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  1. Applying and Removing Patterns

    Applying Patterns

    Transfer Method

    Drawing - One of the most direct ways of putting a pattern to your work piece is simply draw your pattern onto the wood. This is a good method for simple patterns or to rough out a shape. However, it gets difficult for complex patterns and is limited by your drawing ability.

    Carbon PaperCarbon paper is an easy method to transfer your pattern directly to the wood. Place your carbon paper between the pattern and the work piece, and trace your pattern. The pressure from your pencil will transfer the carbon from the carbon paper to your work piece.

    Graphite – If you don’t have carbon paper, you can make your own. Flip over your pattern. With a soft pencil, lay down a thick layer of pencil “lead.” Once you have a nice thick layer, flip your pattern over and retrace your pattern onto the wood. The graphite from your pencil will transfer to your work piece.

    Heat– This method requires a photocopy or a laser print. Make sure you flip your pattern in your imaging software so it prints backwards. Using a household iron will melt the toner on the paper and transfer it to the wood. Turn your iron up to the highest setting. Tape your pattern face down on the wood and iron the back of the pattern. Add firm pressure and go slowly. It will take time to transfer the wood, so check your work periodically. They also make special tools for using this transfer method.

    Acetone - This method requires a photocopy or a laser print. Make sure you flip your pattern in your imaging software so it prints backwards. The acetone will soften the toner and transfer it to the wood. Soak a paper town and apply the acetone to the back of your pattern. When the paper turns translucent, use the back of a spoon to rub the pattern into the wood. Warning: Acetone is highly flammable and has noxious fumes. Use safely in a well ventilated area and away from flame.

    Inkjet - This method requires an inkjet printer. Make sure you flip your pattern in your imaging software so it prints backwards. Take a sheet of labels and peel off all of the labels. What’s left behind is a waxy surface. When you print our pattern, the ink from your inkjet printer will stay on the surface and will remain wet for quite a while. Carefully place your label sheet face down onto your wood and wipe the back of the pattern with a paper towel to transfer the wet ink to the wood. This method can also be used with butcher paper. Cut the butcher paper to fit your printer and print onto the waxy surface.

    Using Substrates

    The most common way scrollers attach patterns to their work piece is by using a substrate. A substrate is a material put directly onto the wood, then the pattern is glued to the substrate. This method protects the wood from the glue, and often makes pattern removal easier. Depending on the substrate, it may also offer lubrication for the blade to minimize burn marks.

    Blue Painter’s Tape (Substrate) - The most common substrate scrollers use is blue painter’s tape. Painter’s tape has low tack which makes pattern removal easy. The wax on the tape also acts as a lubricant for the blade. A good quality painter’s tape is recommended as their cheap counterparts rip too easily and may leave behind a sticky residue.

    Contact Paper (Substrate) – Contact paper are used as shelf liners and can be found in the kitchen area of your favorite store. Contact paper come in large rolls, which is wide enough to accommodate most projects. Simply roll out what you need and apply the contact paper to your work piece.

    Glad Press’n Seal (Substrate) –Glad Press’n Seal has a surprisingly strong bond when attached to a work piece. Tear off enough to fit your work piece. With the back of a credit card, press the Press’n Seal into the wood and trim off the excess. Since Glad Press’n Seal does not use any glues, there is no chance of leaving behind a sticky residue.

    PVA Glue (Attach) – You can use a basic white glue to attach your pattern to the substrate. Simply spread the glue onto the back of the pattern, and place onto the substrate. Smooth out any air bubbles and wait at least an hour for the glue to dry.

    Glue Stick (Attach) – If PVA glue is too messy, you can use a glue stick. Some glue sticks have a colorant added. When the glue is wet, the glue shows purple but will dry clear. This type of glue stick makes it easy to know where you’ve applied glue. The drying time is much quicker; 15-20 minutes or less.

    Rubber Cement (Attach) – Rubber cement will add a really strong bond. To use, apply a thin coat of rubber cement to the back of your pattern and a thin layer to the back of your substrate. Allow each to dry until it becomes tacky like a Post It Note. Then carefully apply the pattern to the substrate. When the two layers of rubber cement meet, it will create a permanent bond.

    Full Sheet Label (Attach) – Here is a super easy way to add your pattern to your substrate. Simply print your pattern on a full sheet label. Peel off the back of the label and attach to your substrate. Full sheet labels can get costly, but what you lose in expense, you make up for in convenience.

    Spray Adhesive (Attach) – The most common way for scrollers to glue a pattern is by using a spray adhesive. There are 2 ways to do this. The main way is to spray the back of the pattern, and wait for it to dry so it’s tacky like a Post It Note. Once dry, you attach it to the substrate. For a more permanent bond, spray both the back of the pattern and the substrate. Wait for each to dry so it’s tacky like a Post It Note, then carefully attach the pattern to the substrate. Once the two glue surfaces meet, it will create a permanent bond.

    Directly To The Wood

    The method that is growing in popularity is gluing the pattern directly to the wood. Using a spray adhesive, spray the back of the pattern (don’t spray the wood). When the glue has dried so it’s tacky like a Post It Note, apply the pattern to the work piece. This method is growing in popularity because it requires no additional materials. Pattern removal is easy and will practically fall off with a little mineral spirits. (See Pattern Removal below.)

    Removing Patterns

    Peeling – This is the most obvious way of removing your pattern. This works especially well when using a substrate as the pattern and the substrate peel of together. If getting the edge of your fingernail under the pattern is difficult, use a Xacto blade to help it along. Be especially careful when removing patterns from your workpiece. Peeling may add additional stress to the already delicate fretwork and we don’t want to break off any fragile pieces.

    Sanding – You can also sand the pattern off. This method works great when using an image transfer where the pattern is transferred directly to the wood. You can also sand away paper patterns. But be careful. The friction of the sandpaper may soften some of the glue and work the glue into the wood fibers. Just take it slow and don’t spend too much time in any one place.

    Take extra care when sanding delicate fretwork. The action of the sander may add extra stress to the delicate fretwork. You may choose to use a less aggressive sander like a vibrating mouse sander or simply sand it by hand. You can use a sanding pad for additional support and keep it from sliding around while you work.

    Heat Gun – A heat gun will soften up the glue and make pattern removal much easier. A high intensity heat gun used for stripping paint and wallpaper works best. You might be able to use a hair dryer. Just put it on its highest setting and work one section at a time.

    Mineral Spirits – A popular way of removing patterns is using Mineral Spirits. Mineral Spirits is a solvent, so it will soften and dissolve the glue. You can buy odorless mineral spirits, so it’s great for indoor use. Just make sure you protect your work surface.

    Mineral spirits work especially well when you attach your pattern directly to the wood. Just wet the pattern. Once it turns translucent, the pattern practically falls off on its own. Just peel it away and you’re good as new.

    Mineral spirits is also good for removing any sticky residue left behind from tape or glue. Just apply and wipe away.

    For easy application, add it to a spray bottle. That way it’s ready to go whenever you are. Simply spray the back of the pattern and remove.


    So, what did I forget? Do you use a different technique I didn't cover here? Let us know below.

    • Sep 11, 2015 04:46 PM
    • by Travis

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