Introduction: Mid-Century Scroll Saw Birds

About: We're Mother Daughter Projects, sharing our DIY adventures as we learn to maintain, improve, decorate, and use tech in our homes.

Several years ago, I found a small collection of vintage magazines including copies of Woman's Day at a yard sale. I eagerly read through them marveling at the advertisements, the article topics, extensive pull-out recipe sections, and crafts!

The issue that really caught my attention was Woman's Day, November 1964. (Let's see...I was 11 at the time of publishing, in the 6th grade, it had been a year since President Kennedy was killed, and I was in 4-H where I was learning to sew and cook.) In that issue was an article on 100 Christmas gifts to make--everything from scarves to woodworking.

Every one of the 100 things was similar in that they offered scant instructions. In the sixties, I guess they assumed you already knew how to do all the things! The mid-century bird sculpture was the one thing that I knew I wanted to make.


Tools used:

DEWALT 20 in. Variable-Speed Scroll Saw

Olson Saw Blade

Makita Miter Saw

Dremel 4-Volt Lithium-Ion Variable Speed Cordless Rotary Tool

Dremel Rotary Tool Shaper/Router Table

Dremel 1/8 in. Corner Rounding Router Rotary Tool Bit


DecoArt Paint

1/2" pine

2x6 pine (about a 6x6 piece)

1/4" wood dowels

Wood Glue

Step 1: Watch the Video

Step 2: Prepare and Apply Paper Pattern

I started by enlarging the tiny picture from the magazine. Because it was so highly pixilated, I went over the edges with a sharpie which did seem to help. I scanned the magazine image and isolated just the part I wanted with photo editing software. I copy-pasted the now .jpg into Pages, which is a Mac word processing program. This program has a ruler guide so I lined up one edge and just enlarged it so that each of those squares equaled one inch. Back in the day, you'd draw out the design on paper marked off into one-inch squares--slow but effective!

To attach the pattern to the pine, cut clear contact paper, and apply it to the wood. Use spray adhesive on the back of the pattern and apply it over the contact paper. This ensures no adhesive is left on the wood when you remove the paper pattern.

Step 3: Cut Out the Birds

Now, on to cutting! I'll not try to cover scroll saw basics here, but the idea is to keep the blade on the cutting line. I did find that when I started to get off the line, it was best to stop and regroup or just point the blade to the outside edge of my project and head away from the pattern. As a beginner, I'm finding that it's okay to change directions when needed and to come at a cut from a different angle. It doesn't have to be one seamless cut. And, it doesn't have to be perfect!

I think why I like this so much is it is very much like a sewing machine and I love to sew! Just remember to keep your fingers away from the rapidly moving blade! This DeWalt scroll saw is one of the best saws on the market. Everything I've read has given it very good reviews. It's very heavy, which is a good thing as it provides a sturdy platform on which to scroll.

Remove the paper and contact paper when finished. Continue to cut out four additional birds.

Step 4: Sand and Clean Up the Edges

We've had this Dremel shaper/router table for a while but I've never used it. I needed to be able to sand the curves of the bird edges and realized this table with a Dremel rotary tool fitted with a sanding drum would be perfect! I'm using the new Dremel Lite 4V Rotary tool. I wasn't sure this would work, but sure enough, the nose comes off to fit into the table. Being cordless made it even easier to use!

The table is adjustable so I was able to bring down the sanding drum to almost level with the tabletop so I could sand the birds.

Step 5: Make the Holes for the Dowels

Here I'm clamping all the birds together so I can mark the placement of the holes for the dowels. The holes in the bird base are made to accommodate a 1/4" diameter wood dowel. Drill these to 1/4" deep.

Step 6: Make the Base

Next, it was time to tackle the base. I'm using a piece of 2X6 which is actually 1-1/2 inches by 5-1/2 inches. Here's the information gleaned from the magazine graphic: use a 5-5/8 inch square which is 1-1/4 inches high. The measurement between bevels is 4-7/8 inches. Drill five holes 1/2 inch deep, start 1/2 inch in from the edge. One in each corner with one in middle. Easy enough, right? I almost decided against doing the routing with the chamfer bit as this is not something I'd ever done before, but I decided to try. I'm using another Dremel battery-powered rotary tool with a chamfer bit and cutting guide. My attempt was not perfect, but with a little sanding, it is presentable!

Step 7: Paint All the Pieces

This is a clothing rack on which I hung shower curtain rings. I used it to be able to paint all around the dowels. I added binder clips to each end of the wood dowels and hung them on the hooks and balanced the other end on the lower rung. Easy to see and paint all around the dowel. The dowels and base were painted black and a variety of mid-century colors were used on each of the five birds.

Step 8: Assemble

The dowels were glued into place on the birds and base with wood glue. I used the magazine picture to get the birds facing in the right direction.

You can find a PDF of the bird pattern at Mother Daughter Projects.

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