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How I became a scrollsawer and my first piece. Please share your story.

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  • How I became a scrollsawer and my first piece. Please share your story.

    Hi folks - digging through my junk store this past few days I've come across some of my past scrollsaw projects but one in particular was easy to find because it was hanging on the wall at the back of the room. Before getting to this particular piece there's a bit of history here to bore you with ....

    About 15 years back I was pursuing my career as an independent consultant ceramist/ceramic engineer working mainly on overseas projects of 12 - 18 months duration. Usually with these types of projects there are breaks between when one project finishes and a new one comes along. I used these breaks to get back to my home base in Mexico, spend some family and leisure time and maybe pickup a little local work.

    I've always been interested in carpentry from a DIY perspective but wasn't initially able to pursue this too much because I was very busy following my career. Additionally I have a very small shop space at home with insufficient room to undertake serious carpentry or simiilar.

    During one of my return trips to Mexico I was reading a craft magazine which contained an article on scrollsaw work which caught my attention. After seeing this I was attracted to the idea of buying a scrollsaw particularly as I imagined I wouldn't need much space to use it - not exactly true as I found out later - LOL! . After searching locally I found an entry level Delta model in a Home Depot store in Mexico City and placed an order for it. The saw arrived to my home a few days later leaving me to organize a place to use it.

    Unfortunately, whilst I was away Norma had commandeered my workshed and filled it full of her stuff so I placed the box containing the scrollsaw in our junk store room with every intention of pursuading Norma to clean her stuff out so I could set up the saw. Well even the best of intentions don't always work out. Two days later I received a panic call from a friend of mine in the UK wanting to know if I was available for an overseas project of approximately 12 months duration. When I asked when would the post be available he told me it was immediate. Another consultant had dropped out at the last minute and the company urgently needed a replacement. A week later I was back overseas on a project which eventually lasted 18 months. When this project finished my plan was to spend some home time but once again another project came up a couple of weeks later and off I went overseas again for another 12 months. All this time my Delta saw stayed in the unopened box.

    I finally got back home 2 1/2 years after buying the saw to be confronted by Norma who basically told me that it was taking up space in 'her' store room and if I wasn't going to use it I should sell it. I confess to having had the same thought! A couple of evenings later I was in front of the computer looking for somewhere to sell it via the internet - maybe a forum dedicated to scrollsaw work. This was how I found and this forum!

    I spent an hour or so looking through the various forum sections and after being fascinated by the wide range of scrolling work on display and amazed at the high level of craftwork produced by many of the members I was hooked. I needed to have a go at scrolling. One other thing that immediately struck me when reading through various posts is just how helpful the more accomplished members of the forum were to newcomers, offering them heaps of encouragement and wide ranging advice on how to undertake and/or improve their projects.

    A couple of days later I had the workshed partially cleared out and set up the Delta saw and began my first project, the one hanging on the wall in our storeroom! Its a design of a cheeky monkey I took from a patchwork quilt on our son Kevin's bed when he was very young. The only material I had to make it from was some cheap grade 1/4 " plywood. The coloring and varnish came from some left over wood stains I'd had in the shed for ages and the only finishing materials I had were some scraps of sandpaper.

    When I finished this piece I posted it on the forum and asked honest opinions of what folks thought of it and what I could do going forward to improve my work. The comments came flooding in and what followed is history. One particular comment which I followed up on and have since passed on to other newcomers to scrolling was this...

    'Be pleased and be proud of your first finished piece. Date and sign it and keep it for yourself. As you go forward with your scrolling and develop your skills occasionally look back on this first project. It will remind you of how you began scrolling, your skill level at that time and just how far you have progressed and how much enjoyment, inbetween a few frustrations, you have had in getting to where you are now. Most important of all it will remind you that you became a member of this forum, got to know and made friends with an incredible number of helpful folks, who played a major part in getting you to become the scrollsawer you are now.'

    So, thats my story and here's my first piece.


