Scrollsaw, Intarsia and Woodburning work


I came into an old, rusty Craftsman 16". Spent some time cleaning, getting it to work and tuning it up. Also made some mods:

This is a solid and heavy saw, with no easy way to move or carry around. The upper arm seems to be the most natural place to use as a handle, but that is a reciprocating piece of the mechanism that imparts up the blade movement, and I really did not put stress and possible looseness and misalignment on the arm by using that to lug around the heavy saw. And it was not easy to slip fingers under the body casting to lift up the unit. So I mounted the whole saw on a piece of plywood with some feet. Now the machine is lot easier to carry to relocate.

I got rid of the original bellows driven tubing that directed a stream of air to blow the sawdust away. It is now using a 12V computer case fan that I thought worked better, because it did not have to be as close to the blade, and was actually able to clear the sawdust off the whole table, and not just push it out of the way in the area around the blade, like the original was doing.

I also fitted the head from an LED table lamp on an articulated fitting from another junked table lamp, to act as a spotlight.

I did not like having the way the on/off switch was positioned on the scroll saw, it is on the left side of the saw and under the table. This meant I had to fumble with my left hand to feel around the table to find the switch - very inconvenient. I make it a habit of double-checking the position of the switch on any power tool I use before physically plugging it in, and for this machine I had to peer under the table every time to verify if the switch was in the off position before plugging in the saw. So I rewired the switch to be in series with a toggle switch to act like a master, with the toggle switch mounted on the base in a place where it was easily visible (and labeled) and accessible from my right hand. The fan and light is now also powered by the same toggle, and comes on as soon as the toggle is flipped.

Pyrography Pens

I had this really cheap wood burning unit. I used that to get a feel of what the different tips could do. I then invested in a better tool with an adjustable heat controller. I was able to get a range of tones on the burn working with this. Now the fixed temperature pen is used for the darkest tones on large pieces, and the other one for more delicate and controlled work.

Eagle Head

Used this piece as an exercise to learn how to use the scrollsaw. I just used a single board of white poplar, and stained to get the yellows on the beak and cere. I cheated on the eye - the black there is just from a Sharpie permanent marker. I think the whole piece it would have been a little better if I had taken the effort to orient the grain, rather than just cut the parts out like a jigsaw puzzle.

Screech Owl

The screech is one of the smaller owls that can be found around here (the midwest of the United States). One intriguing feature of screech is that is it can reconfigure it's feathers and make a dramatic change in it's size and profile. The one's we work with can shape-shift from a round softball sized fluff with no tufts visible, all the way to a tall skinny creature with sharp prominent tufts. I wanted to capture an in-between state in the sizes with this piece. Also, we have a Western screech owl, who has this way of looking at you like you are the most ridiculous thing he has ever seen, and I was also trying to get that wide eyed look to come across. This scale of this piece is life size.

I started by building this reference image by compositing from various sources. I got the head from an image that I liked the proportions on, but I used only the left half of the original head. I wanted a staring-straight-at-you look, so I mirrored the half and joined the flipped side to come up with the symmetrical head.

I liked the detail on the wing and tail feathers from another source, which I used to create the body of this reference.

The feet were lifted from yet another image. I was never quite satisfied with the arrangement and proportion of the feet, as you will see later that the final piece has a different look on the feet that I ended up drawing by hand from scratch.

(GIMP is my image manipulation weapon of choice, BTW).

The reference image was desaturated to remove colors, and then the "Photocopy" filter was applied and the mask radius and black/white levels adjusted to dial in the right mix of detail and outline. This will serve as the cutting template. Did I mention that GIMP is being used to do all of the digital work?

Cutting template cut out and glued on to the wood. This is a piece of 1/2" white poplar board. You can't see in the picture, but there is a a layer of clear packing tape on the wood, that helps with lubricating the scrollsaw blade during cutting.

The major pieces cut out on the scrollsaw. I must admit the owl looks very disturbing at this stage!

The individual pieces have been rounded and sanded down.

This close-up shows how some of the pieces are also raised or lowered in relation their neighbouring pieces, to create the appropriate depth.

The major lines have been pencilled in...

... And the darkest portions of the piece have now been defined. It's beginning to take shape!

The details filled in.

A close-up of of the details trying to depict feathers. As you can see, this piece is using wood burning rather thatn picking contrasting pieces of grain to represent the various textures on an animal. I was never happy with the choices of grain I had, and I wanted to be more true to how the subject was in real-life, particularly because I was more aware and appreciative of the intricate details of these creatures from working closely with them. So I ended up using the pyrography pen to capture the feather details.

This is the branch that I used for the screech to perch on. I just free handed it.

The final piece was given a couple of coats of clear wipe-finish polyurethane, and mounted on a frame I picked up from the Goodwill store. The backdrop is from a sheet wood panel - I left it a bit rough to help contrast and emphasize the feather detail on the owl.