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Blog entry by stefang posted 11-10-2018 01:29 PM 2006 reads 8 times favorited 30 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have gotten a lot of praise for my scroll sawing skills on my recently posted Elephant Walk bowl project. I love the idea that I am some kind of scroll saw guru, but in actuality nothing could be further from the truth. My scroll saw skills are pretty mediocre, but I have developed a technique that works pretty well and I would like to share it with you.

Problems with doing inlays in thick materials and alternative cutting methods
A robust blade is needed to cut thick materials, preferably a #7 blade or at least a #5 IMHO.

Thicker blades are not normally suited to detail cuts where a continuous cut without disturbing the materials outside or inside the pattern lines are required. This kind of cutting would be a requirement for double bevel inlays.

Double bevel inlays in thick materials, say from 1/2” to 1” are difficult also because the workpiece thickness would be doubled for cutting made difficult due to the limited cutting height of the blade which is usually around 2”. That is why I ruled out double bevel inlays for Elephant Walk.

Getting an accurate inlay cut with the blade set at a 90 degrees
Not being able to use the double bevel angle meant that I would have to cut the background material and the inlay separately. This leaves a lot of room for error. If both cuts (the hole and the inlay) are done from a pattern then small differences can and will occur.

My best hope was not to entirely eliminate cutting differences between the inlay and the background, but rather to reduce them as much as possible. I decided that if I first cut out the inlay and then trace it onto background I would theoretically reduce the differences by 50% as the trace would mirror the first cut.

The problem with tracing the rather thick inlay is getting a pencil point into tight spaces in the cutout. The solution to this was to use my glue stick to attach a thin 1/16” piece of veneer onto the top of the inlay piece then gluing the pattern to that. After cutting, the veneer piece which would be an exact copt of the inlay cutout would then be used as a template giving the pencil point easy access to trace the inlay onto the background piece.

Inlay workpiece, Veneer template material stick glued with pattern

Separating template from inlay cutout

Template stick glued to background piece

Tracing pattern onto background piece using template

Removing template after trace

Completed trace

Drilling access hole for internal cutout

Cutting out just inside the line

Internal cut finished

Gluing inlay piece into background piece

Gently tapping inlay into background

Finished test piece

Advantages of the two part cutting
Even though a thick blade was being used a high degree of accuracy was possible because there were no restrictions inside the cut lines on the background piece or outside the cut lines on the inlay piece. In other words the waste material could be used to maneuver the blade for the finest details without the necessity for tight turns, etc.

It is necessary to make sure that the pencil line from the traced pattern is right up to the edge of the template so that your cut can be right up to inner edge of the pattern trace, otherwise you will not get an accurate cut.

Some cutting suggestions
You probably need a variable speed cutting control on your scroll saw. I used slightly above the slowest speed. If you can do the job at high speeds then you might do without the variable speed control.

I found that working slow kept my blade cooler and I was better able to focus on keeping my blade inside the line on the background piece which is the critical cutting operation for this technique.

I couldn’t have done this work without a magnifying glass lamp.

I hope you will find this technique interesting. There is nothing complicated about it and no great skill is required to get a good result. I did have to do a few practice runs to get the hang of it. I have also successfully used this technique to do my dragon marquetry which was done in 1/4” material using 1/16” for the templates. Doing it in 1/4” material allowed me to resaw it in my bandsaw, thereby getting two marquetries for the work of one.

Thanks for reading this. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will be glad to answer them.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

30 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile


4728 posts in 2759 days

#1 posted 11-10-2018 01:46 PM

Really excellent work.

Except you are completely wrong about one thing….....your skills are a lot better than mediocre.

I have done some inlay on thicker wood and not easy. I have cut the thicker wood with a #3 or #5 blade but used the PS Woods Super Sharp blades. While they are more expensive, they cut extremely well.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 3935 days

#2 posted 11-10-2018 02:42 PM

I haven’t done any inlay, yet, but I suspect making a template simultaneous with the cut may have uses elsewhere in projects… just haven’t thought of one yet… (-:

How-to articles are much more useful than pictures of assembled projects, needless to say, but are also much more difficult to write. Thanks for the addition to the lore or woodworking, Mike…

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Ken90712's profile


17867 posts in 3959 days

#3 posted 11-10-2018 02:42 PM

Wow incredible work well done buddy.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View patron's profile


13704 posts in 4111 days

#4 posted 11-10-2018 03:16 PM

super help here mike

thank you

little guy =+50%
little shop =+50%
a little luck =+50%
add a little brain =+50%

total =+200%

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View a1Jim's profile


118065 posts in 4347 days

#5 posted 11-10-2018 03:22 PM

Thanks for the blog Mike very interesting and informative I’ve done very little scroll work or inlay but this may spur me on to try some. Both of your pieces shown here are amazing, great work.


