The Scroll Saw Lady

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Picking Wood For A Project, Be selective.

Posted by The Scroll Saw Lady on 28th August 2008

As I said earlier in posts, what wood you use depends on what kind of project you are undertaking.  For projects that will be painted, you can use simply MVF.  For furniture, it’s often a good idea to choose something that will finish well like cedar or oak.

You’ll most likely be getting your wood from a lumber supply store or a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe’s.  There are a few things you need to keep in mind when picking out your lumber.

At the lumber yard or store, you’ll find wood boards stacked up in high piles according to length, quality grade, thickness, wood type and many other categories. Even in piles of boards that are grouped as being the same, there are differences in quality, so follow these simple tips for choosing boards that will work for your woodworking projects.

Don’t take boards you don’t want!  Lumberyard novices may feel like they have to take the boards that are first presented to them. Don’t be afraid to examine each board closely and send boards back if they don’t meet your criteria. Why pay for a warped board that won’t work in your current project?

Rejecting boards is not an insult, but a way to pay for wood you can use, so get in the habit early.  Check for straightness.  Hold the board at eye level on one end, with the other end on the ground. Look down the board to see if it has obvious curves or twists. Some projects can handle a curved board, but for beginners, working with curved boards may be too complicated.

Check for splits and warping.  Look over both sides of the board to see if there are any long splits or warped edges. Splits and warps reduce the amount of wood you can use for your project, so pass on boards that would result in a lot of waste.

Knotholes can be considered attractive in some kinds of woodworking projects, so if you’re looking for a really knotty piece of wood, that’s fine.  Otherwise, check your boards for large knotholes that would become waste wood or loose knot pieces that may fall out, causing gaps or weak areas in your cut pieces.

For fine woodworking projects or projects that need a straight, even grain, quarter sawn lumber offers even wood graining, but is more expensive than regular plain sawn lumber. Decide whether you’re willing to pay for the straight grain before choosing boards. Look closely at each board to see if the color is even enough for your project, and that there are not a large number of wormholes or other marred areas. Also check for lumberyard chalk or pen markings or dents that may not come off easily.

Used boards gathered from old barns or other projects can be interesting and fun to work with. However, when buying or choosing reclaimed lumber, check for signs of decay. If the board is spongy or soft, or has signs of fungus on it, it may not hold up well as project wood.

Pressure-treated lumber and chemically treated lumber are for use in outdoor projects, and are better able to withstand temperature and moisture changes. If you’re building a deck or outdoor project, ask for treated lumber. Otherwise, untreated boards are a better choice.

The beginning woodworker should probably start out using softer woods like pine or spruce.  They are easier to work, and you can eventually move up to harder woods like oak and cedar.

You’re almost ready to get started on your first project, now you just need to decide on what to make. Good Luck to you and always follow all safety precautions!

Posted in Wood, Woodworking Tips (General) | 1 Comment »

What are Sheet Goods?

Posted by The Scroll Saw Lady on 26th August 2008

What are Sheet Goods and do you want to pick these for your projects?

Sheet Goods

The two most common manufactured sheets goods used in furniture making are MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) and Particle Board. Both are made from wood particles, combined with glue and bonded under pressure. MDF has finer particles than Particle Board so produces a smoother and stronger finished product.

MDF machines very well and is often used for moulded components on painted furniture. Its main draw back is that it is a very heavy product compared to real wood.  Because of their laminated construction, they are extremely stable in all dimensions. Since the veneers on any given panel are usually cut sequentially from the same log, the panel should display a uniform color and grain.

Matching the grain pattern of solid wood to the generally uniform grain pattern on the panels can be difficult. But careful planning can yield good matches in the most visible areas of your project.
Manufactured sheets do have limitations, whenever they are used, regardless of the core, the edge must be hidden and the veneers on the surface are extremely thin, often less than 1/32 in. Because of this, the surface is fragile and has a tendency to split out, especially on the back side of a saw cut. Also, since the veneer is so thin aggressive sanding can quickly work through the veneer and expose the unattractive core underneath.

These materials are generally not used in scroll sawing because of the fact that the layers can be seen once you scroll your project and leave an unsightly look to your picture or projects scroll sawn.  Though you may still find times when they can come in handy for a project.

Posted in Wood, Woodworking Terminology, Woodworking Tips (General) | Comments Off on What are Sheet Goods?

Picking Wood For Your Projects – Hardwoods

Posted by The Scroll Saw Lady on 25th August 2008

Yesterday we talked about picking wood for your projects and what softwoods were, today we will look at the properties of hardwoods and how they are to work with.


Hardwood lumber comes from deciduous trees, the ones that shed their leaves annually. Popular domestic species are oak, maple, cherry, birch, walnut, ash and poplar. Of these common native hardwoods, only red oak and poplar are usually stocked in home centers and lumberyards, the others have to be obtained from specialty stores. The material stocked at home centers and lumberyards is usually sold in similar dimensions to softwood and by the lineal foot as well.

At specialty stores the thickness of hardwood lumber is specified in quarters of an inch, measured when the wood is in a rough state. The thinnest stock is 4/4, representing 1 in., and the thickest usually available is 16/4, representing 4 in. Rather than being milled to specified dimensions, like pine, hardwoods are sold in random widths and lengths.

