Cedar Whistle

Handmade because you're worth it.

Say Cheese

A couple of years ago as I thumbed through a scroll sawing publication I ran across an advertisement for a software program that would turn a photo into a pattern suitable for cutting out on a saw.  Intriguing?  Absolutely.

The idea of doing this has always been in the back of my mind.  The software is not terribly expensive at $90.  But with limited time available to cut things and honestly a tighter budget I have never pulled the trigger on the program.  That doesn’t mean the desire to cut portraits has left my mind though.

Fast forward to today.

So….I have racked my brain and researched to find another way to attempt this feat of scroll saw art.  I downloaded a photo editing program called GIMP.  It is involved as it is a near clone of Photoshop.  But after playing around with it for about an hour I have produced what seems to be a suitable pattern for cutting.  See below the photo and the pattern produced from it.

Now after I print this out I will go over it with a fine tip sharpie to make sure the lines are crisp and all the cutout pieces remain connected to the portrait.  Maybe in a few days I can post what this finished self portrait looks like cut out and framed.  Wish me luck.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless.




Taking a “Scroll” Through History

My history with scroll saws goes back to middle school.  In the shop class that split the semester between wood and metal working.  It was in that setting where I caught the bug for the scroll saw.  All the other tools were more impressive in size and function.  And POWER.  AARRRGGGGHHHH.  But the simple elegant scroll saw did things those other tools simply could not.  The intricate curves and the internal cuts one could  make with it were unmatched on any other saw in that well stocked public school work space.

That experience was years ago.  A lot of years ago.  But I wondered this morning how did the scroll saw come to be the thing it is today?  In its current form.  Who needed to make such intricate cuts in the first place?

With this article I’ll paint with a fairly broad brush and write a little about how this amazing tool evolved and who evolved it into our modern version.

It seems that a lot of our modern tools can be traced back to ancient times.  The Greeks, Romans or Egyptians were the first to do this or that.  Well in the case of the scroll saw that is not the case.  Surprised?


Antique Black Forest German grandfather clock.

It seems in the 1500’s that German clock makers came up with an early way to make thin narrow blades to use on their clocks.  The craftsmanship in these clocks is absolutely amazing.


Well these first “scroll saws” were crude and I can imagine hard to use.  So the idea of the thin blades made its way across Europe to France and into the shop of a furniture maker by the name of Andre Charles Boulle.

Boulle was one of the best wood workers in Europe at that time.  He was called the “master of inlays”.  He used multi colored woods inlayed in to his pieces to make them as elegant as possible and to probably garner a higher price for his goods.


An example of Andre Charles Boulle’s work.



It was Boulle who took that thin German blade and added a frame and handle to it to make it more practical and easier to use.  These framed and hand-held saws were called fret saws.  They are the early editions of our modern-day coping saw.  In fact some still call coping saws by their original name.


Early fretsaws. They are nearly the same as todays coping saws.


The scroll saws migration didn’t stop in Paris though.  These fine toothed saws found their way across Europe as more crafts people could use them to create Boulle inspired pieces of their own.  These framed saws were first mass-produced in steel in Britain.  This undoubtedly helped the art of fret work spread more rapidly.

You may be wondering when did this type of saw and craft come to America?

In the mid 1800’s fretwork pieces were introduced in the US.  They were called Sorrento carvings named after the area in Italy where they came from.  It wasn’t long after this that the first “fret saws” were introduced to America.  These early scroll saws, the name they took on shortly after being introduced, quickly grew in popularity and demand for the items produced on them grew.


A vintage pedal powered saw.

As technology grew and electricity became more widely available the old vintage saws were replaced with electric saws.  These modern saws are precision pieces of equipment and are miles ahead of any pedal powered saw from the 19th century.  But I can’t look at the pedal saw pictured here and wonder how cool it would be to scroll something on it.  To cut on the same saw as a craftsman from decades to over a century ago.  Wondering if they broke blades at the same pace that I do sometimes?  They probably didn’t.  My advantage is I can go online and have another couple hundred blades delivered to my door in two days.  A pipe dream for those early craftsman.



A modern scroll saw similar to the one I use.


Today’s modern saws come with all the bells and whistles.  They have pipes that funnel dust into dust collection systems.  They feature quick release blades for easy changing.  They have thumb screws for fast and accurate tensioning of the blade.  They have LED lights for you see your work and to cut as mistake free as possible.  They have variable speed motors that can be controlled by a pedal.  I guess some things will never change.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless.







