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Thread: Scroll Saw versus Laser Engraving

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Madison, Alabama

    Scroll Saw versus Laser Engraving

    I posed this question on another forum but thought I should get opinions here, too! I'm a newbie so I'm still figuring everything out but I'm curious to know the relationship between those who scroll saw and those who laser cut scroll saw patterns. Do they get along!?!

    I went to a craft show and I saw a framed cutting that had the word "Laser" cut out with a circle around it and a line going through it! I checked out his handiwork but I forgot to mention to him that I had a laser!!!

    If I went to a scroll saw forum, should I wear sunglasses or tell them I am a laser fella that likes to cut scroll saw patterns? Will I be shunned? Will I be welcomed?

    Any thoughts!?!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Sammamish, WA
    Here we all get along.

    At craft shows/fairs the scroll saw and hand carving people feel that their work is worth more than that of the laser and CNC people and use it in their advertising, as you saw. Typically their prices are higher so the buyers have to decide which is better for their budget, I guess. One thing we can do is use original artwrok, and use that to add value, if you or someone you work with is an artist.

    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

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  3. #3
    Hey, I always thought both machine complete each other, I have both, and use them a lot equally, so there is no know issues I am aware of between a piece made on a laser and a piece made on a scroll saw ?!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Victor, NY

    Scrollsaw Versus Laser

    Hi Jim;
    Interesting question on which I do have some first hand knowledge. For the most part, scrollsawers are reasonably courteous and tolerant of laser owners, but tend to categorize us as machine operators rather than skilled craftsmen-much like the coping saw guys must have acted toward the first scrollsawers!
    In some cases, I ran into downright angry hostility and bitterness- fostered by a belief that lasers were putting them out of business, which may or may not be true, but totally ignores the fact that advances in technology will continue to force changes in the way we do things- I think its called "progress". In spite of this, some people will wish to use and maintain the "old" skills and there will always be a premium for quality handmade work. I envy them and applaud them, but will continue to use new techniques and machines if they help be increase capacity and quality.
    Best regards;

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Madison, Alabama

    George, I agree

    George, I agree with you. I have the utmost respect for the scrollers. They spend so many hours working on a pattern. They take 10-15 hours or more to cut a stack of 3 or 4 pieces. Granted, I may spend that much time cleaning up a scanned pattern, but at the end of the day I can cut many copies. That does have to be demoralizing for a scroller. I read somewhere in an article that the consumer isn't as concerned with how you arrive at a product as long as it looks good. If someone can produce a nice framed cutting, they won't care (typically) whether it was done on a laser or a scroll saw. I guess for us that is progress. We found a way to produce the product with less labor and time. Again, I respect the patience and skill they have to produce such a nice end-product.

    I want to be able to participate in forum discussions on scroll saw sites but I don't want to be treated like scum! I'd like to learn more about how best to finish the cutting and also the best way to present it. Jeff Zaffino has written some good articles and he prefers to double mat and put it in a nice frame. They look nice and I would lean that way.

    George, I've got another question. How are you converting your scanned pattern into a vector file? I am using Corel Draw X3 and using the Trace option but I am getting 2 lines for every single line traced. A circle becomes a tube with an inside diameter and an outside diameter! It is a pain to clean up a very complicated pattern. I guess some people are using version 12 which sounds like contains better trace capabilities. Any thoughts!?!


  6. #6
    I have two RBI Hawks and one Universal Laser as well as a ShopBot CNC router. I no longer cut on the Hawks because production is too slow. I like being able to say that my work is hand cut but I also like to be able to have the quanity needed to fill orders. I was slow to accept the laser as a worthy tool vs a scroll saw. Think about it this way, you could use a pick, horse and plow or a tractor and plow(s). All ways will turn the Earth and make the ground ready to plant. You will be able to produce more with machinery. You might even be able to produce better food with machinery as you can do more to take care of it as you will have the time to.

    Blacksmiths didn't like cars
    Rail Road men didn't like trucks
    trucks don't like airplanes
    Scrollers don't like lasers


    Folks still need Blacksmiths for their horses
    Rail Roads still run
    Trucks still haul
    Scrollers still cut and sell product
    Lasers are still cutting and selling too.

    I expect you will be not as welcomed in the scroller forums since you have a laser. I wish I was wrong on this.

    I never see anyone say that the scroll saw is just a tool and the laser is just a tool. Neither one can do anything without a person making the tool do its thing.

    A fire made by rubbing two sticks together will burn you just the same as a fire made by using a $.99 BIC lighter.
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Corvallis, Oregon
    Kind of funny.... I remember when the first vinyl cutters came out.... they were actually pen plotters with a knife attachment. No specific sign cutter software then, either! The sign painters all hated them.... "too mechanical", "no art any more" and so forth. We were the first in our city to have one. The sign painters would kind of sneak in our back door to have us cut lettering for them. We could do in minutes what would take them hours, and look better to boot!

