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Intro To Scroll Saw 2: Glue-up and Painting

Questions answered about scroll sawing

Frequently Asked Questions

Lesley de Abaitua - @oakandfeatherdecor

Hi Everyone! It’s awesome to be back with you for another live! Last time we did a high level overview of all things scroll saw. We discussed what a scroll saw is, different types of blades and materials I like to use, and did some live cutting. For this live, I am going to go through my most frequently asked questions!

  1. What is a good beginner scroll saw?

Scroll saws come in a wide variety of sizes and brands. When I first started out on the scroll saw, I was using a Dremel MotoSaw, which is a very small pinned end machine. Pinned end saws have blades that are slotted into the machine with pins on both sides to secure it. The draw back of this style of saw is that your pilot hole to thread your blade through needs to be much larger than a pinless style saw. 

I used the MotoSaw for about a month cutting out basic shapes and larger letters before deciding to move onto the mid-range priced DeWALT DW788 saw. This scroll saw retails usually between $500-$700 depending where you live. I’m in Canada so it can be a bit more expensive here. I decided to upgrade almost immediately because I wanted the pinless blade set up to allow for more detailed work. 

My recommendation if you are really wanting to get into scroll saw art, however, would be to start with the DeWALT saw. It is a great, easy to use scroll saw with variable speed and an affordable price and doesn’t have limitations like a smaller saw has.  There are other saws available and if you have the budget to spend a bit more, I’ve heard amazing things about the Pegas Scroll Saw. Or if you’re looking to spend a bit less, the Rikon Saw is new on the market and is apparently very comparable to the DeWALT. 

2. How do you set up dust collection? 

The DeWALT saw I have doesn’t have a dust port set up on it. It comes with a blower that will blow the dust off your work surface, but nothing to collect. 

There are several DIY solutions you can try, a really good one can be found on YouTube by TightWAD DIY : 

He uses a services of PVC pipes you can find at your local hardware store, and it’s a DIY that’s been on my list forever! 

I currently use a tubing system sold as the “Scrollnado”. I got it on Amazon several years ago. It’s a tubing system you attach to the top and bottom of your saw by the blade clamps, which you can then attach to your dust collection system. I use the DeWALT Dust Extractor which I then hook up to a foot pedal so it only turns on when my scroll saw is on. How that works is I plug my scroll saw into a deadman foot pedal, then switch my scroll to ON. Then I plug the foot pedal into my dust extractor, turning the power to CORD. Then I plug the dust extractor into a power outlet. When I push the foot pedal, it triggers the scroll saw and the dust collection to come on, and when I remove my foot they both turn off. It’s been a great method for me! 

3. What is your most commonly used blade?

We went into details of all types of blades during my last live so if you missed that make sure you go back to see an in-depth discussion! 

My personal most used blade is the Modified Geometry (MGT) blade by Pegas, and specifically the # 3 and # 5 blades. This style blade is a really fast cutting precise blade which allows for clean cuts, resulting in less sanding and really nice finishes. Because it combines the technology of a reverse tooth and a skip tooth blade, it also has a longer operating life, lasting longer than other style blades which makes for less blade changes and saves you time and money requiring less blades overall!

The reason these blades are also my most frequently used are because the materials I cut are typically between 1/4” to 1 1/4” thicknesses. 

4. How do you sand small pieces?

Sanding can be the most time consuming part of your process, especially if you are doing any sort of shaping or detail work after you cut. However, using a good blade is the first step to getting a good finish. If you are using the proper blade, sanding shouldn’t actually be that bad! 

I use a ton of different sanding tools to help in the process. When I’m sanding the small inner part of cut pieces, I typically will simply use high grit sandpaper and fold it to fit into the gaps. I like use either 320 or 400 grit for this purpose. I also will use sanding sticks if the space is larger enough for them. For the outside edges, I like using sanding pads and bricks to get a nice smooth finish. 

When getting into shaping and carving, I will use a Dremel rotary tool with a flex shaft and various carving bits to get the shape I want before moving back to the sandpaper and sanding pads to finish it off. Sanding is a really important step in scroll saw work if you are looking to get a really great finish because you need to ensure your surface is ready for your paint or stain!

5. How do you get a good finish using spray paint? 

You’ll be able to see this in great detail in my next Maker Collab video! However, the key to good finishing is in good preparation. 

The first step is choosing the right material. For paint finishing, I typically will use a high quality MDF. Next, you want to make sure you are using a good blade that will give you a really smooth cut and as I mentioned my favourite are the MGT blades. Once cut, you’ll go through the sanding process making sure to finish at a high grit so you have a good surface to start with. 

I have used a ton of different paints and spray paints, and my choice is the Molotow Premium Spray Paint. It comes it tons of colors, and is an acrylic based paint so it dries quickly and can be mixed easily with other colours when spraying. Oil based paints like Rustoleum can still work great, but to get a really great finish especially on something like a floral sign, I much prefer the more art based paints. 

