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Fretwork Easter Ornaments

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Interchangeable inserts and delicate egg frames give a 3-D effect to these interlocking ornaments.

Pattern designed by Volker Arnold

This set of interchangeable Easter ornaments will be a great addition to your spring decorating—and since they can be stack cut, they make ideal sale or gift items. They arent difficult to make, but they do require some careful and intricate scrolling. There are two egg patterns and three inserts for the eggs: a cute little duckling, a crowing rooster, and an Easter bunny. Make several sets to use for table decorations that can be sent home with your guests. You could also tie string through the top to decorate your Easter tree or to hang in a window—the traditional German practice. Because these ornaments are small, this is also a good project for using up small scraps of wood. This project will teach you about stack cutting, cutting "veins" or detail lines, and challenging interior fretwork.

Step 1: Prepare the wood and attach the patterns. Sand the Baltic birch plywood with 220-grit sandpaper. Stack three or four layers of plywood, and attach them with masking tape or your method of choice. I place strips of masking tape every inch around the edge of the stacked wood. Attach the patterns with temporary-bond spray adhesive.

Step 2: Drill blade-entry holes. Use a 1/32"-diameter or #60 bit to drill the holes for the interior cuts and for veins. If you don't have a very small bit, use a 1/8"-diameter drill bit for the interior cuts, and add the veins and other details with a fine marker.

Step 3: Cut the ornaments. Go slowly. If you plan to cut the veins, do this first. Next do the small interior cuts. Then do the larger interior cuts, and finally cut the exterior lines. There is a lot of fragile detail, so it is important that you plan your cutting. Take the rooster as an example. Start by cutting all of the interior cuts and veins. The base with the house and fence is not very fragile, so cut this part next. Then start working on the rooster. Carefully cut the detail around the head before cutting the narrow neck. Cut the feathers of the tail before cutting the rest of the tail. Finally, cut the rest of the body, and be very careful as you cut away the waste from both sides of the legs. Use this same strategy as you cut the other two inserts and as you cut the flower blossoms, leaves and grass on the eggs. Do the most fragile parts last, and try to leave waste wood to support the connective parts. I recommend that you cut the slots slightly undersize (see Step 5).

Step 4: Peel off the masking tape, and then remove the patterns with paint thinner. I dip a soft tooth brush into paint thinner and VERY gently scrub with the grain to remove all the spray adhesive. Allow the thinner to evaporate. I put it in a sunny, well-ventilated area to speed up the evaporation. Use needle files to clean up any fuzz on the edges.

Step 5: Check the slots for proper fit. As needed, use a small flat file or scrolling file to enlarge the slots for a snug fit. Be very careful when pushing the parts together to avoid breaking these very fragile ornaments.

Step 6: Apply a finish. The traditional German method is to not apply any finish so that the ornaments are a very light color. I recommend that you apply a clear, oil-based finish. It is my experience that an oil finish will soak into the wood fibers and strengthen them as it dries. This is especially important to keep sharp points from breaking. You might want to leave the eggs natural and stain the inserts to provide some contrast. Keep in mind that a dark color tends to make the details disappear.

Step 7: Draw in any details that weren’t cut with the scroll saw. If you draw the details, this must be done AFTER finishing, to avoid having the ink run along the wood grain. On the hatching duckling, notice that I used a “Fine PILOT Rolling Ball” marker to add the details to the face on the flower.

Step 8: Assemble the ornaments. Be careful as you push them together. Don’t push on anything that is fragile. If you plan to take your ornaments apart for storage, be sure that the finish is completely dry before assembling, or the finish might "glue" the parts together.

Materials:

  • 1/8” x 12” x 12” Baltic birch plywood (to make three of each of the five patterns)
  • Tung oil, Watco, or an oil-based wiping varnish of your choice
  • Masking tape or other method for holding stacked pieces together for cutting
  • Temporary-bond spray adhesive
  • Sandpaper, 220 grit

Tools:

  • #1 reverse-tooth blades (or smaller) or blades of choice.
  • Drill with 1/32”-diameter bit
  • Drill press, hand drill, or rotary power carver that will hold tiny drill bits
  • Needle files
  • PILOT Fine Rolling Ball black marker for veins and details (optional)
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Tom Sevy
Tom Sevy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who relies on scrolling for relaxation. He has been scrolling for many years. more