It’s been said that the devil is in the details. And, in woodworking, the tool that typically cuts some of the finest details is the scroll saw.
To truly master that tool, you have to have intense concentration, a very steady hand and an eye towards the big picture while cutting the intricate.
Enter Verna Schultz, an Indianapolis, Indiana woodworker with the ability and patience to make the scroll saw sing.
As with most woodworkers, the purchase of her first house triggered the very important need to do basic household repairs. Sure, she got the requisite circular saw and drill, but the third tool she bought was a jig saw. “I could cut really curvy lines with the jig saw. That really allowed me to express myself, rather than cutting all of those straight lines.”
Today, Verna has three scroll saws in her arsenal – two DeWalt 20” and a Delta 16” model. Watching her work last October, I had a chance to see how skillfully she could handle the precise cutting blades. “With these saws, you can cut inside curves, outside curves, fine veining lines. In fact, you can cut an entire picture in a piece of wood and – when you are done – you can actually see what the picture was to begin with!”
Verna’s flat scroll work is exquisite, but her mastery really shows when she works in 3-D. You see, Verna makes baskets from solid wood. “I just started making the baskets about three years ago. I sold the first basket I made and I’ve never been able to keep any in stock since then! With the exception of the vertical slats, each basket is made entirely from one piece of wood.”
After applying the pattern to the wood, Verna cuts the handles and top rim free. Then, she sets about cutting a weaving pattern for each layer of the basket. Each layer is 1/8” thick and angled at 9 degrees. Each layer is identically shaped, but by rotating the layers end for end, the basket weave pattern is developed. After inserting vertical pieces in the weaving voids, she signs the work and another masterpiece is born.
Having seen these baskets up close and getting one for my wife last Valentine’s Day, I can say they are a sight to behold. Delicate yet sturdy, the solid wood weavers give an appearance that can’t be matched by any normally woven basket.
So, since Verna is into very delicate work, you’d figure she would never try her hand an anything tougher than – say – ripping a few boards in preparation for a new scroll saw project.
That couldn’t be any further from the truth.
That’s because Verna is also a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Many Saturdays during the spring and summer, you can find Verna swinging a hammer and cutting construction lumber on home sites around the greater Indianapolis area. Sure, the work is tough and about as far from scroll work as you might imagine, but the work she does gives her great satisfaction, especially as she helps to improve the lives of others who need a hand up.
“My favorite memory is a homeowner’s dedication from back in 2005. The new owner was so moved by knowing that she and her son would finally have a safe place to live that she was barely able to control her emotions to be able to accept the house.”
With Verna soon to retire from her position with the phone company, you might expect she would plan to start taking things easier. Not so.
Her plans include doing even more work with the Habitat for Humanity folks and setting up a website to sell her baskets and boxes. “And, I might also allow my brother who lives nearby to sell some of his stuff on the site as well.”