    For those of you who who are locked down at home and maybe feeling a little bored, take some time out and respond to this post with your story and if possible post an image of your first piece of work. Even if you aren't locked down please share your story

    Thanks to all who started me off scrolling and encouraged me to keep going forward and keep me returning to this incredible forum.

    Attached Files
    Last edited by jim_mex; 05-19-2020, 11:45 AM.
    Jim in Mexico

    Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
    - Albert Einstein

  • #2
    Hi Jim, Thanks for sharing your scrollsaw journey. I like the monkey and would never think that was your first piece. It turned out great!!!!

    My scrollsaw addiction started in 2002. My husband and I attended The Woodworking show where Karen and Dirk Boleman were doing demos on the Hawk. I was impressed and thought that it was something that I could do. However I was thinking of getting a cheaper saw just in case I couldn't scroll.

    My husband saw my interest and order the Hawk for my b-day. That same day, I got a call from the owner of the company. He told me that my husband order the saw and the he was having issues with the credit card. I told him that I would have my husband call him after work. My husband had the money, but the company would not accept a check, so hubby tried to use my debit card. The issue was that it was the day before payday, so of course the card bounced. Good thing that it wasn't a few days later because then the mortgage payment would have bounced. When hubby go home from work, I had to quickly describe the difference between a debit card vs a credit card. I then gave hubby the credit card and he ordered my saw.

    The saw arrived right before the 4th of July. I was working from home, so at lunch time I took the saw out of the box and got two of the legs attached. It was too heavy for my to flip over to do the other two legs. My husband got home from work and asked me what I was doing. My bday is at the end of the month and I shouldn't be opening my gift early. I laughed and handed him some tools to help me finish assembling the legs.

    The saw came with some easy patterns, so I took one of those and started the saw ten minutes later. I started with a test board and cut the straight line, curvy line, etc. Then I cut my first item that I attached below. It is a little whale. When I showed my husband, he exclaimed that it's a fish. My thought was at least he sort of recognized what I cut. Later that week I took the whale to my parents to show them my new hobby. My Mom took the whale and put it in the curio cabinet and she refuse to let my take it back. She knew that I would throw it away. I have made her several other items and tried to bribe her to give my back that little whale. She has kept it all these years.

    That year, I decided to make ornaments for Xmas gifts. I cut them from what ever scrap wood that I could find. This really helped me learn how to use my saw. One of these ornaments was an angel that I gave my Mom. She showed it to a long time friend who really liked it and want 30 of them to give as gifts to her volunteers. I thought that she wanted them by next Xmas. No she wanted them by the end of January. I live in Wisconsin and we have very cold winters. My saw is in an unheated garage. I got a space heater and used the kitchen table for finishing. They were completed just in time.

    Since I'm going down memory lane, I also came across the first pattern that I designed. Fox Chapel was holding a design contest. I had just gotten back from a Hawaiian Cruise and I had a picture that I wanted to frame. I sat down and a pencil and ruler and designed my Cruise Ship picture frame. I sent in a copy of that hand drawn pattern. They liked my designed and me to do an article for them. They made my pattern design look great.


    Hi Donna - that's a whale of a story! Thanks for sharing it and starting this ball rolling.
    Your cruise patten looks fantastic and I would never have guessed it was your first attempt at designing. Its no wonder Fox Chapel selected it for publishing.

    Attached Files
    Last edited by jim_mex; 05-18-2020, 08:30 PM.


    • #3
      Gosh, The both of you put me to shame. I honestly do not remember what my first project was. All I remember was as soon as I completed a project, it disappeared. I do not know if my daughter has it or a friend who always is in awe of my projects. Most every item that I have made has been gifts for family or friends. It has only been recently that my wife has taken claim to some of my projects.

      All I remember was as soon as I completed a project, it disappeared.
      Well cw - if that was the case the projects must have been pretty good
      Last edited by jim_mex; 05-19-2020, 11:36 AM.
      aka Fibber
      Producer of fancy firewood​


      • #4
        My beginnings are rooted in Cub Scouts (not me--wood was barely invented back then). First year my son was racing a Pinewood Derby car, I tried cutting it with a jig saw and we spent as much time trying to sand out the wreckage as we would have spent carving the thing with a butter knife. When the next year rolled around, I bought a single speed Delta from Lowe's. When I got home, the bag with hardware to mount the table was missing. Lowe's said to contact Delta, but I needed the saw that weekend, so they refunded me and I found one already assembled (like new) in a pawn shop.

