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Wood options?

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  • Wood options?

    Hi all,

    Newbie scroller here...

    I recently took on a project for my local archery shop of making some plaque style trophies that required a scroll saw and after borrowing an el cheapo, pin blade Skill and quickly getting frustrated with it (decent results though) I talked my wife in to letting me go "all in" and purchase a DeWalt 788. In the month that I have had it, I have experimented with many different types of wood for small projects (Christmas ornaments mainly) and have figured out that pretty much any wood with a common grain like oak or pine is useless for detailed ornaments since they easily break along their grain lines.

    I finally picked up some 1/4" Baltic birch plywood and churned out about two dozen good quality ornaments. My wife happened to have a booth at a Christmas bazaar today and managed to sell 6 of them for a total of $40! Needless to say I'm rapidly getting hooked and am looking for other woods that will make ornaments. I did manage one ornament out of 1/2" oak, but it is too thick in my opinion and 1/4" oak doesn't hold up to the detail.

    After that lengthy story, my question is what woods will work for more detailed projects? I don't mind working with the BB, but I'd like some other options.

    I imagine this question has been asked 100 times, but being new to the site I haven't had time to research the archives...

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Welcome to the site and the word of scrolling. While pine and red oak can be used for scrolling they can require a bit more skill. Your best choices are tight grained woods. Try poplar or "soft maple". As for baltic birch I prefer 1/8" for ornaments.
    Creator of fine designer sawdust.


    • #3
      For what you are doing Baltic Birch is your best choice. When you start doing bowls or compound cut ornaments most hardwoods will work fine.



      • #4
        I make quite a few ornaments and I prefer solid hardwoods. If the pattern is very delicate and I want a thinner look, or if I intend to paint the ornament, I usually will go with baltic birch ply. When I'm using a hardwood, I typically plane to no less than 3/16" thick. I've found that at that thickness, I can cut pretty much anything I want. I've used red oak and yes it can be brittle, but I haven't experienced enough problems with it to reject it. I don't care for pine as it is too soft and doesn't offer any advantages over baltic birch in appearance. I cut cherry, walnut, maple, ash, sassafras, mahogany, poplar, red & white oak, pretty much what ever I have available and/or strikes my fancy. Each has their particular charms and challenges, but learning to manage them makes sawing them very rewarding and gives you a variety of grains and colors that enhance the appearance of your work.
        Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter. Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."


        • #5
          I'm with Bill - I like using the hardwoods for my ornaments. Just did a bunch out of 1/4" oak and it worked fine. Cherry, Walnut, Maple are also some I use.


          • #6
            Basswood is the wood of choice for carvers. You might consider using that.
            Hegner Polymax- 3,Hegner Multimax-3,
            "No PHD, just a DD 214"


            • #7
              Thanks for the replies everyone.

              Maybe I just need to play with my grain orientation... I have been using some fairly delicate patterns with some really thin supporting areas. Maybe if I rotate the grain 90* they will be more durable. It is just frustrating to have a piece break while finish sanding.

              Also, what is the trick with BB to keep it from chipping out on the bottom side? I've noticed losing the top layer is common when the space between cuts get really thin (<1/16"). I was thinking I may need to cover the bottom with masking tape or something to help hold it. I was using a FD blade with reverse teeth hoping it would keep the bottom side edges sharp.


              • #8
                AKmud, where are you at?

                I use a lot of Alaska Birch, Cottonwood, and Yellow Cedar and get it cut locally and then sticker it and dry it for summer use. There are several people on the Kenai with mills that will cut it for their hourly rate.

                In WA I use maple and alder and cedar. Sometimes I can get mill end trimmer cutoffs. Using the local woods where they will work seems to enhance appreciation and sales.
                Got Moose?


                • #9
                  I'm up in Wasilla Terry. We have a couple of good mills around here, I'll have to stop in and check out their thin stuff.

                  I cut out a few more ornaments today and made an important discovery. I thought the BB was chipping while I was scrolling the pieces, but I found out it was from my starter holes! Either my bit is dull or I was just punching holes too fast (probably a combination of both really...). I did figure out how to make clean holes though so that issue should be gone for now.

                  Anyway, I'm having a great time with this new hobby! If I can make a dollar or two along the way, even better.


                  • #10
                    See if someone will cut you 3/8" slices of Birch. If you can get it lightly spalted or at a crotch even better. The last batch I got was 2' and 4' long, and up to 18" wide. Birch cuts well, stack cuts easily, and usually has some interesting figure in the wood. It also gives you the option of leaving a live edge. If you get it cut 1" it will take longer to dry but it can be used for bowls.

                    I sell at a woodcarver's place on the Sterling, and usually sell around $2,000 a month in summer until the end of the dip net season. They love the birch.
                    Got Moose?


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