Scroll Saw Projects #1: Tree of Life Tiger Maple and Walnut Scroll Box

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 01-26-2011 04:12 AM 5101 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Scroll Saw Projects series Part 2: Tree of Life Tiger Maple and Walnut Scroll Box Part Two »

And now for something completely different -

I have turned a few vessels and decided to try something a little different. I bought a Dewalt Scroll Saw awhile back but have not made heavy use of it. I bought a book by Diane Thompson on Scroll Saw Box making about a year ago. There was a design in there entitled The Tree of Life and thought I would give it a go. I had some 1/4 inch Walnut and some thicker (approx 1 1/2”) Tiger Maple that I purchased from Raven’s Farm that I decided I would use for the project. I planed the pieces and proceeded to the task at hand.

Box making with the scroll saw is similar to using a bandsaw, except you will end up with more scrap wood. You drill a hole for the interior, cut the box shape on the inside, then cut another oval for the exterior and you have the box side. When I was finished, the piece did not look very oval, it looked a little jagged. I hooked up a sanding drum on my little benchtop Central Machinery drill press and worked it so it had more of the proper roundness. I knew that the thick maple would be pushing the limits of the saw, and the largest blades I had handy was a number 5. I would have had greater success with a 7. To compensate for burning, I only cut to about 1/8th from the line so I could sand any burn marks off on the drill press. The oval then was glued on a walnut board and both pieces were cut out with the scroll saw as one piece. This is the box sides and bottom currently -

It gives a nice effect as one cannot see any lines marking the beginning or the end of the oval.

I drilled the various holes for the fretwork on the Walnut top. I can honestly say that I have developed quite a respect for the patience and diligence of those that do extensive fretwork. I can get a little impatient with a project but found that if I just put on some music and go with the flow that the experience can be quite soothing, rather than frustrating. Working the thick pieces first also made scrolling with the 1/4” stuff seem quite breezy. After about an hour, the design came to life -

I have a little more cleanup to do on the fretwork (fortunately random purchases in the past provided me with riflers, some mini files, and some small dremel bits for cleanup in the hard to reach places) and some finish rounding on the drill press. The top is oversized, I have another glue up for a piece that will provide a tenon for holding the lid in the box and the top will be properly sized. I will do some rounding of the lid with the router. Currently, this is the overall contrasting color look and should make a decent jewelry box when completed. -

Keep making sawdust all,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

8 comments so far

View Bob Collins's profile

Bob Collins

2701 posts in 4162 days

#1 posted 01-26-2011 04:53 AM

Looking good David, great feeling to try something different and it works out. nIce work.

-- Bob C, Australia. Your best teacher is your last mistake.

View Rustic's profile


3256 posts in 4075 days

#2 posted 01-26-2011 05:25 AM

ditto i like it

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4267 posts in 3643 days

#3 posted 01-26-2011 05:54 AM

Nice combination piece David, you are maturing in the art form…............


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3587 days

#4 posted 01-26-2011 07:15 AM

Thanks for the comments gentlemen. I have been feeling my confidence grow with the turning and felt compelled to see what else might appeal to me. It is a good feeling to expand and not be left with the tail between the legs as a result of it :) I learned a great deal just reading everyone’s posts and finding out how they work around issues. As always, I appreciate the support.


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View TJ65's profile


1381 posts in 3528 days

#5 posted 01-26-2011 12:45 PM

great first go at scrolling. Love the two tone look.
But can I ask what sort and size blade are you using. As when doing small areas in thinish stock it is far better to use a finer blade and a lower speed (if your scrollsaw has variable speed) to get a more of a precise cut.
Most of, actually all of my cutting I dont sand the cuts (gosh if I did I dont think I would ever do it as there would be way to many holes). Another way when a picture or hole allows it, when you do make a mistake just sort of sand the area with the blade a bit so you then cant see where you went wrong therefore not having to worry about sanding it later.
And remember scrollsaws are very hard to cut a ‘straight line’ they are made to cut curves.
With practice as with alot of things it gets easier! :-)

-- Theresa,

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3587 days

#6 posted 01-26-2011 02:30 PM

Thanks for the wisdom and suggestions Theresa. The cuts in the thicker material was with an Olsen no. 5 14TPI reverse blade. Not the best choice for thick hardwood or interior circle cuts. The reverse is great for the exterior, as the finish cut is so smooth it is glossy, but it comes at a price to the interior. Unfortunately, it was the thickest I had on hand, where a no. 7 or 9 with a lower tpi would have been better for the maple slab. The fret cuts were with a spiral 41 tpi, I am guessing no. 2 blade. Ryobi, unfortunately, does not always list the universal blade sizes on their packages. I have been picking up Olsen blades to replace the Ryobi. I have the Dewalt DW788 which does have variable speed.

Thanks again for the comments,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View TJ65's profile


1381 posts in 3528 days

#7 posted 01-26-2011 11:09 PM

Cant really see how thick those lines are on the trunk of the tree are but instead of a spiral as they tend to be a bit wayward for my liking (probably no hand control on my behalf!! ) and especially if you have only just begun Maybe try just a flat blade if you can get them in. I agree Olsen have a far greater choice and it is only experience in what to use. I still refere to the packet when doing something a bit different as I have a tendancy to just use the Olsen Mach speed ones as they cut quick but do change if i am doing thinner stock.
Good luck and keep on scrollin!

-- Theresa,

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4725 days

#8 posted 01-27-2011 12:08 AM

Looks very cool David. Like the wood choices.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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