THE DUCK INTARSIAS WERE MADE"
by Charles H. Smart
Charter Member of
Minnesota Mineral Club
4737 Balisdell Ave.
Charles H. Smart, was the winner of the Lapidary Achievement Award plaque
at the 1963 convention and show of the American Federation of Mineralogical
Societies, held at Oklahoma City in June 1963. MR. Smart's "Baldpate"
duck intarsia appeared o the cover of the Lapidary Journal for January 1963.
Another, of a "Mallard drake" will appear on a future cover. Each
is a masterpiece of careful selection of design, color of material and meticulous
purpose of writing this article is to furnish information on the making
of stone pictures. Most of us have a desire to know how things are made
even though we may not have the urge nor the skill to do them ourselves.
Please keep in mind that the information given has been gathered fro only
one man's experiences. There are other ways, perhaps better ways of making
an intarsia, bit the following described processes have produced good results
are two basic ways of cementing together the many stone pieces that are
used in making mosaics, intarsias and stone pictures. One of the ways is
to make the picture with its face down. The pieces are cemented to each
other face down o waxed paper covered work board. The uneven and unfinished
surface of the stone is up. The waxed paper is used to prevent the cement
from sticking to the work board and will allow the finished picture to be
removed later on. An important advantage of the face down method is that
the pieces of stone may vary quite a bit in thickness. This uneven back
surface is later covered with cement. The method is widely used. I believe
it is the accepted method of making beautiful intarsias now being produced
second method of making the stone picture is to cement the fitted stones
face up to what will be the permanent base. Several materials may be used
for the base. I have used Plexiglas in all of my work and find it satisfactory.
It is light in weight, very strong, easily cut to the desired shape, has
a low expansion factor and if roughened a bit with 220 grit cloth provides
a surface to which the cement will hold indefinitely. I prefer the face
up method for a number of reasons. It is easier for me to accurately fit
the many pieces of stones. Progress from day to day can be noted. I know
that I am less likely to use an inferior piece of material, or allow a clash
in color harmony. There is less likely that a misfit will get into the picture.
The pattern of lines in the stone should contribute to the flow of motion.
This is especially true in the flying ducks. Since it usually takes me from
five to six months to complete a picture I just could not wait that long
to see what the other side looks like. Then when the picture is finally
turned over imperfect stone or flaw might be right in the middle of it.
Such a disaster is quite unlikely to happen if you can see from day to day
just what stones are being fitted and you can do this with the face-up method.
There is this disadvantage in the face-up method. It is very necessary that
all the pieces of stone be cut or ground to the same exact thickness before
being cemented into place in the intarsia. Even so, I think the face-up
method is he better way.
4. - If someone should accidentally turn on this trim aw the author and
his clothing would be a mess, for as you may have observed there is no splash
guard over the saw and no apron on the workman. The splash guard was removed
so that the offset in the table can be more easily seen. The apron would
be unnecessary anyway for the man is not really working.
idea to make an intarsia of a duck in flight had been in my mind for several
years. The duck that I had selected was the very colorful Mallard drake.
I also knew that the project would be quite pretentious and difficult. I
knew too that I should try the method of procedure on a project less exciting.
The insignia shown in Fig. 1 was the practice project. I made it, using
the patriotic colors of red, white and blue. A ring of black petrified wood
was out on the outside. I found the insignia not to easy to make and that
it took more time to do than I had expected it would. The result was gratifying
however. The lessons learned were to help later and I found that a good
tight joint was possible. The "Mallard" was made back in 1958.
The "Wood Duck" was made next and the "Baldpate" was
completed just a year ago. There was considerable improvement in workmanship
from duck to duck as I gained in proficiency and experience.
realize that a considerable portion of the information included in his articlewill
be old stuff to many readers, but since our readers include both the informed
and the uninformed, I feel that some of information will be of use to all.
will be made occasionally to the "Baldpate" intarsia which appeared
on the cover of the January issue 1963 of the Lapidary Journal and to the
"Wood Duck" which is on the cover of this issue.
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Fig. 1. .. .
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1. - This intarsia was the practice project. It was made before any of the
duck intarsias were started. I found it more difficult to make than I had
2. -A colored picture, chosen to meet your ability, will very likely be
the guideto your first stone picture. The method shown in the above drawing
will indicate howthe original print may be used to produce a working drawing
that will meet your conditions.
first step in making a stone picture is to select the subject and make a
work drawing the exact size of the finished picture. I knew I wanted to
make as my second intarsia another duck. The first one, the Mallard, was
shown jumping off the water in extreme alarm. I wanted the second duck to
express just the opposite mood; it was shown coming in for a landing nd
without fear. I think the Wood Duck express this mood delightfully. The
webs are down and the wing tips are in an alighting maneuver. The "Wood
Duck" was a part of a colored picture appearing on a calendar; subject
matter by R.C. Bishop. Since the picture of the duck was not quite the right
size, the method shown in Fig. 2. was used to enlarge it slightly. This
method of making a copy may be used to either increase or decrease as you
wish. Use a sharp pencil and work from square to square. I use a good grade
of white mechanical drawing paper. It is stiff enough to be used for patterns
when the drawing is cut apart later. The red-headed woodpecker would make
a fine subject if any of you should be inclined. It does not express motion
that I like in an intarsia but it does have an attractive color contrast.
