Painting a Chinese Dragon Puzzle

Spring Scrolling / Techniques for Beginners

Painting a Chinese Dragon Puzzle

Bring luck to your scroll saw with this take on a Chinese New Year classic

By John A. Nelson  

Get the pattern and check out the full article in Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts Issue #74

The dragon is a favorite of Tolkien-lovers, Game of Thrones fans, and students of Chinese mythology—and it’s no wonder. Powerful, clever, and mysterious, these creatures are said to reward respect with security and good luck. I added lots of movement to my version to evoke the undulating choreography in a traditional Chinese New Year dragon dance. I chose a rich cherry for the distinctive grain, but you can use any interesting hardwood you prefer.

Making the Dragon Puzzle

Cover the wood with blue painter’s tape. Attach a copy of the pattern to the tape using spray adhesive. Make sure the grain flows horizontally.

Cut the pieces, starting with the base. Set the base pieces aside to make the project easier to handle. Then, do the same for the claws and head, saving the torso and tail for last. Drill a hole for the eye. Sand the pieces by hand, working up progressively through the grits until you reach 320. For attractive hardwoods, finish with Danish oil or a clear spray lacquer; for bland woods, paint with your choice of bright acrylics.

Painting the Dragon Puzzle 

Get decorative painter Kristen Scanlan’s painting tutorial HERE:


• Cherry or maple, 3/4″ (1.9cm) thick: 9 3/4″ x 15″ (24.8cm x 38.1cm)

• Spray adhesive, temporary-bond

• Tape: blue painter’s

• Sandpaper: 120, 220, 320

• Acrylic paint (optional)

• Finish, such as clear spray lacquer or Danish oil        


• Scroll saw blades: #5 reverse-tooth

• Drill with bits: assorted small


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