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Intarsia 101

intarsiaIntarsia 101 Introduction

intarsiaIntarsia Basic Tools

intarsiaIntarsia Basic Steps

intarsiaSources For Wood

intarsiaScrolling Tips

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Intarsia 101 Introduction

Intarsia is a great craft / art form that can be enjoyed on various levels as a source of extra income, creating wonderful one of a kind works of art or as a hobby providing endless hours of personal enjoyment making gifts for family and friends. Intarsia is basically a combination of just a few woodworking skills and is not as difficult as one might think.

One of the nicest things about Intarsia is that you don't need a lot of fancy tools or a large workshop. I met a couple of Intarsia hobbyists in Vancouver, BC who were having a ball doing Intarsia in a spare bedroom of their apartment. You can create an Intarsia project with nothing more than a fretsaw and sand paper. It would be slow work but it could be done. Power tools do make the process a lot quicker.

I suggest that all new Intarsia enthusiasts explore these resources:

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Intarsia Basic Tools

Cutting Tools: Band saw or scroll saw is strongly recommended. The scroll saw blades I use most often for Intarsia are the #5.#7 & #9 P/S. This is a ground skip tooth reverse blade. Fast and smooth cutting with a splinter free bottom cut.

For someone just starting the #5,#7 & #9 DT/R blades are a little slower cutting with the same quality. I have been experimenting with a #3 Hook tooth blade. This blade is almost as fast cutting as a #7 P/S and leaves a smaller kerf (better fit). It isn't reverse tooth though, so there is a bit of clean up on the bottom edge.

Sanding Tools: Almost anything will work and people find what works best for them. Pneumatic drum sanders, stationary belt sanders, portable belt sanders, disc sanders, flap sanders and on and on. Even wood rasps or files.

I use the Sandstorm pneumatic sander for most of my shaping and sanding. A Flex Sander also helps me solve many shaping problems. When all else fails I get out the sand paper and apply some good old elbow grease.

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Intarsia Basic Steps

Woods: The most common wood for Intarsia is Western Red Cedar because of its endless variety of colour and grain texture. But you can use any other wood you like the look of. I regard all the woods as the palette I have to work with in the same way an oil painter looks at their paints.

Start with a pattern: And it just so happens that I have some patterns for sale! Transfer it to the wood by tracing with tracing paper or make a template of the pattern. I prefer the template method. I also offer a couple Free Patterns for beginners. They are very simple and a good way to get your feet wet in Intarsia.

Another method of a lot of people use is the classic scrollers technique. Cut out the various pattern pieces and glue them onto the wood, with spray glue or glue sticks. You have to make a few copies of the pattern with this method. I give permission for the purchaser to make up to 10 copies for their own use and note for resale. If you can purchase them as PDF's, some programs will allow you to print off parts of the pattern.

Cutting: Technically the most important step, cut very carefully and the project should fit fairly well. After its all cut out assemble the project and check for fit. You may have to trim the odd piece or even remake a piece. Use sharp scroll saw blades with lubrication for best results.

Shaping: Try to achieve a smooth look, an even transition from one level and piece to another. You want to achieve a nice relief look. Glue the pieces on to a backing of 1/4 inch plywood. Baltic Birch is the best, with ordinary white carpenters glue.

Finishing: Apply a finish, and again there is no one finish for Intarsia, any wood finish will work. Use what you like and are familiar with. I prefer a satin durathane finish. I apply it with a brush, three coats to the front and one to the back.

Hanging: Attach a hanger, hang it on a wall, stand back and admire!

Click here to contact Garnet with your Intarsia questions >

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Sources For Wood

People often ask me where they can get Western Red Cedar or other hardwoods used in Intarsia. The following are some good sources for wood:

  • The Black Forest Wood Co., Calgary, AB, 403-255-6044

  • Exotic Hardwoods, Burlington, ON, 905-335-8066

  • Grove Cedar, Langley, BC, 604-530-1720
    Sells shorts by the lift & will ship by truck.

  • Windsor Plywood Stores
    Check your local Yellow Pages for the location nearest you. They are a great source for Western Red Cedar, hardwoods and Baltic Birch plywood. Stores are only in Western Canada... pity.

  •, McKinney, TX, 469-742-0097
    Full line hardwood lumber dealer that welcomes the opportunity to assist scrollsaw hobbyists.

I invite any wood dealers to send me your contact information and I will list it here free of charge as a service to my web site visitors.

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