When you are using any spray finish, there is no such thing as “one and done”. You will need to do multiple coasts of paints, and most of the time, two coats works great. The first coat of paint is your primer coat. You can absolutely use an actual primer for this stage, but I choose to simply use two coats of the paint I am using. Primer is fairly expensive in Canada, nearly double the price of a can of paint. Spray paints are typically a paint/primer combination any way and I get great results using this method. 

You want to ensure you are doing a light coat, and the spray can is always moving when you are finishing your piece. If you hold it steady in one spot it will run or pool, which isn’t a great result. Once you’ve done a light coat, you’ll let it dry and then sand again, removing all the grain and fuzzies that have come up on your pieces. Then, you’ll spray again with a slight heavier coat, but still ensuring you are moving the can constantly. 

If your spray finish isn’t turning out smooth, you’ll want to look back at your preparation and also look at the products you are using along with all of the dry time and re-coat windows. 

6. How do you finish your backers? 

I use a wide variety of materials in my work, and my backers vary quite a bit as well. When doing anything in a natural wood, I use birch or maple plywood, or I will use hardwoods like ambrosia maple, olive, or walnut. 

To finish those products, I will use stain, sealers and oils. For the plywood, I usually use an oil based stain and then a water based poly sealer. I prefer to use a water based sealer as it won’t change the colour of the stain. If you use an oil based sealer, it tends to amber/darken your finish. Once the stain is full dry, I do two coats of the sealer. Once that is dry, it is ready to be used in a glue up. To ensure a really good adhesion of my cut outs to my backer, I’ll often sand the back side of the pieces to rough them up slight before gluing, 

For hardwoods, I use an all natural oil to finish them and let it fully cure. Once cured, I will apply the water based sealer as well if I think it need extra protection, repeating the same method as the ply wood. 

For backers that are painted, I typically use MDF and will paint using wall paint. The same paint you would use to paint your house! Because of this, you don’t need extra sealer on top of it unless you want that extra coat! However just like the paint on your walls, it will last really well inside without the extra sealer!

7. How long does it take to make a scroll saw project? 

The floral sign featured in the detailed Maker Collab videos is what I would consider a very highly detailed project, and took about 20 hours to complete. 

The cutting process took about 5 hours. 

The shaping and sanding process was 6 hours

The set up for painting was 2 hours. 

The painting took around 45 mins. 

The sanding after the first coat of paint took 2 hours. 

The second round of painting took 1 hour. 

The dry fit and glue up took about 2 hours. 

However, keep in mind this style sign I’ve done 3 times now, so I have found efficiencies and have a lot of experience cutting and shaping. Something like might take you quite a bit longer if it’s not the a level of detail you’ve tried before. 

Simpler signs, like something with just a name will take a few hours but I usually spread it over a few days to account for drying times with paint and stain. 

8. How do you price your work? 

Pricing is definitely a very tricky process. When I first started, I would time how long a project took me and calculate the cost of my materials. I would pay myself $25 per hour and the cost and that was my price. I quickly realized that this was a great way to sell a lot of signs but also a great way to burn myself out. I also found that as I got more experienced and my work was higher quality, I also became a lot faster and was charing less for better work. 

As I sold more pieces, I came up with what I call my base price. That includes the cost of all materials (wood, glue, nails, tool usage, paint, hanging hardware, everything that goes into the sign). I then add a cost per letter for scroll work, and a price for add-ons, so things like a floral or an animal! This became my “hourly” rate, regardless of how long or short it took. Now, as I am more involved in creating fully custom pieces, I charge an additional fee on top of this formula for custom designs and one of a kind work. 

My signs range in price from $100 to over $3000. My best advice is to value your time, your skill, and your experience. Don’t charge hourly! 

9. How do you design your signs? 

I am definitely not a graphic designer. I pay for my fonts and images across various platforms including Etsy Shops, Creative Fabrica, Design Cuts and Canva. 

I will typically take elements from all of these places to combine them together to create my custom works! Once I have my designs, I usually will add in some hand drawn details as well to make it truly my own. 

My biggest advice when you are creating designs is to ensure you have the proper licensing to use the designs. I have commercial re-sale licensing for all of my elements, including fonts and images. 

If you do not pay for Canva or for the fonts you are using, you don’t have the license to sell you items if you create them on that type of platform. 

10. Have you expanded your business enough to move out of your basement shop?

I have been working in my basement workshop for about 7 years now, and 6 of those years were making only handprinted and scroll saw signs. My goal wasn’t to have this be my full time job, but it was to make extra money while being a full time mom. This year is my very first year as a full time maker so I am still in my basement! I now have a ONEFINITY CNC and an Aeon Laser to help me expand and I am super hopeful that if I continue to work hard and follow my passion that I’ll have my own shop one day! 

If you want to learn more about how to grow your creative abilities, market yourself, or to start making more money, consider joining TMCU today.  Check out our enroll page and invest in yourself… besides, it’s a write-off! We’ll be here to help you create, learn, & connect.


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