        Got the car cut and it did pretty well (Top 4). [Hey, it was a pawn shop saw, with hardware store blades]

        By the time Christmas was rolling around, I had found this forum and magazine as well as the now closed Creative Woodworks. I decided to try my hand at making ornaments for the extended family. One of the early year ornaments is attached, not necessarily the first year.

        One funny sidebar. When I was working as a substitute teacher, I was covering an art class where the kids were painting on plywood shapes. Everyone in the class was making great progress except one young man. When I inquired, he said the teacher had not finished cutting his for him. I told him to get it and get started. It was huge and really need cut down. In the back of the art room was a single speed Delta, just like what was sitting at home. So, I fired it up and in about 10 minutes had him back to work. Just a simple comic book character outline, but he either picked the wrong piece of wood, or really scaled his drawing down. The only thing I couldn't cut for him was an inside cut since there was no drill to be found.

        When parts for the Delta became obsolete, I moved to a Hitachi CW-40 and wore it out. Parts were a devil to locate for it. My anniversary and Father's Day are in June, so Becky told me just to order the DeWalt I had my heart set on and I have been cutting with it for a quite a while now. It has been in the shop a couple of times, and the last time, I was getting ready to call Denny to order a Pegas when they called and said my 788 was fixed.

        Hi Jim - you were a lot braver than me in tackling ornaments from the get go. It took me a good while to learn to cut accurately enough to muster up courage to try any type of fret work.
        Thanks for your story

        Last edited by jim_mex; 05-19-2020, 11:33 AM.
        When looking at the clock at work--the correct time is:
        Too early to leave, too late to call in.


        • #5
          This post thread is looking good. Keep them coming folks.

          Last edited by jim_mex; 05-19-2020, 11:37 AM.
          Jim in Mexico

          Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
          - Albert Einstein


          • #6
            Similar to Jim McDonald, I bought an entry level scroll saw at Home Depot over 15 years ago to cut pinewood derby cars for my sons. A few years ago I started wood carving, and then found a scrollsaw pattern in a creative woodworking magazine handed down from an uncle that passed away some time ago. I pulled the saw off the shelf it was languishing on and gave it a shot. After cutting the project from some 1/2" walnut and then carving in some texture, I was hooked!

            Wow Salz - nothing like starting off easy eh! I'm amazed you managed to cut anything so intricate as thios pattern with an entry level saw. My Delta used to vibrate so much that I could never have attempted a pattern like this, especially on thick stock. Well done!
            Last edited by jim_mex; 05-19-2020, 07:45 PM.


            • #7

              I am some glad that you are back on the forum putting interesting treads that provoke comments.. Over the past couple of years activity has been dwindling. When Fox Chapel changed software vendors there was an extended period where the forum was unavailable. Many members went over to the village. Other just disappeared completely
              aka Fibber
              Producer of fancy firewood​


              • #8
                My son as 4 years old and I was pushing him in a stroller in Sears. I saw the scrollsaw, went home and told Bruce that looks like something I could do. What is it and what does it do? I used that and a bandsaw for about 10 years. Did a lot of items that needed painting. I didn’t start making baskets until I got my Hegner in 2002 and last guess made approximately 1,000. And the rest is history.

                "Congress needs to realize it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Not of the people, by the people and for Congress." - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Johns Hopkins Hospital


                • #9
                  I have always been a DiY kind of guy and I hate sitting around idol. . When I lived in upstate NY, I used to spend the winter making fishing rods and lures in my basement. In the spring and summer always had a large garden. Lived in older house so always some thing to work on. Fast forward to the early 90's I get transferred to NC. Live in a new house so no need for DIY, no basement workshop because no basements, live in a HOA so no shed, no large yard for a garden. At least I was able to fish almost year round. Now comes 1999 and where the story gets crazy.

