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Wood Inlay Techniques


"Intarsia" is an ancient Italian woodworking method for making 3-dimensional pictures in wood. Often these woods are between 1/4" and 1 3/4" thick, and can be of several different species in the same piece. The colors and grain patterns on the wood are carefully chosen to enhance the design. When pictures are made with veneers, it is called "marquetry". The term "parquetry" is used for pictures made of veneer using geometric designs rather than a scene or identifiable object. For a more detailed history of intarsia, click here.

If you want to learn how to create intarsia (amd get some free patterns), try this DOWNLOADABLE book:

The Complete Intarsia Manual

My first intarsia, a pelican: poplar, black walnut, western red cedar and ebony (eye)

If you enjoy putting jigsaw puzzles together, you'll see how much fun this woodworking pastime can be. And it doesn't have to have a lot of parts to it to look good. For example, the pelican here was the first one that I ever did, in a WoodCraft class, from a pattern in a book by Judy Gale Roberts. It has only 9 pieces to work with, all but one were easy to sand, shape and fit, but that was because I had never used a scroll saw before and my cutting of that one piece was atrocious! As you can see, unlike the frustrations of a standard cardboard jigsaw puzzle, if the pieces don't fit, you can sand them down and MAKE them fit!

Of course, you can design your own if you don't find what you like in the pattern books. The background of this page is from an intarsia that I designed myself by modifying the standard southwestern motifs of Kokopelli found in the Southwest Scroll Saw Patterns book by Spielmann. It uses 7 different exotic woods, has leather trim, a tiny ebony Kokopelli fetish that is no larger than 1/2 my thumbnail sitting on the Bois d'Arc flute, and was a project of "firsts":


Detail of kokopelli intarsia: ebony kokopelli playing bois d'arc flute

If you would like to see the bois d'arc flute and ebony fetish that I based my intarsia pattern on, click here.

great blue heron intarsia, blue stain pine, poplar

Great Blue Heron

This 70-piece Great Blue Heron intarsia has been a real challenge! From a pattern by Judy Gale Roberts, this design called for Western Red Cedar, but a BLUE Heron is not RED, so, since I use natural woods (no stain), the search began for bluish-grey wood. I finally found Blue Stain Pine, (described in the puzzle section below) and so here is the Heron!

I have since discovered a gray form of Eucalyptus (as a pen blank), but so far, not in a board large enough to use for another heron.

Click here to see the carved detail of the foot, and the tiny knot on the beak defining the nostril.

western red cedar, claro walnut, ebony, and mahogany

Black Masked Red Afghan Hound Head Study

This Afghan Hound is my own design. I was determined to find a way to portray the long flowing coat in wood! The pattern was originally designed around a picture I found of Pahlavi Putting on the Ritz (Taco), but after going to a dog show in San Angelo, it was redrawn to become more of a composite of the Afghan hounds I saw there.

It just made its public debut at the Midwest Scrollsaw Picnic in Pontiac, Il. on Aug 5, 2000. Made from western red cedar, claro walnut, ebony and mahogany, it is just slightly smaller than life-size.

I have plans to design more intarsia Afghan hounds in various poses. Uh, smaller than life size...I haven't that much wall space!

Miniature Dolphin Intarsia

cherry, black walnut, poplar dolphin intarsia From Small Intarsia by Judy Gale Roberts. I cut the stacked pieces of Cherry, Black Walnut and Poplar out on a little 1928 Delta Scroll Boy that uses pin-end blades. You have to crank it with one hand, and move the wood with the other.

It's much easier to get someone else to crank it... Has anyone ever tried to attach a motor to one? It looks like it will accept a belt-drive of some kind, and a friend of mine suggested hooking it to a drill, but didn't say HOW.

Intarsia Works in Progress

Pelican intarsia

My newest Pelican

| Marquetry | Parquetry | Veneering |

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Updated: October 11, 2004