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  • Zen and the art of cutting straight lines

    OK, this may sound a little complicated, so bear with me for a moment.

    On DW's thread about his lovely fretwork fan, Jim (inlay guy) commented on Kim's (outrageously gorgeous projects) concerns about cutting straight lines for fretwork, and said it was really a Zen thing, putting your mind to doing it.

    Jim, I am in total agreement, and I am not a "new ager" or anything. Years ago, while trying to bend a copper supply line under the sink without getting it all kinked up, I focused on moving my arms in a smooth snake-like way, and like magic, I got the curves I wanted.

    Now, fast forward about 30 years, (I don't do plumbing anymore) and I'm trying to cut straight lines on a piece of acrylic, where sanding is really not an option if I go off. I got my body poised in line with the blade, and just focused on pushing straight back, moving my arms smoothly to feed the acrylic. Again, like magic, the lines came out straight. When I didn't focus, the lines were just not as good.

    I am now totally convinced that cutting involves the whole mind and body, not just the hands moving the wood through the blade. Most of the time, my sanding-intensive projects are forgiving of sloppy cutting, but some of my recent designs have required a higher degree of precision, and Rolf wasn't handy to do the cutting for me (that man is amazing!).

    Sermon for today is over, but if it's got you curious, give it a try.
    Carole

    Follow me on my blog: www.scrollsawbowls.blogspot.com

  • #2
    is it not the grain in wood that causes the blade to wonder away from a straight line? I have never cut acrylic but I doubt it has much grain.
    Hegner Polymax- 3,Hegner Multimax-3,
    "No PHD, just a DD 214"

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    • #3
      Most blades have a burr on the right side. This makes them cut to the right. You have to move your project some degree to the right. This makes it much easier to stay on the line and cut straight.
      FD Mike
      SD Mike

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      • #4
        Carole - I completely agree with you. I don't have issues with straight lines, but a circle has always been tough. I neeed to completely focus on that line & then amazingly I get the curve of the circle to look pretty darn good. If I don't concentrate then I have lots of sanding.
        Website:
        www.wix.com/tangowooddesign/home-page
        ___________________

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        • #5
          Jim, while some wood has a distinct grain that may grab the blade, I've not found that to be a problem when cutting thin wood. You can always blame the wood (could that be a "guy" thing? ) but I think it's usually the user who's responsible. (No joke. Guys, in general tend to put the blame on external factors, while women tend to blame themselves. I used to get lots of nodding heads when I taught this stuff years ago.)

          My challenge with the acrylic involved cutting lids for mazes that had to be true to size and have nice even edges. The mazes themselves, however, posed the same problem, in that any deviation from parallel was obvious, and sanding was not an option because of the need to keep the arms the same width. So whether it was wood or acrylic, it was the same situation, and the same fix.

          Mike, the blade drift is certainly something that has to considered, and many newbies run into trouble as they try to cut "straight", but once you've taken that into account, you still keep the line going in the same direction, without starts and stops and little deviations. That's where the focus part comes in, at least for me.

          Tango, circles are certainly part of the same picture. I find that if I can visualize the way I have to cut, and stay focused, I'm far less likely to fight the wood. This mind-body thing has always fascinated me, and it's fun to actually put theory to good use. Saves a lot of sanding, too!
          Carole

          Follow me on my blog: www.scrollsawbowls.blogspot.com

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          • #6
            I remember when I first started using the scroll saw, (21 years ago), a friend said that I wouldn't be able to cut straight lines with that thing. At the time he was right. I wish he were around now, so I could bet him $50 that I could. I do it often, and I think of him almost every time.
            After you've put in the hours with the saw, you know what it will do, so you can anticipate that right hand deviation that Mike's talking about.

            And now a Mantra..hehehe..."See the blade...Be the blade"...
            Jim

            The limits of the imagination are imaginary.
            No task is too tedious for Art.
            Rock and Scroll

            My Gallery

            My Website
            Featherwood Woodcrafts

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            • #7
              A very interesting thought, and so very true! I know if I get distracted during a piece I can really tell the difference in that area. Concentration (and/or Zen) is a very important part of turning out beautiful pieces. I have made the mistake of going out to the studio to just get it done...WRONG approach, as I always screw things up then! As a temperamental artist I have to be in the mood or I know I won't get the end results I want...so mind set is a very important aspect for me anyway.

