Art of Intarsia"
by William Grundke
Bit More Of a Challenge
the last month's issue, Part Four of this series, we showed you how to make
a reasonably simple intarsia. When a project such as that has been completed,
the craftsperson should be ready to try something a little more detailed.
The intarsia of the red barn pictured on the opposite page is such a project.
It offers a greater challenge and the opportunity to learn more advanced
techniques which should prepare one to progress into the creation of wide
variety of beautiful intarsias.
complete this project one must first have a knowledge of the basic techniques
of intarsia making which appeared n the first three chapters of this series.
Part One, in the December 1981 issue, covered the selection of a
design, transferring the pattern, suitable gem materials, and sawing (including
the working of outside and inside curves).
Part Two, January 1982, gave instructions for flat lapping and the
various types of grinding involved.
Part Three, February 1982, covered cementing techniques, which included
the use of an intarsia press and a cementing jig.
Part Four, March 1982, as previously mentioned, provided the instructions
for a beginning project in intarsia making. The techniques covered in the
first three parts were used.
above is the original pattern for the intarsia pictured on the opposite
page. Note that the various parts are numbered. Each of these numbered parts
designated a different color (and pattern, in most cases) of gem material.
can be seen, there are some variations fro the pattern in the finished intarsia.
For instance, Parts 5 and 6 in the pattern are for two trees, and Part 7
was supposed to come down on the left side of 6. However, a piece of gem
material was found for Part 6 that had a natural design resembling two trees,
and it would have been a shame not to make use of what Nature provided.
Two other variations are the addition of a bridge and wagon. Putting in
the wagon required that Part 14 be enlarged to provide an adequate background.
Or someone who has made quite a few intarsias, such variations are no problem.
The beginner might find it better to stick to the original pattern.
you like this pattern, it can be traced off and used as is. The actual intarsia
measures 5" x 8", but the pattern had to be reduced slightly to
fit the page. It could be enlarged to original size by drawing squares on
it, then copying it into larger squares on another piece of paper. You could
add in the wagon, a pattern for which accompanies this article, and the
bridge. And, if you are artistically inclined, you might like to make your
own variations or even sketch your own picture. If so, be sure to divide
it into parts that will be different gemstone areas.
you should choose to make your own pattern, learning how this intarsia was
done should still be helpful. Several techniques are involved that can be
very useful in putting together many different designs.
you choose, make a number of photocopies of the pattern, as discuss in Part
One. You will need them to provide individual patterns for the various
parts of the picture.
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with just about all intarsias, this one is made up of several units which
are assembled, then joined with each other until the picture is completed.
There are four units, designated A, B, C, and D. You will find a diagram
for each one.
A (see diagram) is the barn, minus the roof, right side and doors, but they
are added later). The first operation is to saw some gemstone "boards"
for the siding. Select a material of appropriate color; I used jasper in
several shades of red.
The "boards" must be cut with absolutely straight, parallel sides.
For an intarsia of the size shown, make these strips from 1/8" to 3/16"
wide - some narrower, some wider. Bevel the back edges slightly as described
in Part Two. (Do this on all the stone pieces for the intarsia.)
cutting, the "boards" should be cleaned, then cemented together.
For this procedure, use a plywood base with wooden strips on two sides (see
Part Three); an intarsia press is not needed. Place a double thickness
of wax paper on the plywood.
joints between the "boards" should be very visible so that there
will be the appearance of actual siding. To accomplish this, the epoxy is
colored. The best coloring in this instance is crushed black or brown gemstone.
Not only does it add color, bit it provides a filler which separates the
"boards" slightly, adding more realism.
