Bandsaw Reindeer

Published Monday, December 25, 2023 by Bryan

I'm new to bandsaws. I just added one to my shop because it seems I hardly complete a project anymore that doesn't involve some amount of resawing (slicing a thick board into two thinner boards). I've gotten pretty good at a table saw technique for doing that, but it consumes a decent amount of time, energy, and material.

But bandsaws can do a lot more than resaw. After watching a couple of videos about operating and maintaining them, mixed with some videos about holiday gifts, Youtube recommended a video about bandsaw reindeer. The project looked fun on its own, but then the craftsman offhand dropped, "They look great in red oak in particular." I have literally a ton of that, so...

Two thin plywood cutouts lay atop graph paper on which is drawn the same shapes.
Patterns copied screen to paper, then paper to thin plywood.

The first thing I did was draw up templates. The idea of the project is that you make two sets of cuts at 90° to each other, through a solid rectangular block, and out of the middle pops a deer. So the thin pattern is the edge cut and the wide pattern is the face cut.

Two blocks of wood, each composed of several smaller blocks of wood. On one, the thinner pattern has been traced. The pattern has been cut out of the second.
The first cut through a glued-up block.
The pieces cut from the block in the previous picture have been taped back into place.
The cutouts taped back together.

Next is gluing up the blocks. You can just cut them out of one solid block of a single species. But it's so much more fun to mix them up, making the antlers a lighter color (maple), the hooves a darker color (walnut), and the noses noticeable (walnut on one, padauk on the other). These are endgrain-to-endgrain glue joints - not the strongest, but between pre-soaking some glue into the edge before mating, and letting everything rest for a full 48 hours, I didn't have any trouble.

It's recommended to cut the edge first, when it has the most solid support. You save the cutoffs from the face edge, though, and tape them back in place, so you can still see the pattern you traced on it.

Two deer-shaped cut outs stand among a dozen seemingly randomly-shaped off cuts.
'Simply remove all the pieces that don't look like a deer.'

After cutting the face pattern, separate all the pieces and just as predicted - a deer jumps out of the middle!

The two deer-shaped cut outs stand in front of a couple of pieces of sandpaper. The sandpaper has clearly been applied to only one of them, as it is smooth, compared to the ribbed saw lines crossing the other.
Smooth deer is smooth.

I need practice following curves smoothly, but with the right grit of sandpaper the saw marks come off pretty quick. I stopped at 220 grit on this project, because other recent projects seemed to be teaching me that anything finer caused dust to get stuck in the huge open pores of the oak.

The two deer-shaped cut outs stand in front of a colorful picture atop a colorful tablecloth. The colors of their woods are also much richer.
Pop that color. Light maple antlers, red oak bodies, brown walnut hooves. A brown walnut nose on one, and a red padauk nose on the other.

I chose Danish oil for the finish. This isn't a project that will get handled a lot, so there was not need for more weatherproofing. The fact that Danish oil doesn't require additional sanding between coats was a huge bonus.

I love how these turned out. The oak and maple each had small sections of color change that I may have tried to avoid in other projects. But in this one, I think it just adds to the deer's character.

One of these deer is a gift for my brother-in-law, who gave me the bandsaw (he upgraded, but this one is still in excellent condition). Thanks again, Andrew!

P.S. Always watch your offcuts for opportunities!

Categories: Woodworking