Fretwork for Sale on Ebay

10676324_297645133773773_1522091429437262674_nI have just put up for auction and/or sale a “Crown of Thorns” fretwork piece on Ebay.  If this item is of any interest to you the link to it is here.

This is my first item on Ebay and will be followed by more.  The piece pictured here is with an orange background and the one listed has a blue background.

Thanks for reading. Be good. God bless.



Be “Knice” to Your Cutting Board

thGODP5T14The simple kitchen implement known as the cutting board has probably been around in man’s kitchen for millennia.  Cavemen cut hunks of meat on a stump to cook over their newly discovered fire.  More modern people used simple slabs of wood to prepare their meals that were to be cooked in a wood fire oven or over a hearth in a fireplace.  Todays modern man uses boards made from wood and a plethora of other space age materials to get his delicacies into the convection oven or on the infrared grill to cook.  This blog post will deal with the care of wood cutting boards simply because they require TLC to keep them clean, flat and disinfected.

The board above in the picture is an end grain cutting board.  It’s essentially a bunch of pieces of hardwood all glued together so the end grain of the boards form the cutting surface.  This is done because obviously it looks amazing but it also is easier on the cutting edge of your knife.  The one pictured below is a board I recently made from barn wood.  It is just a slab of rock hard oak cut into the shape of a pig.  While a good end grain board can cost hundreds of dollars and a slab cutting board can be thirty dollars the care for the two boards is exactly the same.

20170928_201906Basic care should begin from the very beginning of life for a wood cutting board.  The maker should have applied a food safe finish on it to make it usable as soon as you get it home.  Any number of natural waxes like bees-wax or carnauba wax are excellent choices.  Maybe they used a natural oil to seal the wood such as mineral oil, coconut oil or raw linseed oil.  These are the only oils I recommend because they will not turn rancid over time or impart a taste or smell on to the food you cut on the board.

When preparing food on a wood board never let blood sit on the board for very long as it may soak in and stain the wood.  Strong smelling foods should be cut and removed from the board as soon as possible.  Onions, garlic or fish are examples of this.  If you do not have time right away to wash your cutting board at least wipe it dry and remove excess residue from it but you must wash it before its next use.

Washing a wood cutting board is a simple straight forward process.  Warm water with a small amount of soap and a little elbow grease will do the job.  Never soak your cutting board in water.  Especially the end grain variety.  The wood fiber soak up the water and swell causing the board to warp and it will not lay flat anymore.

After you have properly washed it now its time to disinfect.  This can be done with pure white vinegar or a well diluted bleach (two tablespoons to a gallon of water) solution.  It’s best to pour either of these solutions onto a wash cloth and wiping the surface as opposed to pouring the solution on the board and wiping it off.  If you prefer a completely natural disinfectant you can cut a lemon in half and use the juice to disinfect the cutting board.

The last and possibly most important step is to dry your board with a soft lint free towel.  Do a good job drying it and inspect it before you store it away.

Pay close attention to gouges or deep knife marks in your board.  These are the places food particles can lodge and remain to cause problems down the road.  Clean and disinfect any of these areas thoroughly.

If you notice any spot on your board beginning to appear dry it is a good idea to clean, dry, disinfect and apply a light coat of mineral oil to your board.   Allow a couple of days for the oil to penetrate into the wood then wipe off any excess left on the surface.

If you want to revive an old cutting board that is in rough shape you can sand its surface smooth, apply a good food safe finish and it will be as good as new.

Again with proper care a well made cutting board should last many years if not many decades.  Pay close attention to its condition and care for it properly so it can continue to be a joy to prepare your family meals on.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless.



The Day That I Nearly Died

Before I get to the story that backs up the title let me say this.  Although this post doesn’t directly involve wood working it does involve a tree and some cussing.  So in that sense it is a little like wood working.  Enjoy.

The rain drizzled onto the windshield the entire hour-long drive to the farm we hunted on a regular basis.  By “we” I mean my cousin and I.  This wasn’t our first hunt in the rain and every time before went off without a hitch.

Headlights bounced off trees as we made our way along the winding back roads that lead to our destination.  We parked beside the nearly hundred year old barn like we had a thousand times before.  We collected our archery equipment, rain gear and tree stands and started the nearly half mile walk to where we wanted to hunt that dreary morning.

With hurried efficiency I secured my climbing tree stand to the tree I wanted to hunt from that morning.  Now mind you it is still nearly half an hour before daylight so I was ahead of schedule a little bit.  Right here is where my luck takes a turn for the worst.

