The technique of Intarsia inlays sections of wood (at times with contrasting ivory or bone, or mother-of-pearl) within the solid stone matrix of floors and walls or of table tops and other furniture; by contrast marquetry assembles a pattern out of veneers glued upon the carcase. It is thought that the word 'Intarsia' is derived from the Latin word 'interserere' which means "to insert".
Intarsia is a form of wood inlay that is similar to marquetry. Various shapes, sizes and species of wood are fitted together to create a 3-D inlaid mosaic-like picture. By selecting different types of wood with various natural colors and wood grains, of multiple shapes and thicknesses, the Intarsia craftsman is able to create unique works of art.
When beginning an Intarsia project, first select a project design. You may create your own pattern or purchase a pattern from an artist. Once the pattern is selected, make extra copies. Next, determine what species of wood to use on your project. The grain and color of each species of wood can enhance a project. Once board and grains are selected, start roughing out the thickness of the wood. This will give depth to the project.
Intarsia has been around in various forms for hundreds of years. It is one of the most beautiful and creative ways of combining art, woodworking and finishing. The very means of making (or in many cases just purchasing) a pattern, deciding what woods to use throughout the work, then cutting, gluing and finishing the pieces is truly a time consuming pains-taking work, but when a good jog is done the results are outstanding.
I have been creating Intarsia pieces for a number of years now. Free time has even been donated to teach this addicting woodcraft to others. Recently I wrote an article on Intarsia Woodworking as well and I am still drawn back to the scroll saw, with every spare minute, to work on other Intarsia pieces.
Travelers returning home from trying to find a route to India would no doubt have brought back wood from trees they had never seen before. These "samples" were probably assembled into an Intarsia wood mosaic of some form for display. This would no doubt be presented to the king, queen, or whoever had financed the trip.
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