                  Wife and I fulfill a dream and buy a place on a large lake along the NC/VA border. It is an older double wide trailer and I now have a 12' x 20' shed that was on the property. So back in DiY mode. One day I am in the checkout line in Lowes and see a scroll saw magazine and something on the cover caught my eye. Sorry but I don't recall what. Anyway I pick it up and take it home to read. After realizing I can't make most things with a jig saw I put it aside. Next trip to Lowes I spot a Dremel scroll saw. It sold for under $200. I decide to wait since it was just a fun idea. Then my birthday comes and get a bunch of Lowes gift cards. Turned out to be just enough for the Dremel so I get it. You have to understand one thing. I am a very early riser and my wife likes to sleep late. I figured I could use the scroll saw in the shed while she slept.

                  The first thing I made was a howling wolf ornament from it. it was cut from a piece of luan plywood. I used carbon paper to transfer the pattern on to the wood. I was so new and naïve that I did not cut the veining lines. I just left the carbon paper tracing. My wife kept that ornament many years in the kitchen until it accidently got wet and the luan came a part. I think I found this forum through the magazine and I have met some of you through the forum.

                  So who would that thought buying a house on a beautiful lake would lead to a life of saw dust? Like I said crazy.
                  Creator of fine designer sawdust.


                  • #10
                    I did some fret work as a kid,early teens with a coping saw. The pattern was probably in something like popular Mechanics as that was the only stuff I was reading. But my first project with a scrollsaw was on a Craftsman that I got from my dad back in early 2004. I built a shed and decided the Gable needed some Gingerbread. Learned a couple of things, the saw was too small and blade changes were idiotic, requiring tools and taking minutes for each hole only to cut for a few seconds. In 2005 my wife bought me the Delta 16 inch SS350. That Christmas I was selling Volker Arnold ornaments. In 2010 I answered a post from Bob Duncan looking for test cutters and the rest is history. It was the first hobby that has kept my interest for more than a couple of years. (other than my TVR 49 years)
                    First scroll project.jpgShed finished (Small).jpgDSCN1406 (Small).JPGMoon boy bringing home the treetree (Small).JPG

                    Hmmmm - 'Gingerbread' is not a term I've heard of before Rolf except for the sweet cookie variety which I adore - especially the German version which a firend of mine who lives in Nurnberg used to send over for me at Christmas! That gable looks especially neat!
                    Last edited by jim_mex; 05-21-2020, 06:50 PM.
                    RBI G4 26 Hawk, EX 16 with Pegas clamps, Nova 1624 DVR XP
                    Philosophy "I don't know that I can't, therefore I can"
                    Proud Member of the Long Island Woodworkers Club
                    And the Long Island Scrollsaw Association


                    • #11
                      This thread is turning out to be much better than I anticipated and I thank all of you folks who have replied so far.

                      It's fascinating reading how folks got into scrolling and curious, that like me, a number of you bought a saw almost on a whim but then stuck with it.

                      For me part of the fascination of scrolling is that regardless of the skill level you have as a scroller almost anyone can produce a pleasing piece of craftwork from day one and there is an abundance of techniques to try your hand at as the subsections of this forum clearly show.

                      When it comes to most hobbies I'm like a butterfly flitting from one thing to another with a relatively short span of attention when trying anything new. I tend to set myself a challenge to learn something new to a reasonable skill level and then drop it and move on to something completely different. Scrolling in its many forms has had me flitting around from one type of project to another over the years and when I start to lose interest in one type of project I am able to move on to another without totally abandoning my scrollsaw.

                      It's a shame as cw mentioned that this forum went through a dramatic change when Fox Chapel changed software vendors and I know from messages I received from various members at the time that they were put off by this and moved over to social media groups such as 'Intarsia Nuts' on Facebook or alternative scrolling forums. Its good to see that despite this situation this forum still contains many talented long time members and is still encouraging new members to join and above all retains a strong sense of community.