The black and white print does not bring out the brilliant color but a colored
print could be easily obtained to work from. There is an opportunity too,
to express one's skill in the amount of detail included in the feathers
of the wing, back and tail.
next step is to get the material together before starting the project. I
have enjoyed the rock hobby for many years and have accumulated quite a
rock pile. Most of the material I used came from the rock pile. Some were
obtained from friends. Listings of dealers in this magazine, especially
the April issue, the Buyers guide issue, helped out when a very special
slab was needed. Al the material used in this type of work must be opaque
or very nearly so. The backing, Plexiglas in the ducks, must not show through.
The material should have a good color and pattern. Color will attract attention
and the pattern will put life and motion into the picture. The way he material
is cut into slabs will often give the desired effect. Notice the pattern
on the end of the chunk of petrified palm wood shown at A. Fig.3. The cellular
structure, when cut across the grain of the wood, produces a definite arrangement
of dots. It will be seen that the dots become elongated ovals when the palm
wood is cut at an angle. The pattern was idea; for the feather effect that
was needed in the under throat and lower neck of the "Baldpate."
In B. Fig.3 the angle sawing gave what is known as the herringbone pattern.
Petrified wood cut this way was used many times in the three duck intarisas.
The herringbone pattern cannot be used unless the end grain shows a wavy
pattern of the annular growth rings. The greater the angle at which the
rock is cut the more elongated the pattern becomes. Slabs 3.5 mm thick were
used in all of the intarsias.
following materials were used in the "Wood Duck." The bill is
yellow petrified wood, with white datolite and black petrified wood trim.
A fine line of agate is at the upper end of the bill. The head is crowned
with curved pieces of bloodstone, jasper, jade and datolite. The cheek is
chrysocolla. The throat is datolite and black jade. The upper breast is
jasper. The lower breast is howlite. The tail fan is black petrified wood.
The legs are rhyolite. The upper edge of the wing is petrified algae. The
next row is petrified palm wood. The remaining feathers are petrified wood,
herringbone pattern. The white on the lower edge of the wing is datolite.
The eye was cut from a Lake Superior agate.
are 198 separate pieces of stone in the "Wood Duck." It took about
400 hours of actual work spread over five months of time to complete.
preparation of the backing was next. A piece of Plexiglas about ten inches
square equaled the size of the picture. I have used Plexiglas three-sixteenths
inch thick in all the ducks. The polished surface of one side of the Plexiglas
was thoroughly sanded with 220 grit cloth. The cement will adhere better
and a pencil mark can be made on it. A piece of tracing paper was placed
on the drawing of the "Wood Duck" and just its outline was traced.
Since I do not wish the backing to show at the edges, I make the backing
one-sixteenth of n inch smaller all around than the finished picture will
be. I then cut out the tracing, but instead of cutting on the tracing line
I cut inside the tracing line, that one-sixteenth of an inch. The cutout
is then put on the sanded surface of the Plexiglas and marked all around.
The Plexiglas is then ready to be cut to shape. I have found the quickest
to do this is on the grinding wheel. I have a 10" wheel, 80 grit and
another one-fourth inch thick. It will cut away he excess Plexiglas in a
hurry. The Plexiglas must be placed flat on the slab rest in front of the
wheel. More about the slab rest later. Some sawing and filing will be necessary
to remove the Plexiglas the grinding wheel could not reach.
should devote some space to the machines we shall use. The trim saw Fig.
4 is one grand little work horse for the lapidary, especially in the making
of stone pictures where hundreds of separate pieces of stone may be used.
You will note that the table is not on the same level all the way back.
The front half is on a level with the saw arbor. The slab being sawed is
then able to meet the cutting edge of the saw squarely and a vertical cut
is obtained. This will enable cuts clear into sharp corners without undercutting.
When this saw was built years ago none like it were on the market; they
may be purchased now. The depth of the cut is limited to a bit less than
half the diameter of the saw blade. I use a saw 6" in diameter and
.040 in thickness. The thin blades are not rugged enough. The thicker blade
will take the pressure put on the saw by the slab much better. We must remember
that in vertical cutting the pressure put on the slab is distributed over
a very small portion of the periphery of the saw blade. When pushing a one-eighth
inch thick slab against the saw only one, or at the most two teeth, must
do all the cutting. It is easy, by applying too much pressure, to damage
the blade and start it to bumping. I find it necessary quite often, to remind
myself to take it easy as there is no hurry and to remember that having
fun is one of the main objectives of every hobby. The trim saw can save
many hours of grinding. Always saw with the top side of the stone up. Saw
close to the line on the convex curve. Make at least three cuts. One the
concave side straight cuts to the center of the curve from both ends will
remove a V shaped piece of stone. Much of the remaining material on the
concave side can be removed by making a series of cuts into, but not touching,
the marked curved line. Make any cuts close together and break off the material
between the saw cuts with a pair of pliers. The curved pieces of stone used
on the top of the head of the Wood Duck as well as the feathers in the wings
were roughed out in this method.