              I have gotten fairly decent at cutting straight lines, staying on pattern lines and such... it's the inside frets that I stink at. My hardest part to cutting fretwork is 'meeting' up my cut lines (start and end)...I hope that makes sense. I seem to always leave a line...and of course sanding inside of frets is tough. I know this is just an experience issue (and perhaps me being such a perfectionists). Whether it is the proper way to do it or not, but I remove the waste (while the blade is tensioned) and then use the blade kinda as a sanding tool to try to smooth out any of the stop-go lines. Fortunately, with most of my patterns it doesn't have to be an exact cut, so a little extra removed is not a critical element...but it has bit me in the butt when it is close to the edge and time to do extreme edge shaping. Another issue I have drilling the pilot holes, I find putting them more in the center of the fret works better for me, than close to the lines, whether this is the proper way or not.

              You gotta luv this forum and everyone for all the wonderful insight! And thank you Carole for the wonderful comments!
              ~ Kim

              A day in my shop is like a day at the beach...full of sunshine and ya never know where the sawdust may end up!

              www.gonecoastalart.com

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              • #8
                I have also taught many people scrolling, and I think we all started out cutting curves because cutting a "straight line" was for people that had been cutting awhile. Not sure that was correct, but going from a curved line to a circle and then straight line seem to work very well. I agree with Carole a bit...I know that every time I am cutting something difficult I will move my mouth around it a bit and at times I will get off my chair and stand with my body curved so I can make the cut eaiser...like when I am cutting large rings for the bowls or a large fret piece.

                Circles I can cut better on the scroll saw....as long as I don't stop in the middle and come back to it later.
                Hawaiilad
                Larry

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                • #9
                  I still have trouble cutting a straight line but then I don't cut enough to stay in practice. Since I started cutting bowls and vases cutting circles are fairly easy as long as I have the table left side down cutting circles with the table level I find it harder I not sure why. I think one reasons I have a problem cutting straight lines is speed..... not the speed of the saw but the speed I'm feeding the wood through the blade. I guess if I used more ZEN I would slow things down or I could just have my grandson Scott do all the straight cut for me.
                  sigpic: Dan US Navy PR1 (Ret)
                  To all who serve or have served, Thank you
                  Well I am the worlds greatest scroller at my house.

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                  • #10
                    I hope I don't derail this thread, but Kim, I have a suggestion that might work for you at the "start-stop" points of your fretwork. As mentioned, there is a bur on the right side of most blades. Once you've finished your cut, line your work up so that the "start-stop" point is on the right side of your blade, exactly parallel to the work so that you're not going to cut anything with the front of the blade. Now just brush the work against the right side of the blade, back and forth a bit, to shave off that extra leftover piece. Just be sure not to turn the work so that the cutting edge of the blade digs in at all. I find this to be very handy - not only for the stop-start points, but to fine-tune a curve where I might have left a flat spot. Hope that helps!

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                    • #11
                      Patte, I don't think you derailed the post at all...we all are always looking for tips/tricks to help improve our cutting skills. I really appreciate the advise, and will try to use it when our weather warms up and I can go play some more! Thanx a bunch!
                      ~ Kim

                      A day in my shop is like a day at the beach...full of sunshine and ya never know where the sawdust may end up!

                      www.gonecoastalart.com

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                      • #12
                        I'm also derailing this thread - Sorry Carole.
                        Kim - I found two good ways to hide the start & stop point when cutting fretwork. I will either 1) start my cut in a corner. When I come back around the corner hides the start of the cut. or 2) if an area has a point, like the edge of a triangle, I will start at the point & cut down one side. When the cut comes back around & I cut back up and the point will be the end of the cut.
                        Website:
                        www.wix.com/tangowooddesign/home-page
                        ___________________

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                        • #13
                          Hey, half the fun of starting an off-beat thread is that you never know what paths it will travel. I love seeing all the interesting stuff that gets posted when we just sort of hang out with each other.
                          Carole

                          Follow me on my blog: www.scrollsawbowls.blogspot.com

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                          • #14
                            If your cuts are too perfect you will be accused of using a laser or cnc machine.
                            Roger

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                            • #15
                              Kim,
                              What I do to keep my start-stop points from showing is a bit of everything discussed so far. First, if I have a point, Ill do as Tango suggested. If I don't, I've found that cutting straight at the pattern line and making that 90 ish degree turn right onto the line. When I come back to it, it's easier to line up. Then if needed, I'll clean it up with the edge of the saw blade.
                              It takes guts at first, but I find to work very well...

                              I'd say the Zen of scrolling is like learning to dance on the point of a pin...
                              Jim

                              The limits of the imagination are imaginary.
                              No task is too tedious for Art.
                              Rock and Scroll

                              My Gallery

                              My Website
                              Featherwood Woodcrafts

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