                      The Off Topic section has always been an integral part of this community feeling and I encourage all members to use it to share experiences and get to know a little about each other. I've sort of flooded this section in recent days and you can put this down to my eagerness to get back into this forum following my recent retirement and reaquaint myself with forum members I'd almost lost touch with whilst I was charging around the world during the past few years. Hopefully I'll soon start posting a few projects rather than just talk about scrolling!

                      A side note - I was previously a moderator on this forum and able to edit other members posts, move them from one section to another, help correct errors and when necessary police messages by removing offensive remarks or topics - fortunately there are very few of the latter. I was a little surprised to find a few days back that I still have moderator status hence my replies in red text to some of the thread messages. If anyone needs moderator assistance please reach out to me.
                      Last edited by jim_mex; 05-20-2020, 03:24 PM.
                      Jim in Mexico

                      Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
                      - Albert Einstein


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jim_mex View Post

                        A side note - I was previously a moderator on this forum and able to edit other members posts, move them from one section to another, help correct errors and when necessary police messages by removing offensive remarks or topics - fortunately there are very few of the latter. I was a little surprised to find a few days back that I still have moderator status hence my replies in red text to some of the thread messages. If anyone needs moderator assistance please reach out to me.
                        Rolf, Hotshot and I also have moderator access as well.
                        Creator of fine designer sawdust.


                        • #13
                          Gingerbread reminds me of something. When I was “let go” translation fired, and yes I smacked my butt when I walked out of the door as to say kiss it, I joined a group called BNI, Business Networking International and we had weekly meeting. You had to get up and give a one minute “attention getter” about what you do. I said something, Gingerbread, not the kind you eat but decorate with your house with and it’s made of wood. The only person who knew what it was was the real estate agent. And yes, they had no reason to fire me and I collected for one year and went to all business classes unemployment had.

                          "Congress needs to realize it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Not of the people, by the people and for Congress." - Dr. Benjamin Carson, Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Johns Hopkins Hospital


                          • #14
                            I have been a woodworker most of my life as my dad was an excellent woodworker and so I was in the shop before I went to school. I was fortunate when I went to school we took shop each year and I always took the wood option. In fact, my Dad and I both had the same teacher one year. Me in the day and him in night school as they had equipment that he wanted to use.

                            I made all sorts of furniture and clocks I always like to incorporate "curly' edges if I could. Kick plates, backs etc. I use an old fret saw that my dad used and eventually bought a Craftsman single speed scroll saw. Never used much as it had pinned blades and if you didn't bolt it down it would bounce off the work bench. Impossible to follow a pattern. I also used a jig saw.

                            I saw Rolf did some gingerbread on a shed. One of my projects was do a lot of gingerbread on a house I restored. 18 porch posts and 4 eves.

                            After I moved from that house to Brooklin Ontario and joined the Durham Woodworking Club and enrolled in a class on Scrolling. We did this Wolf, wolf.jpg

                            I learned some amazing facts. You can get patterns to follow, there are pin less blades so you can drill small holes, the table tilts so you have head protrude. and most importantly if you have a good machine it does not vibrate so you can follow the lines.

                            That was on a Saturday, I came home and researched machines and Monday decided to buy an EX-21 and that arrived that week and as they say = the rest is history.

                            Best course I have ever gone on. The course leader Don Gaudet is a good friend and mentor ever since,
                            Don McFarland ​Member - Durham Woodworking Club


                            • #15
                              Way back in my very young years, my parents bought a dremel (mid 70s probably), the kind that had the thin tin table with the round sander on the side. It vibrated very very badly and was super loud, so didn't get much use.

                              Fast forward many decades, and with kids of my own, we had a school project coming up, and we bought a Hitachi CW40 from Lowes for that, it was missing a few pieces so we exchanged it for the new PorterCable pcb370ss. I think this first project my son cut was actually on the CW40, but it's been a while. That first project is still hanging on the wall in our living room. I kept at it, but I spent a while just doing the practice patterns, trying to hone my skill.

                              "Ever Striving, Never Arriving"


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