Be careful in crushing gemstone. Wear safety goggles of other eye protection
and gloves. Also avoid methods I which there is the hazard of flying pieces.
use an easily made device that eliminates this problem.. A stone is placed
in a length (about 6" long) of 1 ½" pipe, the bottom of
which rests on a solid surface, such as apiece of steel or iron. A piece
of 3/4 " pipe is the other part of the device. It is somewhat longer
than the 1 ½" pipe, to provide a handle. Both ends of the 3/4
" pipe were threaded and pipe caps attached. The smaller diameter pipe
is inserted in the larger one, then raised and brought down forcefully on
the stone, breaking it into fragments.
method is to place gem material in a section of innertube and clamp the
ends of the tube shut. Lay the innertube on a sturdy surface, such as an
anvil, piece of iron, etc., and strike with a hammer. Reducing the stone
fragments to powder could be done in a heavy-duty mortar and pestle.
of using crushed gem material to color epoxy, you can use polyester resin
pigments (see Part Three). However, the divisions between the "boards"
will not be as noticeable.
a double thickness of wax paper on the plywood, apply the colored epoxy
to the edges of the "boards" and place them on the wax paper,
face down. Use the right number of "boards" to provide the desired
width for the barn unit. As described in Part Three, butt the joined stones
against a wooden strip along one edge of the plywood and hold everything
snuggly in place with aluminum push pins (see Fig. 30, Part Four).
Put under a heat lamp until the epoxy has hardened. Lap the front surface
(see Part Two).
the pattern for Unit A to the "board" assembly with Duco cement.
Coat the top of the pattern with Duco to make it waterproof. Be sure that
the pattern is oriented so that the "boards" are absolutely perpendicular,
not running crooked. And, orient the pattern so that there is some excess
gem material projecting above and below it.
out the opening. Avoid undercutting. Break off the stone projections between
the cuts with a screwdriver. I use the saw blade and/or Mizzy wheels, separating
discs or carving tools. Clean out the corners with separating discs or diamond
cut-off wheels (refer to Parts One and Two).
the time being, the barn door opening is not filled. Instead, as units are
added on, this opening is used as a location in which to place aluminum
headed push pins during cementing, helping to accomplish good tight bonds,
and to keep the intarsia flat. This aid, and the relatively small size of
the intarsia, eliminate the need for using the intarsia press.
the window openings are made. The first step is to put the unit back under
the heat lamp and let it get good and warm. Then note the two lines, designated
"X" and "Y", on the diagram for Unit A. Turn the unit
face down and cut along these lines with a sharp knife (heating softens
the epoxy somewhat, making it possible to cut into it). Separate the side
areas away from the rest of the unit by breaking along these cut lines.
Cool the unit in water.
the window openings into the large section of the barn, following the methods
described for the door opening. Cut pieces of black stone (or white if preferred)
to fit these openings. Cement them in. Re-cement the two pieces removed
from the sides.
Following the techniques outlined in Parts One and Two cutting inside curves,
saw and grind to the roof line. Leave the excess material on the bottom;
it will be cut to net size and shape later.
decoration can be made for the bran by drilling a hole at the apex, below
the roof line. As described in Part Four, cut a circular piece of
appropriately colored stone and cement it into this opening. Lap the face
of Unit A.
unit consists of the roof and the right side of the barn (see diagram).
The roof actually consists of some dark red material (jasper was used here)
for a shadow and black stone for the roof itself. To begin, scribe the curve
of one side of the roof into a piece of red material. Saw and grind to the
inside of this curve.
an end of the black material to an outside curve that matches the inside
curve on the red material and cement the two stones together. Saw and grind
excess material from the red stone, then grind it to an outside curve (the
same curve, all the way through). Keep grinding until the red material had
been reduced to a fine line to simulate a shadow (see Diagram B-1).
the assembly of red and black material into the roof curve on the barn.
Saw and grind away excess black material, then grind it to the roof's inside
curve, completing that section of the roof. Repeat this procedure for the
other side of the roof.
piece of dark red stone is used for the right side of the barn, giving the
appearance that this area is in shadow, also. Because this is a small area,
it might be best to first cement a larger piece to the barn unit, then cut
it to net dimensions.
barn unit, except for the doors, is now complete. It is designated as Part
1 in the complete intarsia pattern. Shave off the paper pattern with a razor
blade; I use a single-edge blade. Lap the face of the unit.
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unit is composed of the hills behind the barn. Some of the parts touch the
boundaries of the intarsia picture. On these, leave extra material beyond
what will be the boundary, so that you can trim the intarsia to exact dimensions
after it has been assembled. This applies to Unit D, also.
with Piece No. 2 (see Unit C diagram), selecting some gem material that
is of an appropriate color for a hill. Adhere the pattern for Part 2, then
cut into the bottom, only for the roof line. Leave the bottom material on
either side of this area untouched.
and grind openings for the two trees - Nos. 3 and 4. Tree No. 4 is a juniper,
so a piece of dark green gemstone should be cut to fit into this opening.
