05 August 2009

alphabet soup

I fiddled with my new saw this week, hemmed and hawed about what to make first, drew out several designs and finally settled on something basic. Letters. Avery was at grandma's house last week, methodically removing her alphabet magnets from the fridge and putting them in a basket, then taking them out, putting them back on the fridge and starting over again, so the project seemed timely.

While the classic, fluorescent plastic letters are nostalgic for many of us, I was thinking that if I was going to have them on the fridge all of the time, I would kind of like them to be a little bit classier. I know, maybe I am kind of a toy snob, but I think that they can be fun, educational and look nice.

So, I went to Font Squirrel, which is my new favorite stop for fonts on the web. They have just enough of a selection without having to search through 7 million options. I found a nice, bubbly, cartoonish font called Big Fish. I printed it out at 265pt so that they were big enough for little hands to hold on to. I used regular paper, because that was what I had on hand, but card stock would probably be a better option.

I cut out the letters and then arranged them on my pieces of 1/4 inch plywood. I tried to get them really close together to save wood, then traced the letters onto the wood. Then I went to the saw and got to work, cutting the little guys out. I will do a more thorough tutorial later this week, as the photos I took of the cutting process turned out terrible. I will have to put the saw on the deck tonight and shoot some photos with better light.

I did want to share the final product however and give some of my initial thoughts on the workings of the saw.

Here are some of the letters, which I am very happy with. They are cute and fun and they were really easy to cut out. It took me about an hour to do a full set last night (just the cutting, not including the prep). I sanded the edges a little and was going to paint them, but I kind of like them with just the plain wood, what do you think?

I had a good experience overall with the saw. For those of you who are new or haven't been by for awhile, it is a 16-inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw from Craftsman tools. Here are the things I really liked:
  • It is really quiet, even on higher speeds (this is great with a sleeping baby)
  • I really liked the variable speed option. I started out on a really low speed to get the hang of it, but then found that a medium speed made it easier to cut straight lines
  • It cuts really nice and quick (like I said, it only took me an hour to cut the set)
  • The visibility of the blade and what you are cutting is really good and unobstructed. The blower worked well, once I adjusted it to point at the right spot. I ended up removing the guide foot because it kept getting in the way. I think if I was cutting out bigger pieces it might be more helpful.
  • The pin top blades were great for taking the curves nicely and doing angles. They are really thin, so it was really easy to change directions.
  • To do the center cuts in some of the letters like "O", you have to drill a hole and then remove the blade and insert it through the hole and re-attach it. Once I got the hang of this process, it was really quick to make that switch.
Things that I wasn't as fond of:
  • I used the pin top blade for the whole project. At one point, I tried to switch the blade to a regular blade and it was really challenging. I will talk more about this when I have better photos because the visual really helps.
  • I would like to have a small LED light mounted on the arm, kind of like my sewing machine light. It would really help with the smaller cuts and eyes that are getting older.
  • As I said, I did end up removing the guide foot because it was just in the way. It also was a problem with doing center cuts. I think it could be more useful if you are cutting bigger pieces. I didn't find that I needed it on this project.

So overall, I am really excited about this tool and I have some more projects on the horizon. As I said, I will post a tutorial later this week, when I can get the photos to turn out. I really do want your thoughts on the paint/no paint dilemma, so let me know!


June said...

Oh, I love them! I would have loved them even more when my Littles were littler. WHAT a fancy fridge you'll have. As for paint or no paint, won't they be charming after little hands have oiled that beautiful wood with jam and honey and...?

Jess said...

I vote no paint, but stained so that if they get food or something on them, it'll wash off without affecting the color of the wood. Is there a kid-safe stain/varnish?

Love them BTW - very cute. Great font.

Beegirl said...

Love them!! I love type and fonts, so this is really fun! Can't wait to see what you do with them!!

Jana said...

They are really cute! I would probably paint them -- something to match an accent color in my kitchen. I'm good with a chop saw or even a circular saw, but I've never used a scroll saw (I once attempted a jigsaw, and failed miserably)