Working with hardwoods is quite different from working with pine; you cannot drive a screw through hardwood lumber without first boring a pilot hole. Cutting and planing hardwoods requires extremely sharp tools.

Hardwoods are good to use when building furniture.  Oak and ash are known as open-grain woods. These species have alternating areas of relatively porous and dense wood, when stained the open-grain areas absorb the color readily while the harder areas are more resistant. This accentuates the grain patterns, creating a dramatic effect.
Cherry, maple and birch are closed-grain woods, demonstrating a more uniform texture throughout a board. Poplar is also a closed-grain wood, but its color ranges from a beige to olive green, and often has purple highlights thrown into the mix. Because of this unusual coloration, it is rarely used if a furniture piece is going to have a clear finish. This wood is best when stained or even painted. Poplar, being less expensive, is also a good choice for framing hardwood projects.

Hardwood is more durable and less prone to dents and scratches. It is also more expensive but will finish to a better advantage. Soft woods, like pine, are more prone to dents and scratches and do not have the durability of hardwood. Softwoods are much less expensive and easier to find. Ask your lumber supplier to show you “Class 1” or “Select Grade” lumber. Make sure it is properly dried, straight, and free of knots and defects. (It may be impossible to be completely free of defects but be sure you understand how to cut around these.)

Tomorrow we will look at sheet goods.

Posted in Hardwood, Softwood, Wood, Woodworking Terminology | Comments Off on Picking Wood For Your Projects – Hardwoods

Picking Out Wood For Your Projects

Posted by The Scroll Saw Lady on 24th August 2008

Before you can actually start any project you have to know a little bit about wood and its properties, so you can choose the write wood for what you are going to create.

The two basic categories of wood are hardwood and softwood. There is also manufactured wood like plywood.  What you use for any given project depends on various factors: strength, hardness, grain characteristics, cost, stability, weight, color, durability and availability.

Usually beginning woodworkers start out with softwood such as pine. It’s soft and easy to work, and you don’t need expensive tools to get good results. It is readily available at local lumberyards and home centers. It has it’s limitations in furniture making; it is a soft wood and will damage easily.

Softwood is from an evergreen or coniferous (cone-bearing) tree. Common varieties are pine, fir, spruce, hemlock, cedar and redwood. These woods are mostly used in the home construction industry. Cedar and redwood are excellent choices for outdoor projects, while pine is often used for “Early American Country Style” furniture.

Pine and most other softwoods will absorb and lose moisture more than hardwoods so are not as stable. Purchase the lumber at least two weeks before starting your project and keep it indoors.

You will find that softwoods are sold in standard thickness and widths, for example a 1 X 4 will be 3/4″ thick and 3 1/2″ wide similar to construction materials. The material will usually be priced per lineal foot and the price will increase accordingly for the wider boards.

There are specialty stores that sell wood for scroll sawers and we will look at several of those later.  Right now I would pick up some pine and just practice some cuts both with your scroll saw and on your table saw or any other hand saw that you might have picked up.  Always use your ear protection, protective eye wear and always follow manufactures safety recommendations.

Tomorrow we look at hardwoods.

Posted in In The Beginning, Softwood, Wood, Woodworking Terminology | 4 Comments »

Let’s Talk Wood

Posted by The Scroll Saw Lady on 22nd July 2008

If you are ready to start scroll sawing then we need to talk about getting some wood.

Wood comes in two basic categories, solid woods which come in two categories also; hardwoods and softwoods.  Then woods come in what is considered sheet goods (woods layered or pressed together) like plywood.

 Both have their places in scroll sawing and woodworking.  Plywood is easier to come by and cheaper in most instances to make scroll saw projects.  But, if you are into reclaiming wood like I talked about in and earlier post, you don’t have to work about any of this, use your reclaimed wood.

You can go to your local lumber yard and get plywood sheets and have them cut it to smaller sheets if you don’t already have a saw to cut the sheets down.  This will be the cheapest way for you to get plywood sheets for scrollsawing.  I will post spots for you to buy precut sheets used specificely scroll sawing at a later date, but, know you are going to pay a good price for these pieces and I wouldn’t suggest them when you are just starting out.

You’ll want to start out with thin sheets of plywood to start out with as these are easier for you to move the saw blade through and easier to make turns and cuts in.  If you are using solid woods, I would still look for thinner wood as it will easier to work.  If you are going to go buy plywood, try 1/8 thick wood, very easy to work.

If you are going to buy solid woods, buy a softwood such as pine, as it will be easy to find and less inexpensive then other woods.  Again, you want to buy the thinnest pieces that you can to start with.

Also remember your scroll saw will dictate the width of wood you can scroll on, by the distance you have between the arm of your scroll saw and the surface you are cutting on. 

Next, I will talk about blades and how to start a simple cut.  Please, if you have questions be sure to ask away.

Also watch for the grand opening of my new website coming very soon!

Posted in Hardwood, Softwood, Wood | Comments Off on Let’s Talk Wood