While reading Joanne Lockwood’s article on scroll saw techniques, I was reminded of the class I took with Ron Posten many years ago. There were a half-dozen coworkers in the class, and Ron walked us through the basics, offering pointers and advice along the way.
The class was a lot of fun, and we all left with a couple of finished projects to show off to family and friends. But the part that had the most impact on me was when Ron told us to think of following the pattern line like driving a car. If you veer over the white line on the side of the road, you don’t harshly jerk the wheel to get back on the right path, you just steer back on track.
The same holds true with scrolling—if you stray off of the pattern line, it’s much less noticeable if you gradually get yourself back to the line instead of making an abrupt correction. Ron also told us that when you are driving, you don't just look at the three feet of road in front of your car—you look to see what's up ahead. The same holds true for scrolling—instead of intently watching the spot where the blade is cutting the wood, watch what’s coming next. By looking ahead, you’ll be better prepared to make smooth turns and accurately follow the pattern line.
One tip I learned in class, and have heard many other scrollers promote, is to warm up before jumping right into your project. Ron cut stair steps, or wiggly worms, to warm up. Even though I know I will get better results if I take a few minutes to warm up first, it’s a discipline I have a hard time following.
Another good piece of advice I seldom follow is to watch my tension. Blade tension is not a problem for me, it’s the tension in my shoulders and neck. I get so involved in a project that before I know it, I’m holding the blank so tightly my shoulders and neck are stiff. Joanne cautions scrollers to stop and roll your shoulders and neck when you feel things starting to get tense. By the time I realize I’m getting stiff, I’m usually nearing the finish line and I don’t want to take the time to roll my shoulders, let alone get up and take a break. It’s also usually about that time I start getting sloppy with my cutting.
I definitely still consider myself a novice scroller, but I do know the basics—I just tend to ignore them a lot. Joanne’s article is a good reminder that no matter how experienced we are, it never hurts to take a step back and review the basics.