View toyguy's profile


1734 posts in 4608 days

#6 posted 11-10-2018 03:38 PM

Thanks for the how to. But I still think you are much better than you realize . However, I will try this out at some point. Thanks.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4104 days

#7 posted 11-10-2018 03:41 PM

Thanks everyone.

Redoak49 Thanks for the tip on the blades

JimB I never really thought about using the technique on other types of projects, but it might be a very good idea.

Ken Good to hear from you!

David You forgot the ‘lotta luck’ percentage!

a1Jim Scroll sawing is very relaxing and rewarding, especially for someone who prefers to work while sitting.Great for old folks like me. I think the scroll saw is an amazing tool and the kind of work it can do is only limited by the imagination.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View doubleDD's profile


9464 posts in 2813 days

#8 posted 11-10-2018 04:03 PM

Not having the best of scroll saws and limited to the amount of times I use one I still find this very interesting. I find your technique useful for future projects. Now the rest will be up to me. Thanks Mike.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View patron's profile


13704 posts in 4111 days

#9 posted 11-10-2018 04:17 PM

fixed it mike
(see above)

what is the stick glue
temp or semi permanent
don’t know anything about it

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View sras's profile (online now)


5456 posts in 3899 days

#10 posted 11-10-2018 05:13 PM

Nice write up!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4104 days

#11 posted 11-10-2018 05:41 PM

Dave A good scroll saw does help. I have a really good one, but aside from other features that haven’t got a lot to do with the quality of the cuts it still mostly just moves the blade up and down. The most important features for the inlay work in thick wood though is the speed control and the ability to hold unpinned blades and of course low vibration is also a good thing.

David The glue stick glue is applied just like lipstick. It is a water based glue used a lot by school kids. I find that it easily releases paper patterns from wood and also wood from wood and any slight residue it might leave wipes right off with a damp tissue. It’s so clean and easy to use compared to spray glue that it’s the only thing I have used for quite a few years now. When applying a pattern I always make sure to run the stick around the outside edges first to make sure I don’t get any edges lifting.

Steve Long winded as usual, but sometimes too much info is better than not enough! I always like to know the why as well as the what and so I try to write it that way.

One thing I forgot to add to my blog is that if you can do thick inlays they can be sliced up to make repeated decorations, which can in turn be glued into routed or chiseled counter sunk areas on a box or furniture for example. one inlay for several perfect repeats!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View socrbent's profile (online now)


1012 posts in 3040 days

#12 posted 11-10-2018 06:06 PM

The bowl looked great. Thanks for this how to post!

-- socrbent Ohio

View Brit's profile


8076 posts in 3613 days

#13 posted 11-10-2018 06:12 PM

Great blog Mike. Thank you.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View doubleDD's profile


9464 posts in 2813 days

#14 posted 11-10-2018 06:17 PM

If you don’t mind me asking Mike, what scroll saw do you have? Mine is an old craftsman. I know, not the best but it seldom gets used. My brother has the good Dewalt. What a difference compared to mine. I know I could do a lot of fancy stuff and different things with his just by the steadiness and control it has.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View stefang's profile


17039 posts in 4104 days

#15 posted 11-10-2018 08:53 PM

Dave I have an Excalibur. I payed a fortune it, but with no regrets. The Dewalt is very similar the way it works, but lacks some of the features of the Excalibur. The most important being that the sawblade tilts instead of the table. A very nice feature if you do a lot of angle cutting (which I don’t). However, if you want to do a lot of double bevel cutting it might be worth the extra outlay. I have always found it difficult to hold a piece steady enough to get a good cut on an angled table. I would say that a Dewalt would be a very good compromise considering price, quality and features. I might have been just as happy with a Dewalt, but you know how it is with our love of tools.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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