    Now, every sign painter in town has vinyl equipment, the controversy of "art" vs "the computer" long forgotten. I had almost forgotten the emotions the computer revolution generated.


    [quote=George M. Perzel]

    In some cases, I ran into downright angry hostility and bitterness- fostered by a belief that lasers were putting them out of business, which may or may not be true, but totally ignores the fact that advances in technology will continue to force changes in the way we do things- I think its called "progress". In spite of this, some people will wish to use and maintain the "old" skills and there will always be a premium for quality handmade work. I envy them and applaud them, but will continue to use new techniques and machines if they help be increase capacity and quality.
    ULS X-2 660, Corel X3, Haas VF4, Graphtec vinyl cutter, Xenetech rotaries (3), Dahlgren Tables, Gorton P2-3, New Hermes pantographs (2), and recently, 24" x 36" chinese router. Also do sublimation, sand blasting, & metal photo. Engraver since 1975.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Victor, NY

    Pattern Tracing

    Hi Jim;
    This question has come up a time or two on this and other forums-there are a number of software methods available to do this, but my favorite continues to be using the Trace function in Corel 12. In an effort (I think) to make Trace an internal Corel Draw X3 function, the "creators" removed some of the selectable featrures present in 12- most notably the Centerline Trace capability.
    T use it, open your bitmap image in Corel 12 Trace, select Image-Mode- Black and Whte to convert your image (Centerline Trace only works in this mode) and then trace using Centerline. You may want to play with the node reduction and iteration settings a little to fine tune the output which is a vectorized CMX file.
    Hope this helps but email or call me if you have questions.
    Best regards;

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Near Detroit, MI

    A very, very long reply

    I am a scroll sawyer. I mostly contribute to forums for scroll sawing. I joined this forum for the Neanderthal sub-forum. I stumbled on to this thread and would like to add my comments to this thread.

    This may be way off the beaten path, and very long winded, as it were.

    Many scroll sawyer's are unable to design their own patterns, be it Intarsia, fretwork, segmentation, and so on. Some people are artistic, some are not. They use the services of scroll saw pattern designers, or makers, who sell their designs. The design people make a very small return on their investment of time, but it is time they spend and they should be compensated. Period. No free lunches.

    Because of the history of a few Laser and CNC people taking a design for scroll saw and making literally hundreds and hundreds of copies of a design, design support for the scroll sawyers is in trouble. Look at it this way. A scroll saw book has a photo-copy limit of 10 xerox copies. Stack cutting 4 at a time, that means a legal copyright limit of 40 copies for craft show sales. This turns out to be a fair and reasonable sales volume for a scroll saw artisan. However, we feel that laser cutters owner can scan the image into a computer, and make 4,000 copies or more. This floods the market for that design, and no further sales of that design is practical. And the design artist receives almost no further compensation for the creation effort.

    The people who earn an income from selling scroll saw designs are less willing to continue designing as a side business because the rights to control copying of their designs; "Intellectual property rights" and the earning an income from their work. The effort to protect copyright in a court of law is not worth the effort. Unless one is a major corporation protecting a trademark.

    If you Laser and CNC types and use your own artistic skills to create your own designs, you are welcome to do as you see fit. Your design, your copyright, make as many copies as you want. Sell your designs or / and the CNC program as you see fit.

    However, and this is just an example, to take a pattern from a scroll saw magazine, scan it in to a computer,...., and try to sell 4,000 copies and all you did was pay for the magazine, is this fair to the creating artist, the workers at the magazine, and the magazine publisher? Just remember all who earn money on scroll saw designs to some extent have based their income on the economics of limited production by hand crafted scroll sawyers. (Most of whom are hobbyist.) Trust me, we're not talking about a lot of money, but some money. There are no free lunches.

    So, do any of you have a suggestion on how to re-align the economic structure of compensation for the design artist to account for the mass production ability of your CNC tools? Anyone?

    - Definition of "Handcrafted"
    Scroll sawyers know very well that Laser and CNC mass production can very well under-cut cost which in turn allows price reduction. Once you have scanned in a design, cleaned it up, and produced you machine command codes, your major production time / cost are over. No hand crafter can compete with a machine.

    At crafts shows, we seek a level playing field with the competition. Please feel free to attend craft shows that allow CNC machine products, and the so called "Buy / Sell" vendor shows, and so forth. You have that right. But when the art and craft show publicly proclaims they want "handcrafted" products the point the jury's decision for vendor selection is a uniqueness of each item being sold. Uniqueness being that human error, however subtle, make each item ever so slightly different.

    We feel that the customers at these "handcrafted" shoes DO care how the products are made. We feel they DO want the artisan's touch on each item so it isn't a perfect machine copy of another.

