What is Intarsia Woodworking? Where to Find Patterns + Kits

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Intarsia workpieces are great projects to include in your woodworking portfolio. However, this method comprises complicated cutting techniques and intricate patterns that won’t be easy for newbies and casual DIYers to execute. 

In this post, our resident woodworkers will explore what intarsia woodworking is and where to find patterns and kits to create these unique workpieces.

What is Intarsia?

This woodworking technique produces mosaic-like workpieces using different lumber materials with varying wood grain colors. Instead of the overall structure, it focuses on the final product’s aesthetic value and design. 

Besides putting contrasting wood colors next to one another, most intarsia workpieces come to life using scrollsaws or jigsaws. While some projects under this category are simple, they also include detailed pieces requiring cutting precision and excellent wood shaping techniques. 

Intarsia woodworking

These pieces start with carving designs on wood materials, so you’ll encounter them on decorative furniture like tabletops or cabinetry. 

History of Intarsia

You may not know, but intarsia is a woodworking method that has existed since the 13th century. It came from the Islamic part of the world, but the Arab woodworkers brought it to Italy during the Renaissance era. 

From there, intarsia became a popular woodworking technique for decorative furniture-making, paneling, and wall decorating. The craft became more elaborate in the Baroque period, with contrasting wood colors and textures. 

Although its influence declined in the 19th century because of the rise of cheaper materials, intarsia is finding its new glory in modern woodworking. Nowadays, many woodworkers view it as a complex technique that suits different forms like wall art. 

What is the Difference Between Intarsia and Marquetry?

Both techniques involve intricate designs, but intarsia requires more accuracy and technical skills. This method produces three-dimensional [1] structures using odd-shaped lumber pieces, while marquetry creates flat designs with veneer boards. 

Marquetry

Is Intarsia Difficult?

You must have excellent attention to detail to create an intarsia piece, so newbies may need help executing this method. Since most of these projects are time-consuming and intricate, mistakes are bound to happen during the process. 

What are the Tools Needed for Intarsia?

Cutting wood pieces is one of the initial steps to creating an intarsia workpiece. Because of this, you’ll need tools like a scroll saw to make complex cuts and curves in the material. If you’re working with thicker boards, bandsaws are better options. 

Sanding machines are necessary for large-scale projects. However, you can get by with regular sandpaper for smaller workpieces.  You’ll also need wood glue and clamps to join pieces together. 

How to Do Intarsia

Wood Species to Use

You need a wood specie with varying color and grain textures, like Western Red Cedar, to get the right aesthetic for your intarsia workpiece. Walnut and Maple lumber pieces also work well as they would contrast each other with their dark and light colors.

various types and sizes of lumber

Patterns

Patterns for intarsia projects are scattered online. Some even provide them for free. You can transfer these designs with tracing papers or use them as a guide to create a unique pattern. 

Another easy method you can consider as a beginner is making cutouts and gluing them into the wood’s surface. 

Cutting

You must pay close attention to the cutting process because each piece should fit together as you assemble the materials. We recommend using sharp saw blades with lubrication when trimming or remaking a wood piece. 

Shaping

Start shaping the wood with a chisel to carve your desired form. Once you get the right shape, you can sand it down to yield a smoother surface. You can add extra details and textures on the workpiece using a Dremel tool, but you must sand it again afterward. 

Finishes

Any finish will work well with intarsia wood pieces, whether staining or varnishing. It’s a recommended process to protect the material’s natural appearance. 

Intarsia project

Display

These workpieces are excellent for decorative purposes, so you can attach a hanger on their back to mount them on the wall.  

Intarsia Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Since the workpieces will undergo different cutting and sanding processes, we urge you to choose materials with easy workability and excellent durability to resist cracking or splitting. You should also start with simple patterns if you’re a beginner. 

Where to Find Free Intarsia Patterns and Kits

The most accessible sources of intarsia patterns and kits are Pinterest and Youtube. These platforms help you brainstorm ideas and show you how to do the entire process. However, you must check whether these designs are free to use. 

FAQ

Where can I buy books/magazines on intarsia?

You can buy books/magazines on intarsia on e-commerce websites like Amazon. You’ll also find them in popular woodworking retailers like Woodcraft or Woodworkers’ Library. 

Conclusion

Intarsia woodworking may be challenging for beginners, but trust us when we say it will improve your crafting skills or allow you to handle more complex projects. 

With most resources readily available online, getting started with this craft isn’t as complicated as you think. You can quickly begin with free patterns and kits to work on your woodworking techniques. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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