Beginning 3d Scroll Saw Projects:  The Brown Trout Fish

Beginning 3d Scroll Saw Projects: The Brown Trout Fish

If you are searching the internet for 3d scroll saw projects, chances are you may be an experienced scroller and are looking for patterns for your next project.  Some of you though, may be interested in a little more information on the creation of these scroll saw projects and what separates them from your typical scroll saw project.

There are some similarities between some regular scroll saw projects, like a portrait or scrolled out letter or word, compared to a 3d scroll saw project.  But there can be some very drastic differences that define a and push a 3d scroll saw project beyond some of your regular scrolled out work.  Let me get into those differences by talking about one of my first 3d scroll saw projects.  The Brown Trout Fish.

I like fishing and I do most of my fishing for trout in streams and rivers.  There are a couple different types of trout to catch in my area and I thought it would be fun to create a 3d brown trout in a small scene.


Layers and Planning Your Cuts

I did not have a pattern for my little 3d brown trout and did this one entirely without help (A little worrisome for what this might look like in the end.).  When I thought about a fish, I wanted to kind of put a little bit of a twist into it.  I wanted it to look like it was swimming against a current, make it look a little more alive.

When I thought about this, and compared it to a flat 3/4 inch board, I knew that I was going to have to do this fish in more than just one piece of wood.  I suppose I could have bought a much thicker piece of wood for the job, but the local hardware store did not sell anything I liked and could not accommodate me there.  I ended up using some 3/4 inch premium pine with some very nice patterns in it.

So, after some thought I came up with the thought to do this in 3 separate pieces for the fish body in full length.  The first piece I cut out was the tail.  From about the very last fin on top of the fish to the end, is the tail piece.  The second piece was the front of the fish to the end where the tail piece would attach to.  This second piece was cut in a way where I took a big chunk out of the middle of the piece to make it look like the one side was curved.

The third and final piece was to take that chunk I just cut out on the one side of the second piece and glue it to the opposite side of the fish, adding the volume back to the body of the fish, but now putting a fairly noticeable curve in the fish.

  • The Tail – I cut out the basic shape of a trout tail and then I put the wood on its long end to cut out the thickness/thinness of the tail with my scroll saw.  I was lucky that cutting the wood like this did not exceed the height of my scroll saws cutting capability.  The mistake I made here was I likely should have cut out thickness/thinness of the tail before I actually cut out the shape of the tail first.  Hanging onto a larger solid block instead of a tail shape under the scroll saw may have been a bit easier.
  • The Full Body – Once again, I think I cut out the shape of the fish first, then cut out the curved third piece after.  I suppose doing it in this order helped in that the piece of wood was not as tall, and my scroll saw could make the cut.  I ended up putting on a larger blade for this as generally you want to do so when the thickness of your wood cut is going to be more.
  • Cut out Body Piece – That third piece that I cut out had the right curve that I needed and was practically ready to glue to the opposite side of the fish body.

What I have learned from 3d scroll saw projects is that it is about layers and planning your cuts for those layers.  Almost like a puzzle being put together.  In my case of the brown trout, 3 pieces of a puzzle to be exact.  However, as you can see with the picture of this brown trout, the puzzle pieces do not stop there, I have 7 additional fins to attach as well as eyes and some definition to the mouth.

When creating your layers of your 3d scroll saw projects, you will find that your scroll saw can only cut things so big.  This means that you will likely have to make smaller pieces of the puzzle to accommodate for this and then attach them together for you 3d effect.

One of the things I do not like about my fish is that, to my eye of course, I can easily see lines for the connecting puzzle pieces.  I do not know all the good tricks as yet to limit the ability to see these connecting lines, but I wish they would sand out more clean to where you cannot see them at all.  I can only guess that would take some really good skill.


Perfecting the Project

Once you have your pieces cut out, you can expect they will not look perfect or fit perfectly after you have glued them together.  This is where sanding comes in.  And I mean a lot of sanding.  For the brown trout I needed the fish to look smooth from nose to tail, like a real fish in swimming action.

I wanted the tail to look nice and thin as well, more like a real fish.  To do this, I was not about to hand sand this thing into perfection.  I also new that my orbital sander would not be as ideal.

I ended up getting a new sander after having viewed a few people doing Intarsia and other 3d type projects on YouTube.  I was impressed that things could actually be sanded so easily using some of these oscillation and rotational sanders.

I picked, and received as a gift, the WEN 6510T 3.5 Amp Oscillating Spindle Sander from Amazon.  This sander made smoothing out that brown trout so much easier that I could not have imagined how long it would have taken had I not used it.

I was able to get the tail to a nice thin tail that looked more real in little time.