Adhere the pattern for No. 4 to the green material, then saw and grind to
shape. Tree No. 3 is a flowering fruit tree; some pink rhodonite or other
brightly colored material works well here.
the trees into their openings. Shave off the patterns and lap the face of
this assembly. Fit it to the barn unit and cement them together. Lap.
and grind the top of Hill No. 2 to line D (see complete intarsia diagram).
Following the techniques described before, cut Part 8 (another hill) to
shape. Cement it to the growing unit assembly in the location shown in the
intarsia diagram. Lap.
and shape Parts 9, 10 and 11. Cement them into a unit and lap. Then cement
that unit to the assembly. Lap again.
and grind Part No. 12 (the sky) to shape and epoxy it to the assembly. Lap.
The top portion of the intarsia is now complete. From now on, we add to
the bottom of the picture. By now you should feel quite confident; you are
becoming experienced in this art.
start this unit, shape and fit Parts 5, 6 and 7. It is best to add these
one at a time. Lap after each addition.
13 is a little different. Cut and grind its top to fit Parts 5, 6 and 7.
Leave extra material on the bottom of this piece - about 3". Cement
Part 13 to the assembly and lap.
next step is to put in the fence. Note in the diagram for Unit D that there
is a dotted line marked "C" which goes diagonally from below the
fence on the left up to the top of the fence by the barn. Make this cut
and set aside the lower portion of Part 13.
saw and/or grind into Part 13 form the saw cut up to the top of the upper
fence rail line. Note that this line is composed of several straight lines
(the rails) that meet at slight, but varying angles, giving the effect that
the fence is following the contours of the land. Be sure to grind precisely.
some gem material that is suitable for simulating weathered wooden fencing;
I used petrified wood. The slab must be wide enough to fit across the entire
fence line. Grind the top of this piece to fit exactly into the fence line;
do not cut any material from the bottom of the slab. Cement the top of the
petrified wood (or other chosen material) to the fence line on Part 13.
After the epoxy has hardened, saw and grind the petrified wood to a fine
line to make the top rail of the fence. The technique is the same as used
for the barn roof. To give perspective, make the rail thinner art the end
of the barn. Lap the assembly. Save the remainder of the petrified wood
for the bottom rail and posts.
take the piece you cut from Part 13 and grind its top edge to fit the bottom
of the fence rail. Cement in place. Cut and grind the bottom of this piece
to the line for the top of the bottom fence rail Lap. You should still have
some material fro Part 13. Save it.
the piece of petrified wood and make the bottom rail of the fence following
the same procedure as for the top rail. After completing the grinding, lap
the last piece form Part 13, fitting it to the lower fence rail. Cut and
grind the bottom of this piece to the line for Part 15 (the roadside). Note
in the photo of the intarsia that Part 15 and 13 intermingle within the
fence, giving a touch of realism. You may choose to do this, or simply bring
Part 13 below the fence and grind15 to meet it. Lap after cementing.
slots for the fence posts. Grind small pieces of petrified wood to fit into
these slots. Cement and lap.
the right of the bran is another fence. It is done in the same way, cutting
up into Part 2.
and shape Parts 15, 14, 16 and 18. These should be added to the assembly
one at a time. Lap after each addition is made. Make a cutout for Part 17
(a bush), grind Part 17 to shape, cement it in and lap. Shape and add Part
19, the foreground. Lap.
trim saw the intarsia to its net dimensions, making sure that the sides
meet at true 90 degree angles. To avoid breaking of corners, remember to
saw part way through, then turn the picture around and saw in from the other
direction. Grind the edges true, also removing any saw marks. Again, to
avoid breaking corners, always start grinding at the corners and work back.
might wonder if we forgot the bran door. We didn't. We need their opening
for pinning through to keep the intarsia flat. As mentioned,, because of
the size of this picture, an intarsia pres is not needed as long as we have
this opening to help us. (A larger intarsia will require the press.) The
barn doors and dark background (representing the interior of the barn) will
be shaped and assembled as a unit, then fitted into the opening, much as
a gem cutter/jewelry maker does channel work. First, however, we will add:
a professional look, let's out an edging of brass around the intarsia. It
makes a very effective trim and, at the same time, stabilizes the whole
some brass strips 1/16" thick and 5/16" wide (available at hobby
shops). Clean the backs of these strips with a Mizzy wheel. Brass oxidizes
rapidly, and if it is oxidized, it will not adhere to the intarsia.
pieces of the brass strip to the correct lengths for the top, bottom and
sides of the intarsia. Allow enough extra to allow for mitering the corners.
