The scroll of life

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Twice in one month I’ve learned something about how I do woodworking. Like the last time, it was something I don’t handle very well. Darn.

I learned earlier this month in the process of shooting a DVD that I find it difficult to work with machines when someone is watching me. That surprised me – since being voted “Student Most Likely to Never Grow Out of Being the Class Clown” back in high school, I just always assumed that doing anything for an audience was something I did naturally. I was wrong.

So here I was in the waning days before Christmas working on the last present I needed to make. In this case, it was a dragon puzzle for my grandson Jed. As with most wooden puzzles I planned to make it out of high-quality birch ply, cutting the shapes on the scroll saw. I’ve owned and used a scroll saw for decades, but usually just for quick detail cuts as part of larger projects built mostly with other tools. However, this was to be the first project I’d ever attempted cut entirely on the scroll saw.

And boy, am I bad at it. I’ve never had an issue doing those quick detail cuts over the years, and cutting puzzles looks so simple watching others do it, so I thought it’d be a breeze. It wasn’t. Following those cut lines all over the puzzle was extremely difficult, and I found myself wandering off the lines constantly.

The end result, although functional and sure to delight my young Jedi, wasn’t my best work. I did manage to smooth out most of the rough cuts – and there were a lot of them – with sanding. Fortunately, that had the unintentional benefit of making the pieces nice and loose in the puzzle, which will make it easier for a two-year-old to handle, but I wish I hadn’t had to resort to that.

I suppose with a lot of practice cutting puzzles would become much easier and I’d get a lot better at it. But then, I suppose that with a lot of practice I could probably play the violin, too.

A.J.

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