuchsia and copied it.
Then I pasted it several times into a new image and moved each one about until I came up with something that I liked.
I then printed off the image and made some more alteration by hand. For instance, the three fuchsia an the left would be left dangling once the wood had been cut away, so I joined them to the bottom of the wood via the stamens.

I find that when doing a pattern for cutting that it becomes a lot clearer if I colour the wood that is to be removed with the scroll saw. Please see the picture below; the areas in blue are the ones that will be cut out.
 The design is now stuck onto the wood with temporary spray adhesive and I have drilled the entry holes for the scroll saw blades. You can also see, on both edges, the markings for the box joints which I will cut out first.

I have also made some notes on the drawing regarding blade sizes and before we go any further this would be a good point to give you some information on scroll saw blades, especially if you are thinking of investing in a scroll saw.

Firstly, there are two types of scroll saw blade; plain end and pin end. Whatever you do, please make sure your saw takes plain end blades. Do not, I repeat, do not buy a saw which takes pin end blades only. The reason for this is when you are making inside cuts you will have to thread your saw blade through the wood via drilled holes. If you look at the drilled holes between the stamens, you will see that they are very small and a pin end blade won't go through small holes or even reasonably big holes.

The second thing you need to take into account when purchasing a saw is, how easy is it going to be to unclamp the blade and re-thread it through the wood for every section in the design you are working on. If you take the design above, the blade needs to be threaded through the holes 17 times and that is just for one side of the box. So, quick release clamps are almost a must if you are going to take scroll sawing seriously. Just imagine messing about with screwdrivers or other tools every time you want to cut a new section. By the time I have finished this box I will have clamped and unclamped the blade at least 80 times and that is without changing the blades to do the box joints.

Now you may be wondering at this point why it would be necessary to change the blade when doing the box joints because it looks like a straight forward outside cut. Well it is, but bigger blades cut straighter lines. Here is a picture of blades at both ends of the spectrum. A number 1, which is the thinnest and a number 12 which is the biggest.
So, when I make the horizontal cuts on the edges of the design I use a number 12 blade to give me the straightest possible line. And, to save me changing blades too often, I do the horizontal cuts on all four sides of the box while I have the number 12 blade in the saw.

Now here is the clever bit. When it comes to making the vertical cut I can get out of trying to saw around the sharp corner by using a number 1 blade. This blade is so thin that it will actually slide sideways down the space made by the number 12 blade. The result is that I can quickly make the vertical cuts without the need to cut any corners. Care does need to be taken to get the cut as straight as possible, but it is only a small distance so is pretty easy.

I hope all that makes sense. Please let me know if you need any clarification. In my next post I will tell you about the type of blade I prefer and will show you how I got on after cutting the wood. There should also be a bit of pyrography in there too.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Walnut Box

Hi All,
Firstly, regarding the title of this post. I'd like to point out that it concerns a box made from walnut wood and not a box to keep walnuts in.

Anyway, I had this idea to make a box with my scroll saw and decorate it with a design of fuchia flowers. I would burn the flowers into the wood with my pyrography iron and then paint them. The box would have fret work sides and top and as such should be suitable as a pot-pourri container.

One of the main reasons for purchasing a scroll saw was the scope it would give me in making boxes for my pyrography work and I thought this project would be good practice. Over the next three or four posts I will go through the process in detail, from the purchase of the wood to the completed project.

The starting point with any project revolving a scroll saw or pyrography is in acquiring some wood, so I purchased a small plank of walnut measuring 4inches by 18 inches from a company called Hobbies.com. The plank of wood is 6mm thick (about a quarter of an inch) and believe it or not but that is the largest plank of hardwood of that thickness that I can find anywhere. If anybody knows a source of bigger pieces of quarter inch hardwood please let me have the details.

By the way, this was the first time I'd worked with walnut and have to say I was a bit disappointed by its appearance. The tables and other items I've seen on the antiques road show that have been made from walnut always look fantastic and they made the piece of wood I'd received look some what dowdy by comparison. Perhaps it will look much better when it has been finished off. I do hope so because this sniffling little piece of wood cost me almost a fiver.

Once the wood arrived I designed the overall shape of the box on it. Once it was divided up into the six parts that make up a box I could then start working on the design. Here is the plank of walnut after I  divided it the parts for the box.
I would concentrate on the front and sides of the box first, so that was where my design began. I measured the size of the front and opened a new blank file in adobe photoshop to that exact size.
I then drew a image of a fuchia with a pencil onto a piece of paper. I used a pencil so that I could keep rubbing the image out until I was happy with it. When I finally had a stylised image of a fuchia that I thought would suit my needs, I went over image with a pen and then scanned it into my computer.