Miter with a file and check until you have an exact fit.
a piece of masking tape to the face of the intarsia with part of the tape
projecting about 3/8" beyond the edge of the stone. Put a double thickness
of wax paper on the plywood cementing board and lay the intarsia on it face
down. Place a piece of the mitered brass strip on the tape, against the
edge of the intarsia. Lift the tape and press it onto the brass. It will
now move back and forth like a hinge.
a palette knife, apply epoxy to the edge of the intarsia and to the brass.
Lift up the brass strip, with the palette knife, to meet the edge of the
stone. Slide the intarsia, pushing it tight against the wooden edge around
the plywood. Along the brass edging, drive in finishing nails to hold the
metal tight against the stone. Press in some aluminum-headed push pins to
assure a snug fit (refer to Fig. 30 in Part Four). Put under the
the epoxy has hardened, remove the tape, then scrape away any excess cement
with a razor blade. Do a good job here because, in lapping, you will find
that epoxy is harder to grind than stone.
in like manner for the strips for the other three sides of the intarsia.
we go back to the barn doors. Take a pencil and paper, and make a rubbing
of the opening. Transfer the outline to another piece of paper and draw
in the doors and dark area (represents the interior of the barn). Photocopy
and cut out the patterns for parts.
the door patterns to some of the same "Board" material you used
for the front of the barn. Cut and shape the doors. Note that they each
have a diagonal brace. To add it, saw diagonally across a door piece, adhere
a piece of black stone to one of the newly cut surfaces, then saw and grind
it down to a thin line, the same as was done for the roof and fence rails.
Cement on the other piece of the door. It might work best to do this before
cutting the door to net size.
and shape the "interior" form black stone. Check for fit as you
the doors and "interior" together, perform any final grinding
to make a perfect fit in the opening and cement in place.
mentioned previously, there are some variations between the pattern and
the intarsia pictured. One such variation is in the doors. You might prefer
to follow the intarsia in the photo instead of the pattern.
lapping with 220 grit. (Or, as mentioned in Parts One and Two,
depending on the gem material, it may be best to begin with 400 grit.) Proceed
through 400 and 600 grits. Be careful when you get to 600 that the intarsia
is not pulled from your hands to stick to the lap wheel or fly off. This
fine grit mixture makes an adhesion between the stone and lap that can cause
finish with a worn 600 grit sanding belt, working by hand, You will find
that this method will help finish spots that you can't seem to get with
this point there is a choice. You can leave the satin finish produced, or
you can polish with a favorite buff and compound combination. With such
a wide area to polish, be careful not to develop hot spots.
in the intarsia pattern that there are horizontal lines in the upper part
of the barn, below the roof peak. If you wish make these, before adding
the roof, cut the barn unit at right angles to the "boards". On
one cut surface attach a piece of black stone, then cut and grind it to
a fine line, and attach the other piece of "board" stone. It's
the same procedure as for the roof and fences.
of making the windows a solid black, you can put I white cross bars. Use
the same technique just discussed above. You can make white windows with
black cross bars, or even solid white windows.
that there is a fence line along Line D between Part 2 and the parts above,
another between Part 7 and Parts 10 and 2, and still another up through
Part 2. If you wish to put these in, the method is the same as for the other
fences described before.
you wish to add a bridge, the fence technique applies here also.
Another optional addition as mentioned before, is a wagon as shown in the
photo. Figure 31 is the pattern. The tongue and spokes on the wheels can
be done in the same manner as you would the fence rails.
month we will tell you how to put your intarsia on an attractive background
within a picture frame. Other backing methods will also be discussed.