It’s all in the Details

Now that I had sanded out my fish to perfection, it was necessary to add some details.  These details are what really bring your 3d scroll saw projects to life.

Obviously without the other fins on the fish, it would not really look much like a healthy fish.  But the details went a little bit further on this project than I had first thought.  I decided adding a scene the fish would be swimming in would just be really cool as I had seen this type of thing before.  Additionally, I wanted to see more detail on the mouth and the eyes.3dfish

  • The Fins – I ended up cutting out thin square pieces of wood scrolled out on my scroll saw.  Then I cut out the actual fin shapes from the thin pieces of wood.  The wood I used was a birch wood as it was softer and easier to cut.  My new sander was very nice in getting these fins shaped out, though I had to be careful not to push too hard as it would take wood off very quickly.  Each fin I added lines to it by drawing them with the tip of a screw, which gave each fin more of a realistic look.
  • The Eyes – The eyes were a little hard to get perfect.  I wanted them to be even and not too big or too small.  I scrolled out each eye and hand sanded them a little bit to get them looking good.
  • The Mouth – Fish kind of have a bit of definition on their mouths.  I certainly did not want to neglect this detail after I had thought about it.  I cut out pieces for the mouth and hand sanded them a little, then I glued them to the mouth.  The needed a little be more sanding down after gluing them to get them to blend in better with the mouth.
  • The Gills – Before I had started gluing any of the extras to the fish I had to carve in some detail for gills.  This took some use of my precision Dremmel to create the lines in the side of the head.

Lastly I ended up making a scene for my brown trout to swim in.  I did a base board larger than the fish and sanded in some detail.  I put a light stain on it as I wanted the piece of pine a little darker.  I added a little bit of a rise to the back right corner as well for some variation in the floor.

I had some sticks I glued in to give it some more detail.  Then I bought some polished rocks to fill in the floor.  I tried to add some color change from dark rocks to lighter colored rocks on the floor, which I am not sure made things look any better but I suppose it does not look too bad.3dscene.jpg

There is a large rock behind the fish, of which I acquired on a camping trip.  It has some purple in the color and I used a gloss to make the rock look wet and let the purple color come out more visually.

In all I have learned that details really do help when it comes to making your 3d scroll saw projects look better.  Each new detail adds to something new a persons eye can be drawn too while looking at your work of art.

If you think of the detail, chances are you might want to add it if it makes sense to do so.  I always think, “if you plan on putting the time into it anyway, you might as well put more time into perfecting how it looks.”


Natural Wood or Add Some Color

So, you must be thinking that I had to have some sort of inspiration to do this project from others.  And you are very correct.

I watched this guy on YouTube take one big chunk of wood and turn it into a beautiful brook trout.  He used tools that I possibly could not afford to carve this fish out and he also decided to use his air brushing tools to paint in the color of the entire fish.  Along with some hand painting of details as well.

I like the thought of the paint making the fish look as real as possible in color.  This guys fish looked so much like a brook trout that I was absolutely amazed.  With my project though, I decided that I wanted to use a little bit of both.

I like the look of the natural wood, but I know that with a little bit of paint you can make some real nice detail.  Before I glued on the eyes to my brown trout, I first painted them with a more dull of a yellow and then giving them a black center.  Additionally, I stained the entire fish with a darker color and then used an even darker stain for the top part of the fish.  Giving it that real brown trout look.

Trout can have many black spots all over its body, of which I painted on for my project.  I have caught a few brown trout in my life and they all do not look the same.  For this project though, I thought I would add some of the red dots you can see on a brown trout to give it some additional color.

After the eyes were glued on.  I touched up the eyes with some darker color just above the top of the eyes.  I then did some touch up here and there around the fins.

I really do like the natural look of the wood.  Paint does help with making things look better and it will be up to you on how you want to make your final 3d project look.

My final touch to the project was to spray on some gloss to the fish and also to the scene the fish will be sitting in.  This helps protect the wood and also gives it a wet kind of look like it is in the water.



When it comes to 3d scroll saw projects, I have found that it is very different from your typical scroll saw projects.

The main difference for me was that it seemed the project required more artistic detail.  This meant doing some carving, painting, creating different layers of staining, and even creating a whole scene to display my fish in.  I of course, did not mind adding in the detail on this project anyway.3dduck

If you feel that you are capable of doing 3d scroll saw projects, keep in mind it might entail you to do some additional drawing on your artistic abilities to create a really great project.

If you are interested in what kinds of tools I used for this project, or my scroll saw projects in general, please visit my My Tool Picks page and take a look.

If you have some tools that you think I, or others, could use for these types of projects, I am going to leave this post open for comments, as I would like to know.

Thanks for reading.

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