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Segmentation and intarsia?

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  • Segmentation and intarsia?

    What is the difference between the two?

    (I'm taking the title "beginners scroll saw" at face value and asking all my 'duh, any idiot should know this' questions here).

  • #2
    Ask 10 people and you'll get 10 different answers...

    The way we define it here at SSW is that Intarsia is formed of different pieces of wood cut and sanded to fit together to form a picture. It can be the same kind of wood stained different colors, or different woods. Either way, the image is enhanced by using the individual color and grain of each piece.

    Segmentation is a picture cut out of one piece of wood. The pieces can be stained and shaped, but the pieces fit tightly together and you don't have a lot of control over the grain--since all the pieces are cut out of the same piece.

    It's really a grey area; some people sayit isn't intarsia if you color the wood, others say that there really isn't a difference between the two...that's just how I keep them straight in my head.



    • #3

      The word intarsia is derived from the Latin word intersere, meaning to insert. Interesere was used to describe inlays or mosiacs created from exotic hardwoods created by Italian craftsmen centuries ago. I believe Judy Gail Roberts was one of the first, if not the first, to use the word intarsia to describe the style of work she does. Based on the definition of intersere, segmentation is a form of intarsia. As Bob said, the segments cut for intarsia are from different species of wood or different colors of the same wood. They are sanded and the edges of the pieces (segments) are rounded over and fitted together to form an image. The wood color and grain direction provide the colors in the portrait. Segmentation is similar but the segments are cut from the same piece of wood with essentially continuous cuts producing no waste wood within the image. Each segment is then individually stained to provide the color and shading in the final assembled portrait. The segments edges are not rounded over as in intarsia. I prefer segmentation simply because I can reproduce about any color of wood with stain and I can incorporate more detail with tiny pieces and fragile cuts because the edges of the segments are not sanded or rounded over. Both segmentation and intarsia produce some truly beautiful artwork and I recommend you give both styles a try!!
      If it don't fit, don't force it....get a bigger hammer!!


      • #4
        Neal's comments are, of course, correct. There is always a "purist" definition of technique(s) in any artistic endeavor. For example, what is the difference between a "painter" and an "illustrator"? When I was in college (dark ages) there was a big argument over whether Norman Rockwell was a legitimate "painter" and not "just" an illustrator. It is also common in the carving world for people to criticize the use of "power tools" to remove wood. Some even shun the band saw to "rough out" the carving. That is basically baloney. Any tool that works should be used. It is like saying you can't use a computer, you must use a slide rule (what?).
        "Intarsia" is generally thought of as the use of different woods (species) and grains to get the colors and textures desired in the project. Staining is usually avoided. A gel stain (usually clear satin or semi-gloss) is used to seal the wood. "Segmentation" is usually done with one wood (Poplar, Pine, Cedar, etc) and that wood is "stained" (colored) to get the detail and effect desired. I agree, once again, with Neal, that more detail can be achieved in segmentation than intarsia. Most of the time there aren't "itty bitty" pieces involved in intarsia. There are many of those in advanced segmentation. the discussion of which is which will, no doubt, go on forever. Was the Sistine Chapel "art" or "illustration"?
        Old Mooner


        • #5
          intarsia and segmentation

          I am not a purist per se, but I do tend to use the terms like a purist might as much for distinction as anything else. Here is a horsehead I did:

          I refer to it as segmentation. It is not a single piece - it was two pieces that I overlapped to cut one long seam and then did half the pattern on each piece - but it is all cypress. I contoured and stained the pieces. If I called it intarsia, some people would argue with me and some might be confused. Cutting separate pieces and making them fit well is a lot harder. I have done it on some smaller projects and I completely understand why some folks care about the distinction. It isn't necessarily higher quality when you use (typically) more expensive materials and it (always) takes more time, but it is a difference worth noting.


          • #6
            It is not necesarily true because if you use the same wood but change the grain directions it will be called intarsia. Some people do this and just stain the pieces different colors. They are not wrong calling it intarsia.
            John T.


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