Bring cheer to your favorite holidays with these four scrollsaw designs
Project designed and built by Dirk Boelman
Be the first on your block to introduce a fun and original way to celebrate the 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the winter holiday season with four festive signs that you can hang from the mailbox stand shown, a lamp-post arm, or by your home’s front door.
Noted scrollsaw artist, designer, and author, Dirk Boelman, made these signs for us to fit neatly under a standard-sized mailbox. To make them eye-catching for all who might drive by, he painted them with an acrylic primer and acrylic paints. He then topped them off with a protective coat of clear exterior polyurethane spray to make them weather resistant. You can make all four signs from one 12×30" and one 24×30" sheet of 3/4" Finnish birch plywood and three 24×30" sheets of 1/4" Finnish birch plywood. (See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide.) Planed cedar also works. Enlarge the patterns (pages 60-63) to 200% to make all the signs full size. Once complete, hang the appropriate sign outside for the duration of the holiday, then store it to make way for the next holiday sign.
We’ll first tell how to construct the mailbox stand, and then show how to make the 4th of July sign. Make the remaining signs the same way using the appropriate exploded view drawings and patterns. Included with each holiday design is a list of the plywood materials needed for making a two-sided sign.
Cut and assemble a pleasing mailbox stand
1 Pick up a 10' long 4×4 from your local home center or lumberyard. (We used ground-contact, pressure-treated pine because of its square corners.) From it, cut three lengths: one at 741/2" for post (A), one at 331/4" for cross-arm (B), and one at 11" for bracket (C).
2 Mark the location of the interlocking dadoes on post (A) and cross-arm (B) using the dimensions in Figure 1. (Our stock measured 31/2" square resulting in a 31/2"-wide dado 13/4" deep.) Now, clamp them side by side on your bench or on a pair of sawhorses, with the dado marks up and aligned. Measure the exact distance from the edge of your circular saw’s wide base to the blade teeth. Then use this distance to attach a straightedge perpendicular to the posts. Measure the distance between the edge of the narrow base to the blade teeth and secure a second perpendicular straightedge on the opposite side of the marked dadoes.
3 Now, adjust your circular saw blade to the needed dado depth and saw several kerfs through the marked area until you have removed most of the waste. Use a chisel to clean out the dadoes and test the width with a piece of 4×4 scrap. Unclamp the pieces and test the interlocking fit. The faces should be flush.
4 Mark the radii on the ends of cross-arm (B). Now cut the radii using a jigsaw or bandsaw.
5 Glue and screw the cross-arm (B) to the post (A) with deck screws and exterior-grade glue such as Titebond III (see the Buying Guide).
6 Resaw or plane the bracket blank to 21/2" thick. Copy the drawing in the part view, Figure 2, at 400%, or at 200% twice and spray-adhere it to the stock.) Bandsaw and disc-sand the angles at each end to the cut lines. Now bandsaw the curves and shoulders. Fit the bracket (C) between the cross-arm (B) and post (A) and drive the deck screws just below the surface. Cover the screw heads with wood filler.
7 Glue and nail or screw on your choice of caps. (Note the two options we found at the local home center.) Fill any gaps or splits in the wood. Let dry and sand smooth. Finish the stand with two coats self-priming General Finishes Antique White Milk Paint. (See the Buying Guide for the filler and paint.) Add a pair of #10 screw eyes 51/2" from the post and 8" apart.
8 Plumb and install the stand in the ground. We allowed for 18" of the post to be sunk in concrete. Allow the concrete pier to extend below to the frost line. Contact local utilities before digging for the whereabouts of underground cables or pipes.
Scrollsaw and assemble a “happy” sign
1 Enlarge four copies of the pattern on page 60 to 200% and scissor them to rough shape. (We’ll use the 4th of July project as our example.) Cut out one 3/4" plywood blank and two 1/4" plywood blanks sized to the dimensions on the pattern page.
2 Spray-adhere a flag pattern to the 3/4" sign blank. Next, adhere the 1/4" blanks together with double-faced tape (See Buying Guide for spray adhesive and tape) and attach the yellow starburst pattern to one-half of the plywood. Scissor around the 4th of July number, letters, and stars and attach this pattern to the remaining half of the blank as shown in Photo A. Use one of the cut stars as a pattern for cutting the remaining two stars from the waste 1/4" plywood.
Spray-adhere the patterns to the wood. Dirk applies clear packing tape over patterns to prevent burning the wood when cutting out the parts.
3 Bandsaw or scrollsaw the 3/4"-thick sign to shape. Opt for thinner blades with higher teeth per inch (tpi). See the Buying Guide for our scrollsaw blade choices. Cut on the line and then sand away any fuzz.
4 Drill 1/8" blade start holes in the cutout areas of the patterns on the 1/4" stacked blanks. Thread in the scrollsaw blade, and stack-cut the cutouts (see the Tip Alert). Now, stack-cut the starburst, stars, numbers, and letters to final shape as shown in Photo B. Sand and pry the pairs apart.
5 Remove the patterns (a hair dryer helps), cleaning off any residue with denatured alcohol. Sand and apply a white acrylic primer to the 3/4" sign. Sand the 1/4" pieces with sandpaper and needle files, eliminating fuzzy edges and bumps. Now prime all but their back or inside mating faces. Scissor the outline of the last enlarged pattern, and, using carbon paper, transfer the pattern lines onto the primed face of the sign. Repeat for the opposite face. Keep the pattern around for retracing and part positioning as needed.
6 Paint the sign parts the colors shown with acrylic paints. Do not paint the unprimed areas. Let dry. Now dry-fit the pieces on the sign, making light pencil marks for positioning. Then glue and/or nail the parts in place, using the reference lines, the 4th of July pattern, Figure 1, and the sign photo for part placement, and as shown in Photo C. Weight the pieces down until the glue dries. Apply a protective sealer on the completed sign front and back. (We sprayed on a high performance polyurethane [see the Buying Guide] to protect its painted surface.)
7 Drill pilot holes and screw in the centered #10 screw eyes 8" apart along the sign’s top edge where shown. Now, hang the sign using a pair of 3/16×2" Quick Link. Then go ahead and celebrate your favorite holidays as well as your craftsmanship.
Dry-fit the pieces in place referring to the pattern. Trace lightly around the parts for easy positioning during assembly. Now, glue and/or nail the pieces in place.