Let’s Talk SHOP: Rhonda Inman

Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director

Artist Rhonda Inman. Photo courtesy of Rhonda Inman.

There is no better way to kick off the holidays than the tradition of decorating a tree with your most treasured and sentimental ornaments. This week, we thought it would be appropriate to feature artist Rhonda Inman, who creates three-dimensional compound ornaments made with various types of wood using her scroll saw. Advanced in her techniques and intricate in her designs, words don’t suffice to describe how amazing they truly are. These pieces would be a great addition to anyone’s celebration to the season!

Let me start off by saying Christmas is my favorite holiday. My dad used to take me on a ride on a two-person sleigh with our horse, Butterfly, pulling it down the road and through the fields singing Christmas songs. My mom would set up a village underneath our Christmas tree and I would lay on the floor playing, rearranging everything and having fun. Now, I am having fun making Christmas ornaments for everyone to enjoy with their families.  

I will tell you the way I make my ornaments, but I won’t tell you all of my secrets! It takes about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish making just one ornament, and a couple of days to get the finish on it. 

I start with a block of wood squared up and ¼ inch longer then the design you want to make. I make it so the block of wood is a little wider than the ornament I want to cut out so that you have extra wood to make the box with.

Your blocks cannot be more than 2 inches thick, due to the spacing between the arm and the table of the scroll saw. I find the center of the block of wood on two sides so that I can center the top & bottom of the ornament pattern. I glue the pattern piece down on two sides with simple school glue, getting the pattern lined up & centered so that the two sides match.

I let them dry a little bit, then drill a small hole all the way through two sides on the spots that will be cut out. Then, I will start cutting out the inside design, leaving the gray lines that are the actual ornament design. Do not push the block through the blade, just let the blade cut guiding it through. Have patience! It takes usually 1-hour to 1 1/2 hours to cut the design out.  

Make sure you have the right blade, so it cuts smoothly. I use Flying Dutchman blades, “Silver Penguin Reverse size 5, 7, or 9”. The higher the number on the blade, the thicker the blade will be; and, they have less teeth then the lower numbers. If you are cutting 1-3/4” thick walnut, you will need the #7 blade. 

After the center design is cut out on both sides, sit back and look at all 4 sides. Then you go on the backside where there’s no pattern and clean up your cuts: all four sides need to be as identical as possible.

Next, you cut the outside design of the ornament. I start on the right side of one of the sides. If your design has a very fine line, cut on the outside of that line so you don’t make it too thin & lose the design. Now, cut the left side of the ornament. Tape the box back together with clear packing tape, keeping it tight and lined up. Now, cut the other side of the design starting with the right side then the left.

Take off all the paper & tape, sand all the pieces, & put the box together into two sides using wood glue. Sand the outside of the box on a sander and use fingernail files & needle nose files to clean the inside of the ornament. I created the box to store your ornament in after realizing some of the ornaments are so fragile they would break if they weren’t in a box to protect them.  

Finally, I finish the ornament & the box with a clear coat spray with light sanding between coats. After it’s dry, time to add a ribbon & enjoy it!

Wooden Compound Ornament, $40

Pick up an ornament for your own collection, or as a unique gift to give to friends and family! Rhonda currently offers 25-30 patterns, and comes out with new designs year after year!

To see Rhonda Inman’s Ornaments, come visit us at the Paradigm Gallery: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm.

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