I reach the height I wanted to be at on the tree and secured myself with my safety straps and turned around in the stand to hoist by bow from the ground by the rope attached to it.  As I started pulling the rope it loosened its grip on the limb of my bow and there I was nearly twenty feet off the ground in a tree with no bow to hunt with.

What to do?

The thought of just packing up my stuff and going back to the truck crossed my mind.  I wish I had done that.  Instead I removed my safety straps and climbed down and reattached my bow so I could hunt.  By this time day is just breaking so I worked as fast as possible to get back to my safety straps and back to hunting.  It’s this climb back up that changed a day of hunting into the day I nearly died.

I was only a couple of feet from where my straps were when my climber slipped on the wet bark of the tree.  I fell straight back from the tree and fell about sixteen or eighteen feet to the ground.  I don’t remember the fall.  The last thing I remember is the tree getting farther away as I fell away from it.  I hit the ground back first.  I’m not sure how long I lay there for.

I came too myself and found my glasses and put them on.  I looked up at my stand and realized what had happened.  I was cussing because how in the hell was I going to get back up there now.  It was during this tirade that I felt something warm running down my chin.  I pulled off my glove to wipe it away and discovered it was the most rich red blood I had ever seen.  I thought, “Shit”, I was seriously hurt and had to get to an ER as soon as possible.  The nearest one was about 25 miles away and that was after the hike out to the truck.

With labored breathing I walked toward the logging road that led to the truck.  It was also fortunate that my cousin had set up his stand closer to truck than me so he was on the way.  He seen me coming and said, “What’s wrong?”

I told him “I fell, we gotta go!”

I think he broke some kind of world record for climbing out of a tree that morning.  Within a couple of minutes we were making our way to the truck and hence the ER.  There were a couple of points along that walk that I don’t remember but I do remember him asking me if I wanted him to call 911 and have a helicopter come to pick me up. “No just get me to Corydon,” I remember thinking.  Not sure I even answered his inquiry.

We made it to the truck and he helped put my seatbelt on and we took off towards help.  Now under normal circumstances the drive is about 30 or 35 minutes.  He made it in about 15 or 20.  I don’t remember very much of that drive.  Only a couple of snippets of being on the interstate and driving through downtown Corydon.

The staff at the ER could not have been better.  After a bunch of X-rays and blood work they determined I had four broken ribs to go along with a punctured and collapsed left lung.  They said in another 10 minutes the other lung would have collapsed as well.  Extremely lucky I made it in time.  They inserted a chest tube and got me patched up enough to send to my hometown hospital to recover.  I spent a week in there and another five weeks after that recovering before returning to normal activities like work or golf.

I can’t stress enough if you hunt from any elevated platform to use the utmost caution while doing so.  If possible always hunt with someone.  If you can’t hunt with anyone at least let someone know where you are hunting.  I’m convinced that if I had been alone that morning I wouldn’t be alive and typing this right now.  Everything happens for a reason.  And I’m telling this now to maybe convince just one person to take greater precautions and possibly save their life.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless.



Our “Border” Wall Is Complete

I didn’t campaign on the rhetoric of building it.  I didn’t say I was going to build it and then turn around and not do it.  Have I heard a situation play out like this in the recent past.  Maybe?  And the most important aspect was that I didn’t build it and expect my neighbor or anyone else to pay for it.

After a long day of sawing and driving in just south of seven hundred screws the final side of the privacy fence was completed the day before yesterday.


I now have just a little clean up and some rehab on the yard and the project will be completed except for sealing which I’ll do in about three months.  I think all in all it turned out OK for an amateur fence builder that realized how hard the work of building a fence can be.  Now I realize why custom fence work is so expensive to have done by a professional.  Those guys and gals earn their money.

Now get over and like our Designs by Desira Facebook page.  Just click the like button in the right column on this blog page.  It’s painless and there are things shared there that do not get blogged about here.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless.


by:  Steve

Is “Fencing” an Olympic Sport?

It appears that my next wood working project will not be using fine toothed scroll saw blades and sandpaper but instead will be an outdoor adventure in completing the privacy fence around our backyard.  Yippee.

With the back constructed by a friend hired by us and one side built by a company contracted by my neighbor I figured I would complete the encirclement of our yard myself.

