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I found this image online enter image description here(https://www.tattootribes.com/multimedia/110/Ilaria-BE-heart-tattoo.jpg) that I have traced onto a piece of oak about 1 3/8" thick. I used a bandsaw to carve the outside which worked great.

Cutting out the inside pieces is not quite so easy though. It's definitely too thick for my scroll saw. I used a jigsaw to cut (or more like tear) out the inside of one of the holes but the curves are too sharp to really follow along so I basically just cut from the inside to the outside a line at a time until I've got the hole basically emptied. But this leaves really super jagged line as you can imagine.

I have a Dremel type tool, but it's a cheap off brand from Harbor freight. I tried using it with a sandpaper attachment but I quickly realized it would take a year to finish with that. The next thing that comes to mind is maybe securing some course sandpaper around a dowel that's small enough to fit in my drill. This is the next thing I'm going to try, but because I'm trying (hoping) to finish this off before Christmas as a gift and have limited time to work on it I'd like to ask if there are any better options I haven't thought of?

Thanks in advance!

2 Answers 2

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Once you've sawn1 out the bulk of the waste some careful chisel and gouge work may get you most of the way there, after which the ideal tools for completing this sort of shaping is files.

Needle files may be the obvious first thought but warding files (which are sort of middle-sized) may be a better choice here given the scale, IF you can find them2. Either way final smoothing isn't going to be a quick job, no way around that with material this thick, but it won't take forever; I'd imagine you could get it done in 3-4 long evenings, as long as you have managed to cut close to your lines.

Workholding
I think filing of this kind is most efficiently done horizontally, with the workpiece held upright and repositioned frequently, so you're filing the bottom surface of a cutout as much as possible3.

If you don't have a bench-mounted vice of some kind (or can contrive a means to do something similar with clamps) to raise the work to a more comfortable working height, and must clamp the workpiece in a standard bench vice be sure to sit on a chair or low stool or your back will hate you.

Regardless of what you come up with to hold the wood remember that filing is ideally a two-handed operation, despite files only having one handle. For best results your other hand should be able to comfortably reach around the workpiece to grip the tip of the file.

If you don't have suitable files yet
The standard of most steel files has been in decline over the past few decades, and more recently that includes the files from big names that used to be synonymous with quality like Nicholson.

When it comes to no-brand or off-brand files made in China there's no telling what you might find; I have seen some truly awful files in recent years!

Either way the metal files you may be able to find could be a little crude, and surface quality may reflect this.

So diamond files might be a good pick here. Inexpensive diamond files tend to be of a fairly uniformly decent quality from what I've seen both here in Europe and in the US. They can clog faster than you'd like filing wood but regular clearing with a stiff brush (firm toothbrushes are perfect for this) should clear them well with a non-resinous wood like oak.


1 Using a coping saw, after drilling an access hole for the blade to be passed through.

2 And when it comes to name-brand files, IF you can stomach the cost.

3 Filing sideways and upwards is doable but awkward/feels unnatural, plus you can't as easily see what you're doing. So accuracy suffers.

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  • Boy howdy, I had no idea how easy it was going to be to smooth it out with a chisel. And actually a fun, gratifying experience unlike sanding, lol. I don't have any good files yet, but I think with how well it's going with just the chisel so far, my idea of sanding with a drill and a little hand sanding in crevices will get me by this time.
    – BVernon
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 6:47
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    FYI, for the sanding I cut a short piece of dowel and used my band saw to make a slot long ways into the middle. Then I was able to cut a piece of sand paper to go in the slot and wrap around and use a rubber band to hold it tight to the dowel. Works like a charm except if the wood isn't already pretty smooth it tears the sand paper to bits in no time. But when doing it after I used the chisel first then it worked really well.
    – BVernon
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 6:52
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    Yeah custom sanding rods/sticks can be good for lots of tasks. I think everyone should make them; I have three or four I use on a regular basis. Although one naturally thinks of them as sanding tools once you fit them with coarse or very coarse paper/cloth you can consider them DIY rasps, with one key advantage over conventional rasps — they're omni-directional. This gives them a massive advantage over most commercial rasps (used to be all commercial rasps, until carbide rasps came along).
    – Graphus
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 9:40
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You've noted that you have a scroll saw. There are "scroll saw sanding bits" available from various locations that may provide a more productive surface finishing time. The following image (composite created ignoring scale) is from The Home Depot:

scroll saw sanding bits

Note the fastening type of the bit, ensuring to select the type appropriate to your saw.

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  • This would be really great for getting into crevices, and for very small cutouts. I'm pretty lazy though so I'd probably have to be getting paid to take the time to do that, lol. I say that tongue in cheek though, because knowing myself I will probably end up trying this out before it's over anyway!
    – BVernon
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 6:55

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