Beginning woodworking intarsia


Intarsia has always fascinated me and I’ve been meaning to try it out for years. I like the artistic nature of it and the limitless possibilities of “painting” with wood.

I want to thank everyone over on my Facebook page this week who helped me out with all sorts of tips and hints. Especially Steve Carmichael who had recently attended an intarsia class and sent me the notes he took.

I found the process to be pretty simple, but a lot of work. Plan on a lot of time sawing and sanding. If you would like to try out my scarecrow, download the pattern here. Mostly, try to cut exactly on the lines and take it very slowly with your scroll saw.


Steve Carmichael’s list of helpful intarsia tips and notes:

  • Intarsia is cutting pieces from separate parts of wood and joining them together. Segmentation is cutting the entire design from one piece of wood, like a puzzle, where the wood grain matches through all the pieces of the project. You can make segmentation project look like an intarsia project by painting the pieces separately then gluing them together.
  • Cut as close as possible on the line to ensure good fits.
  • Use a soft drum sander on a drill press with to round all edges and avoid having 90 degree edges. This can help hide any gaps. They sell sanding drums that are soft and spongey…flex sanding drum I think.
  • When adjoining pieces are cut from the same wood, cut them in different grain directions to add contrast.
  • Cut all pieces out first and number each piece on the back. For tiny pieces that are too small to write on, stick them onto blue tape and write the number on the tape.
  • Glue the pieces together starting from the center of the design and work your way to the outside edges. This way any mistakes will throw off pieces only half the distance. For example, if your project is 10″ wide and you start from the center, any mistakes will only affect 5″ of the project. If you started on the left side and worked your way to the right, any mistakes will affect all 10″ of he width of the project.
  • Use Aleene’s Tacky Glue to glue pieces together. It sets fast and it dries clear.
  • To glue pieces together, lay down a print out of the design. Cover it with wax paper. Glue pieces together laying them on top of the design as you go. Any glue squeeze out will not stick to the wax paper.
  • When done gluing pieces together, sand the back to remove any glue and to level uneven pieces.
  • Cut a piece of thin plywood backer board that is inset 1/8 inch from the edges of the design. Mark the location for a keyhole where it will best hang on a nail, if you plan to hang it on the wall. Cut the keyhole in the plywood, then trace the keyhole on the back of the glued project. Use a forstner bit to drill a recess in the back of the project that will be covered by the keyhole, so that when you glue it to the backerboard, a nail head can go into the keyhole for hanging. Glue the project to the backerboard with Titebond II.
  • Use different colors of wood and different thicknesses of wood for effect and spray clear coat on top.
  • When cutting small pieces on the scroll saw, use one of those business card refrigerator magnets for zero clearance so the piece does not fall into the hole. Just cut the magnet about half way through and stop so it covers the hole in the table.
  • Use woodgrain and different species with only a clear coat, along with different thicknesses of wood, and let the wood naturally create the 3D effect
  • Use a heavy bag of sand or similar material so it can conform to the uneven thickness of pieces in the project. The bag conforms to the uneven face and applies pressure to both the high and low pieces.
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  1. That extra finger is a tribute to all the woodworkers who have lost a finger fighting for the honor of their craft. Those fingers have to go somewhere.

    If a traitor like Benedict Arnold can have his left leg memorialized, why not honorable woodworkers’ lost digits?

  2. That’s not an extra finger.

    Steve slipped with the scroll saw when cutting out the scarecrow’s pants and cut off another part of his anatomy. He just glued it back on in the wrong spot.

    The original design was for an entire family of scarecrows, but Steve’s scroll saw accident prevented the scarecrow from having any children.

    Poor guy. He’s made almost entirely out of wood, but can’t get wood anymore.

  3. Not something for me, I hate scroll sawing… but nice work on your part Steve. Again, thanks for making my weekend!

  4. Your videos are so great.. and your directions are very clear. and you are a great entretainer as well.:-D
    Do you have any blooper videos ? 😀
    I’m really getting into woodworking thank to your videos, that’s for sure !!

  5. Intarsia is a technique used to incorporate areas of color into your knitting. This could mean pictures, shapes or polka dots. For each block of contrasting color you will use a different length of yarn. The yarn is not carried across the back of the work, as in Fair Isle, but rather twisted around the main color at the edges of the secondary color.

  6. Intricate designs require some advanced skills in woodworking and are usually made through carving. This kind of woodworking designs can also go from simple like basic shapes (circles, squares, hearts, stars etc.) to complex patterns like floral garlands or even scenes or landscapes. The latter require a lot of attention for details and focus. Thus, the best intricate designs are made using sharp cutting tools. Sometimes, additional devices are used for even a more beautiful effect. One such device can be the pyrographer, which helps the crafter make extremely detailed patterns with a fine touch.


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