Turn photos and drawings into scrollsaw patterns


I do a lot of scrollsawing and I’m always trying to find new patterns. I’m also interested in making my own scrollsaw patterns. Could you help me get started?
—Jim Farrell, Elliot Lake, Ont.


Fortunately, Jim, scrollsaw patterns surround you. After you’ve exhausted all the woodworking resources—specialty scrollsawing magazines, books, and Web sites—start looking elsewhere for fresh ideas. Browse the stenciling and quilting sections of a craft store for patterns that can be adapted to scrollsawing. Run a Google search on “papercraft” for some intricate cutout designs that double as wood cutouts.

As for making your own, remember that scrollsaw patterns are essentially black (cutout) and white (wood) images. Train your eye to look for high-contrast photos, scenes, signs, and patterns in the world around you. Carry a camera wherever you go and learn which settings and lighting conditions provide high-contrast photos.

For a low-tech way to convert those high-contrast photographs into patterns, tweak them on a photocopier using the brightness and contrast settings until they resemble silhouettes. When you’re satisfied, overlay a fresh sheet of paper on the pattern and begin tracing with a pencil before using a black, fine-point, felt-tip pen to fill in large fields of black where the wood will be cut away. Connect any unsupported “islands” of white by filling in with “bridges” using correction fluid as shown, above.

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