Introduction: Fretsaw (he)art + Tips & Examples

Hello everyone! What I have for you today is a piece of fretsaw "art". Since it was made for my girlfriend (a passionate art lover and art student), I decided to make Michelangelo's David enclosed in a heart shape. What you'll find in this Instructable though, is not only this project but two more examples and a few tips to make your very own fretsawed piece! :D


- Thin plywood sheet

- Fretsaw (or a scrollsaw, if you want. I personally prefer a fretsaw)

- Drill and very small drill bit (you have to make holes for the saw. Many tools can do the job, for example a dremel tool with a drill bit)

- Wood darkener

- Wood glue

- Triangle picture hanger (or other hanging means)

Step 1: Choosing the Subject

First of all, you have to choose a subject. Depending on what you want to represent, you may find some pre-made images on the internet, if you search well enough. For example, try filtering for clip art on Google image or adding the keyword stencil to your search.

In this case, I found a nicely done picture of the David and proceeded to print it and transfer it onto a sheet of thin plywood using copy paper. I also traced half a heart on a big piece of paper, then folded it in half and cut along the line to make a symmetrical shape. When I was happy with it, I traced it onto the wood, enclosing the subject.

Step 2: EXTRA - on the Matter of the Subject...

You may not find a pre-made image of your subject. For example, if you want to create a portrait, you will have to make the stencil from scratch. Luckly there are many tools online to make stencils. They may not work very well with every image, though, so try to choose a well balanced image in terms of exposure, lights, shadows and so on (or be creative with what you get! xD).

In the picture you see above, I created a fretsawed piece from the sample image in the top left corner. If you search for "image to stencil online" you'll find a few options (check this link here). By experimenting with the options, you may obtain a good result. For my source image I decided to average by hand a lighter stencil with a darker one. The result is showed on the bottom of the picture.

Tip: you may want to print your subject mirrored, depending on how you intend to show the final piece. I personally think that the fretsaw leaves a nicer finish on the bottom, so it requires to flip the board after the cut is finished!

Step 3: Cutting Out the Plywood

I proceeded to cut out the plywood following the lines I traced. Inside the parts that needed to be "hollow" I drilled a hole with a small bit to fit the sawblade, then slowly worked my way with the fretsaw.

Normally you may want to keep the final work in a single piece, but I thought this would look better if divided into small pieces, which would then be glued on a back board. I then cut another heart shape to make the backboard and gave it a few dark coats of varnish.

I then glued everything together and then spread a coat of clear paint on it.

Step 4: EXTRA - on the Matter of the Backboard...

You may or may not use a backboard. It can be really cool to hang the piece and see the wall behind it. This may make the work a bit more fragile, but it's not a real issue. Sometimes, though, a finished piece may look a lot better if you use a matching backboard made out of a different type of wood or a darkened one. Moreover, you may even use this technique to give the work a sense of depth!

In the example you see above, the sample image (my brother's band logo) was made of three colors. It would have been a pity to reduce it to two colors, so I instead went for a triple layer! I cut the plywood following the design and then darkened each layer differently (the backboard had 2 layers of darkener, the middle board only 1).

Step 5: Hanging the Piece

You can drill a hole to hang the piece if you want, but I instead went for a triangular picture hanger, stuck on the back with a small nail. The result is shown in the pictures above.

I hope you liked this Instructable, comment down below if you know other tips and tricks and you want to share them :)

Follow me on instagram @fabcolella if you want <3

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