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Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Techniques Aren't Yours

One of my teenage sons has decided to learn how to scroll. While trying to teach him, I thoughtabout writing this post. He has this habit of wanting me to show him how I do something and then trying to replicate it tit for tat. That just doesn't work. So, I'm writing this entry to tell anyone thinking about scrolling the same advice I gave him.

Several people have been amazed when looking at my work that I've only been scrolling six months. So I guess a little background info is in order. When I decided to scroll, I didn't even know how to put a blade up, down or sideways. Since Ric Hutcheson at was what made me want to learn scrolling, his how to videos was a perfect jumping off point for me to get started. I immediately went to his site and watch every video he had there on scrolling. There is some real useful information there. However, some techniques he used just didn't work for me. Just like my techniques aren't yours, his techniques weren't mine.

First of all, the scrollsaw is one of the safest tools in the shop. True, you can cut your finger, but without trying with a lot of determination, you won't cut your finger off. As a matter of fact, in order to cut your finger off, you'd probably have to stop in the middle of it and change blades. The biggest danger there, if you don't wear safety glasses, is sawdust in your eyes. I had a piece in my eyes that drove me crazy for over a week before it worked its way out. Use common sense on the scrollsaw and you'll be fine.

Second, there is no right or wrong way to cut certain things, like corners. Experienced scrollers even have debates on the best way to do this or that. If there was one "right" way, then there would be no debate. Play around and find what's best for you. True, you may break a few blades. you have to think of this as a hobby though. Don't get upset. Think about the price of a new bandsaw or table saw blade and realize that these blades are dirt cheap. That's why most companies offer packs of a dozen dozen, called a gross. Also, stay cool when you mess up a piece. You didn't learn to walk in a day. If you enjoy looking at my work, think of this. I still create fancy firewood more often than you may think.

Then there's the choices of blades and the issue of blade tension. There is spirals and flats, regular and reverse tooth, crown tooth, now there is even a flat end spiral reverse tooth. It can be intimidating to the new scroller. If possible, go to Home Depot, for example. They sell variety packs of blades. That will give you the chance to try different types of blades to see what works for you. Take spirals as an example. I use almost exclusively spirals, while some scrollers won't even allow a spiral in their shop. As for blade tension, consult your owner's manual. Then recognize that info as a starting point. There is a spot in the tension that is tight enough that the blade doesn't wander or follow the grain, but not so tight that your simply practicing blade changes every few seconds. Look at my earlier Wolf Rifle in my last post. That was the first piece I ever cut with spirals. I went through almost two dozen blades on that. Now, after plenty of practice, I can cut that entire piece on one blade.

The final thought I can give you is to remember that this is a hobby. You are supposed to enjoy a hobby. Relax. Have fun. Focus on your finished piece and get yourself determined to finish it no matter what. Often times, if it's a detailed piece, you'll know how to tension you blade by the time you finish that first piece. There are very few people in the world that make their living on scrolling. So don't even set out in the beginning thinking that you are going to do that. If you can't enjoy it because you like woodworking, then walk away from the scrollsaw now. Don't even buy one. I'm not saying you will never make good money at it. I'm just saying that if you do, you're one of the lucky few. If I make enough to support my hobby and maybe carry my wife to dinner now and then, I'm doing great.

So, if there is any advice I can give you, please don't hesitate to email me at . Also, there are multiple links on my main page to people who will be glad to help. The scrollsaw community is one that you would not believe the generousity of it's people. Be safe, have fun, and happy scrolling.


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