Winter months are a good time to do some activities that we don't have time for other months of the year. Finding an interesting hobby is one of those.
Before Christmas, we had a visit from friends that live down in Shreve. Joe and Edie are both retired from the military and enjoy living in rural Wayne County. Joe bought a quality scroll saw several years ago and has become very good at making wooden items with it.
We talked about some of the intricate items he has made over the years. Since he was in the military, he has made several patriotic pieces. He has the patience and skill to make that scroll saw really perform.
Several days after they were here, the mail brought a beautiful piece he had taken a lot of time to cut out. It is 4 1/2 inches high, 4 inches wide and has a wooden bow at the top with a heart below. In the heart are two elderly people that look like Grandpa and Grandma. Joe's workmanship was perfect, with inside and outside cuts made without a flaw. The piece took a lot of skill and patience.
We can hang this anyplace where we can enjoy it because it is a nice conversation piece. It will also look good on the Christmas tree in December.
Also before Christmas, we were visiting with our neighbor Neil, who lives a couple of houses down the street. Neil's wife is the pastor of our church. He is also very good with the scroll saw and was cutting out small animals to go in the Noah's ark that he has made. They were small and not very easy to work with, but Neil said, "I even put the teeth in the alligator."
That tells you how detailed they are and the time and patience he took to cut them out.
Several years ago, we had a friend, Bill from Columbus, stay with us for a few days. When he got back home, he sent us eight Christmas ornaments he had cut out with his scroll saw. They were also perfectly done, and every year when we take them out of the box, we think again about Bill.
Several years ago I got interested in scroll saw work after seeing what others had done and reading about the saws. So I bought one, not as good as Joe's, Bill's or Neil's, but it will do reasonably good work, as long as I get it set up right.
It does take some know-how to decide the number of teeth you want on the blade, the thickness, blade tension and speed. These are determined by the kind and thickness of the wood you are working with and how intricate the various cuts are in the piece you want to make.
After breaking several blades, and the saw does clatter when a blade breaks, and practicing on several scraps of wood, I got so I could do fairly well. Not nearly as good as my friends, but good enough to work on a couple of pieces.
I found a plan for a pivoting, swing-out quilt crane that I wanted to make. The brackets needed a scroll saw to cut out, and my wood was either cherry or walnut from my brother's woods. It was three-fourths of an inch thick and not real easy to work with. The quilt-display projects were interesting to make, and I made one for Betty, one for my daughter Jill, who is a quilter, and two for friends. Yes, I broke some blades in the process.
Since a few health problems and being busy with my writing and some community activities, I have not done much in my wood shop. I keep saying to Betty that I am going to get back down there because I like to work with my hands. But it could be that I have lost some self-confidence in working with power tools. I need to get that back.
If time is heavy on your hands this winter, get out and find a hobby and enjoy it.
Parker is retired from Ohio State University and is an independent writer for the Tribune.