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How to convert pictures to scroll saw patterns

Updated February 21, 2017

Scroll saws allow woodworkers to cut intricate shapes out of wood. Woodworkers who are specialists in scroll saw crafts may on occasion want to convert a picture into a scroll saw pattern. While there are many ways to convert pictures to patterns, an effective and inexpensive way is to use a photocopy machine. The photocopy machine allows the user to make a black-and-white representation of the picture and scale it up or down to meet the specifications of the project.

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  1. Place the picture on the photocopy machine. Adjust the settings for the photocopier to make either an enlarged or a reduced copy of the picture, according to your needs for the scroll saw project. Adjust the settings until the correct size is achieved. This may require some experimentation if your initial settings are incorrect.

  2. Place the graph paper on a work surface. Align the carbon paper over the graph paper, carbon-side down. Position the photocopy of the picture over the carbon paper.

  3. Use a pen to trace the lines of the photograph that you would like included in the pattern. Be realistic about the amount of detail that you will be able to achieve with the scroll saw; only include the lines necessary to create completed shapes. Use the photocopied picture as an overall guideline for creating the pattern. Remove the photocopied picture and carbon paper; the image on the graph paper is the pattern.

  4. Position the pattern over a sheet of carbon paper. Place the two papers over the wood blank for your scroll saw project. Trace over the lines of the pattern with a pen to transfer the pattern to the wood blank. Cut out the pattern using a scroll saw.

  5. Tip

    Make multiple copies of the pattern and store them in a file for repeated use.


    If you are having an issue with the carbon paper staying in place, you may have to tape it down while you are transferring the pattern to achieve a clean result.

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Things You'll Need

  • Picture
  • Photocopy machine
  • Work surface
  • Graph paper
  • Carbon paper, 2 sheets
  • Pen

About the Author

Jonah Morrissey has been writing for print and online publications since 2000. He began his career as a staff reporter/photographer for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York. Morrissey specializes in topics related to home-and-garden projects, green living and small business. He graduated from Saint Michael's College, earning a B.A. in political science with a minor in journalism and mass communications.

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