Guide to Intarsia

Intarsia Collie

In addition to the basic artistic skills needed Intarsia involve cutting and contouring wood, gluing and fitting pieces. Each of these has it one techniques to master.


Intarsia Tips and Tricks

For Intarsia projects to look their best, the parts need to fit together tightly. Besides sawing right down the middle of the pattern lines, what else can you do to prevent gaps? These surefire pointers from Judy Gale Roberts and Jerry Booher could improve your results dramatically.



The Art of Intarsia

Intarsia is the process of cutting, shaping, fitting and gluing various species of wood onto a wooden background for decorative purposes.


Intarsia & Stained Glass

This Intarsia/glass art was developed in the summer of 1999 by Jeff Meuwissen, a stained glass artist for 12 years. He began experimenting with Intarsia and combining it with stained glass. After a few attempts at various techniques, he refined the procedures which he describes below.


Cutting

After all the patterns have been applied, it’s time to start cutting. This is an art in itself. Much needs to be considered when cutting wood. There are many brands, sizes, and types of blades from which to choose. Skip tooth blades cut in one direction. Reverse blades cut up and down. Spiral blades cut in any direction. Also, different size blades may be used. For thick woods, use larger blades and for thinner woods, use smaller blades. Blade sizes can range from 2/0 to 12. Blades also range in teeth per inch.


Contouring

After all the wood pieces have been cut, it is time to contour your project. Contouring will bring your pieces to life and give your project a realistic look and character. Many tools are available for this process. They include contour sanding sleeves, oscillating sanders, detail hand sanding tools, pneumatic sanders, and sanding shims. Double-sided tapes can be used to hold the pieces to sanding shims when contouring.


Intarsia, an Artistic Craft and Hobby

For those with artistic ability, Intarsia can produce wonderful works of wood in three dimensions. The good news? There are plenty of sources for instruction and patterns for this art and craft, and the power tool requirements are very modest. I had the pleasure of engaging in some Intarsia some years ago, and it might be something you would enjoy. Before I go on, look at the examples in the following links. They show you what Intarsia is, both in simple and more complex projects. But don't be intimidated by the complex examples. I'm showing those so you can appreciate the levels to which Intarsia can be taken by those with advanced artistic talent. There are plenty of simpler patterns available to get you started, or to match the level of complexity you are comfortable.



Selecting Wood for Intarsia Projects

The wonderful aspect of creating Intarsia is that through the use of different types and colors of wood, the artisan can create truly remarkable works of art. The trick is finding the right type of wood, and one that will hold a consistent color over time. While many of these woods are common, some colors are rare and may be difficult to obtain unless one knows where to look. Light colored woods are often the easiest pieces to cut. These are the "soft" woods often used for carving or woodburning projects. Light colored woods are Ash, Aspen, Canarywood, Holly, Lacewood, Maple, Pine, Poplar, and Sycamore. Canarywood, Maple and Poplar all experience slight darkening with age while the other woods mentioned experience little to no change over a period of time.


Beginning Intarsia


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