Judging a Scrollsaw Contest:                                            

Well the convention at Cedar Rapids was great. I think that everyone had a good time. I know that I sure did. Met so many new people and everyone of us had one common interest, scrollsaws. The contest had so many entries that it was hard to decide the winners, I was a judge for the contest so I know first hand about it.

Many wonder what a judge looks for to determine the winners of a contest. I can not speak for the other judges , who did a great job too, but I can tell you how I came to my decisions. Thank goodness Pat Lupori had all the items grouped into the categories that they belonged in. There were too many categories as far as I was concerned, but the rules for the categories was set previously, so that is how each entry was determined. I don't even remember all the different categories, we were given a score card for each one and told which items were in that group. We did not know who submitted each entry, there were no names on any of them. There was a list but the judges were not allowed to see that prior to the judging of the contest. That insured the judging was not partial to a person rather than the entry itself. From there we made our picks of the winners, and sometimes it was hard to pick only 3 places.

So your real question is what did I look for on each entry. First all I looked at all of the items in the category to judge from a distance. I made mental notes of what caught my eye as being the most appealing. Now this was real hard the way some of the items grouped because a large fretwork clock may have been in the same category as a very simple plaque. After looking at all the entries I would know the ones that I felt were in the running as being the best of the group. Now it was time to move in closer and look at some of the details.

The first of the details I would look for was the cutting. If it was words on the plaque, did all the letters that were the same, really look the same. I knew most of the patterns were pretty accurate and by looking at all of the "h" for example, did they all look the same. Were the straight line sides of each letter straight to the eye, did the "L" look like the side were straight and even, or were the sides tapered or barreled. If it was a clock with a deck type railing, did all the spindles on the railing match. Any entry that had a repeat pattern, did all of them match the way they should. Really just looking for the seminary of the pattern. If there was a straight line cut on the entry, was the line straight to look at. If there was a circle, did it really look smooth and round, or have a wavy edge. Where pieces joined to meet another piece, did they fit right. How about miters on some of the clocks and boxes, did the miters fit tight.

So everything still looked good, it's time to move in closer. Looking at the edge of the cut. Was it smooth and uniform? Were their a lot of nicks and bumps where starting and stopping took place? If the bumps were sanded out, did the sanding marks show. The edge should look smooth and uniform all along the cutting line. How about the turns and corners, were there any burn mark on the wood? If the detail called for a square corner or a pointed tip of grass, were the detail sharp or just close? I realize that this may seem very technical, but it comes down to this close look to determine the better of one entry over the next.

With all of the looks and detail done my mental list is getting down to a few entries now. So I look at the finish. I use gloss finish, but can appreciate the matte type finish too. No matter what finish was used, I look at the final results of that finish. Maybe it's not the finish I would have chosen to use, but that was what the entry had, so I look at it. In looking at the finish I look for uniformity. Does the finish look the same across the whole piece? Is that finish smooth or is there still those dust specks in it that give it the sandpaper feel? No matter what finish was used it should look and feel smooth. Now to move in closer and look at the application. Looking into the corners and edges I should not find drops or blobs of finish anywhere on the piece. There was some nice work done, then ruined with the way the finish was applied. Some had runs in the finish, some had big dried globs in the tight areas. This lack of detail really narrowed the good work from the best. By now I had my mental notes of what I felt were the best of the entries in the category. So I would stand back and think of the good and bad findings of each entry, then again mental notes of how I would place them. At times I would have to look closely again to compare a couple of entries before making the final decision of which I felt was the best. In the end I had to make the final decision of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and that was done after a lot of decisions and inspecting. All of the judges did a wonderful job of selecting the winners. It took the judges about 2 hours to judge all the categories and find the winners, but it was well worth the effort. If I would have had an entry into the contest, I would have expected the same fair treatment that everyone received in this contest. It was hard to do at times, but I think the decisions were all based on the real merits of each entry. To me the hardest part was at times it didn't seem like apples were being compared to apples. We had some beautiful work that could have been made in a couple of hours to compare against work that could have taken weeks to make. But that is the way the categories divided the entries.