Okay, so perhaps it isn't the most spectacular fuchia you ever did see and it won't win any prizes at the Chelsea flower show, but I have every faith that it will look good on the finished box. Once the fuchia was in the computer it was a simple matter of copying the image and pasting it into the the blank file I had opened earlier.

This is the way I do most of my design work and I will go on to explain the next steps in my next post.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Blade Draws

Hi All,
When I started scroll sawing, finding somewhere to store my blades wasn't an issue because I only had the few blades that came with the saw. However, every time I started a new project I had to purchased more and more blades to suit the size of the wood I was going to be cutting.So I soon had lots of blades ranging from size 1 to size 12 with 12 being the biggest. You may think it is obvious that size 12 is the biggest, but that rule doesn't alway apply. With fishing hooks, for instance, the higher the number is, the small the hook is. You could hang a dead pig on size 1 hook, but you could thread a size 26 through the eye of a needle.

Anyway, with my blades in danger of getting into a dire mess, I decided to make a small set of draws to keep them in. And while I was at it, I would include a draw for my junior hacksaw blades and my Stanley knife blades.

I cut the main structure from a piece of 15mm pine and made the drawer fronts and sides from 6mm pine strip. The bases of the drawers were cut from 3mm plywood. The wood I used was all stuff lying around my workshop, so I guess I made the whole thing for free. Everything was cut on my scroll saw so there wasn't any hard work involved in the project, which is great because sawing a lot of wood by hand is very tedious.

Originally, I had intended on using my pyrography iron to burn the blade sizes onto each drawer but I decided against the idea. The draw knobs were kindly made by my wife from clay and I painted them blue.

Here is a picture of the finished set of drawers.

Considering I didn't take too much time over making this item I am pleased with the results. It looks good and it is useful, so in my book that counts as a success.

Another good thing that came out of the project was my first encounter with 'sanding sealer'. I first heard about this product almost fifty years ago when I was a young lad who enjoyed making model air planes from balsa wood. The sad thing is that the only money I had in the world, in those days, came from my paper round, so I only bought necessities and 'sanding sealer' was deemed a luxury too far.

As it happens nothing much has changed in my life and I still don't like to fritter money away, but seeing as there was a lot of open end grain on the pine I was using, I decided to give it a go.

The result was brilliant. I used it after the final sanding, it really does improve the finish. If I'd known how good it was all those years ago I might have risked thruppence on a bottle.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Mighty Oak

Hi All,
In my last post I showed you an acorn snuff box that I had made with my scroll saw and decorated with pyrography. Well this week I made another box in the shape of an oak leaf.
Using my scroll saw, I cut it from a piece of solid ash about 1 inch thick using a number 12 reverse tooth blade to reduce any tear out at the bottom of the box. The inside cut isn't too difficult because I was able to follow the drawing that I had stuck to the front of the wood. If I wandered off course a bit nobody but me would know. However, when it comes to the outside cut extreme care is required. The wall of the box is only about 4mm thick, so any lack of concentration would see the thickness of the wall made either too thin or too thick and that wouldn't look good. Scroll saw blades move very quickly so errors can be made in a flash.

The other difficult thing with an object like an oak leaf, is that the irregular shape makes if difficult to sand. Square, round and even oval boxes can be easily smoothed on a belt or disc sander, but an oak leaf shaped box can't. So it is important to get a smooth as possible finish when the object comes off the saw because life is too short to be doing a lot of sanding by hand.

For the base, I just drew around the box and cut it out on my scroll saw with a number five blade. I used the same method and blade for the lid, but this was cut out of a piece of quarter inch thick oak, which I thought very appropriate for the project.

As with the acorn box, that I showed you in my last post, I used magnets to attach the lid to the box. These are both hidden under the stalk end of the leaf and allow the box to be opened with a swivelling motion.

I have used pyrography to decorated the lid of the box and I think it works very well. In fact, I am always amazed at how well pyrography suits organic pieces

Here is a picture of the top of the box and the pyrography.
I am currently working on a bigger project and will show you that in my next post. If you have any questions about pyrography or scroll sawing please let me know.

By the way, I know some of you read my books and you may be pleased to know that the follow up to A Staffordshire Boy is starting to take shape. It is called "Ten Pound Pom" and should be available for purchase early in the new year.