    But the customer is not above the influence of the pocket book. The anger and un-bridled rage scroll sawyer against the Laser and CNC cutters is the un-equal economic playing field. We know we cannot compete with you so we don't want to. We seek art and craft shows where the economics is fair to all vendors. We ask that you respect your economic power and attend shows where you are welcome. There are lots of shows where you are welcome. In other words, pick on someone your own size.

    I know this has been a ultra long post, but believe me, I could go on for quite a while longer. Thank-you for time to hear my opinions out on this subject.


    edit: spell checker error to wrong word.
    Last edited by Phil Sanders; 02-26-2007 at 8:09 PM.

  10. #10
    Caveat Emptor
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Anaheim, California
    Speaking as someone who has been on both sides of the aisle (so to speak), I find myself having very little patience with anyone who will take someone else's design, produce N copies of it, and then try to claim the moral or artistic high ground over someone producing original work just because of some arbitrary difference in the technology level of the tools involved.
    Yoga class makes me feel like a total stud, mostly because I'm about as flexible as a 2x4.
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  12. #12

    Thumbs up

    Phil, very well put sharpen your pencil and write some more.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Madison, Alabama

    I appreciate your response, Phil


    That was the type of response I was seeking. I want to see both sides of the argument and to witness the true feelings of each side. Your post is closer to what I expected from the scroll saw side of the fence.

    I agree with you that there is a fear that the laser folks would mass-produce these cuttings and water down the value of both the laser-produced and scroll saw-produced pieces. I can only speak for myself. I wouldn't want to make 4000 copies just because of that reason. My next question would have been how many copies of a a laser-produced item be made? I think you brought up a good point that most magazines request only 10 photo copies. With stacking you are talking about 40 pieces and that sounds like a good number for me, personally. For others, they may argue they have no problem with supplying as many cuttings as the consumers want. If there is a demand, then why not provide what the consumer demands? Like I said, I would feel better if I limited the pieces to 40 for a pattern that I used from a magazine or even some of the scroll saw pattern books. Now if I designed a pattern myself, I would not obligate myself to 40 but I would probably do it out of respect for the scroll saw folks and limit the production anyway.

    As far as whether a laser-produced piece is handcrafted, I think I may have to disagree with your thoughts that it doesn't apply. The finished product still needs to be stained and finished and also matted and framed. The final product, as far as I'm concerned, is a handcrafted piece. Because a laser is more efficient than a scroll saw it doesn't diminish the quality of the finished piece nor reduce the value. If the craft show allows a laser engraver to have a booth at their show, I think that means they are welcomed. Are there craft shows that request handcrafted goods that would deny a laser engraver to show their items? I don't know that answer. Does that happen, Phil? I'm trying to understand exactly how we all fit into this equation. To the laser folks, have you ever been denied a booth at any of the "handcrafted" shows? Equally, have you been allowed to have a booth at this type of craft show?

    Phil, it sounds like if I try to join into some discussions on a scroll saw forum and let them know I'm using a laser to make my cuttings, I may not get invited over for dinner!?! Like I said, I have a lot of respect for the scroll saw folks and love to see their work (especially the intarsia) and I'd like to play in their reindeer games and I don't plan on watering down the value of their work.

    I appreciate your candid views. That is why I asked the original question and I would like to hear more of your views on this subject. That's the only way I'm going to learn the truth! Sorry for the length of the post.

    I appreciate all the posts.


  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Long Island, NY
    denied a booth at a craft show? Thats a laugh.. In my area, the first question out of the mouth of the organizer is "do you sell jewelry".. if not, and you're not selling tupperware, or pampered chef, then you are more than welcome, as there are so few real "craft" booths (whether you consider them handcrafted or not) at all in the "craft" shows any more. (yes, even some of the jewelry is made by hand)... but I always get a great response to my laser cut products, some of which are purchased patterns, some of which are created by me... and so far no one has been offended by the fact that they aren't done on a scroll saw (which I have an do sometimes ask hubby to make some thicker things for me). And I don't ever sell 4000 of anything...

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Savannah, GA
    There is a juried show that travels a circuit in our area at Christmas. Their rules specifically state you cannot sell any item that can be mass produced by machinery. You must submit photos of each step of the production of your "craft". I guess it all depends on the interpretation of "mass produced". One woodworker who displays every year builds furniture - mainly benches, he cuts multiples of all the pieces, and then assembles them. On the one hand I guess you say these are mass produced, since no quantity for "mass" is delineated in the show rules. Same thing with machine sewn items. Ditto for personalized Christmas ornaments where there are lots of the same design. Are these hand crafted because someone paints a name on them? When I approached them regarding laser items I was told my products were not "hand crafted". Go figure

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