We made the hour drive out to a saw mill in Taylorsville KY yesterday to secure the rough cut cedar posts and the quarter sawn cedar two by fours for the stringers to attach the pickets to.  We chose cedar for its resistance to pests and its resistance to succumbing to rot after being exposed to the elements four seasons a year for possibly decades.  In what is only a cost saving move we are going to put pine pickets on the fence for they are about a third of the cost of cedar pickets.  I feel it is much easier to replace a picket every couple of years than to go with pressure treated pine and have to replace a post in a few years or replace a warped or split stringer every couple of summers.  And maybe eventually we will replace the pickets with cedar but the budget for this project doesn’t allow that call right now.

Let me plug the saw mill we used just in case you are reading this and are local to me.  Glasscock Sawmill is in Taylorsville KY about a half hour from Louisville.  They are off the beaten path but are a family run mill with a good selection of species and a lot different dimensions in cedar.  From the posts and two by fours we bought to huge slabs with live edges they had it there at reasonable prices.

If you don’t already follow our Facebook page go to the tab on the right side of the blog and give our Designs by Desira page a like and follow us there.  I post things there that don’t always get blogged about here.  I’ll be posting pictures of the progress on this project on that page too.  So if you want to see Olympic “fencing” at its highest level go over and follow our page.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless


By:  Steve


The Birds and the “Beaves”

This is just a short post this morning after the 4th.  I picked up this beaver themed bird house from a peddlers mall in Leitchfield KY a few weeks ago.  Well I finally got around to setting into motion my plan for it when I purchased it.  That plan was to disassemble it and use it as a router template to make more of these curious bird dwellings.  And change a couple of features and make dog or bear houses too.

This thing was in rough shape.  It is constructed from what looks like scrap wood.  Which is fine because a lot of my stuff is made from scraps.  But condition wise it had seen better days.  As soon as it was apart a couple of pieces were glued and clamped for repairs and nails were pulled out by the dozens.  I believe this thing was hurricane proof from the sheer number of nails holding it together.

It also needs a hinged panel for cleaning it out each season after the birds finish hatching their flock in it.  I’ll design that in before I begin routing the pieces.

I’m going to rout these abodes from 3/4 inch cedar.  The beaver parts will be stained a dark walnut hue while the house panels will be left their natural color.  After that the whole house will be given a weather proof clear coat.  With the cedar and the weather resistant finish these houses should last for many years out in the elements with no problems.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless


by:  Steve


I’m A Big “Fan” Of This Coat Rack

Old cast iron hard barn wood is one of the latest trends in wood working.  I guess it’s always been hot but it seems the last few years it has been the talk of the town.  I’ve had a piece or two here and there but never really did much with it.  Until a few weeks ago when a good friend brought me a large chunk and wanted to make a display for a couple of wild turkey fans he had preserved.  I jumped on the opportunity to create a one of a kind wall mounted coat rack out of an antique piece of history.

Working barn wood is a test on the ability for you to keep your tools sharp and a test of your patience.  Not only is barn wood typically a hardwood species (here in the Midwest it’s usually oak) but it has been seasoned for maybe a century or more turning it into a petrified shell that is very hard to bend or work with.  With that said it makes it perfect for flooring or cabinets or in this case a coat rack.  It is almost impervious to changing levels of humidity or temperature which sometimes warp other woods or newly milled lumber.

20170605_182253The actual piece that would be the rack and hold the hooks and fans was not a problem to work.  I keep a fairly fresh blade in my saws at all times.  It makes for fast, easy and in my opinion safer work.  The hard wood would test the edge of my flush trim bit in the router table though.

After a little design work from the dimensions sent to me of the fans I set out to make the router templates to use for making the mounts that the fans would set behind.  These mounts are there to cover the fleshy middle of the tail left attached to the fans and it gives the fans a clean look by only exposing the round shape of the tail feathers.  I finished off the mounting pieces with another trip around the router table for a nice roman ogee edge to soften the edges so they didn’t appear so thick.

In the midst of all this wood work I had to find a suitable looking hook to attach to this rustic piece.  My first thought was cast iron would be perfect for this.  After a couple of hours of scouring the internet a cast iron turkey hook was just a figment of my imagination.  Damn the luck.  Until I ran a cross a guy named Sid Bell.  He makes animal hooks out of pewter and had three different ones to choose from.  We decided to go with the hook featuring the strutting turkey seen here.


As far as the main board goes I decided not to rout the edges of it.  As seen in the picture above it has nice checks in the ends.  It has nail holes.  It even has a splintered chunk missing out of one of the corners.  All these flaws give it the perfect rustic look this friend was looking for and routing it would have taken away from that look.  All in all I think it turned out nice and will be a beautiful addition to his wall.

Thanks for reading.  Be good.  God bless.


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