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  • Advanced Intarsia How-To

    Here's a sneak peak at my new project. This is only a small portion of the overall picture which is going to be inlaid into a mirror. Some people are curious about my personal intarsia style, so here's an opportunity to perhaps pick up a few pointers and tips.
    Any picture that I tackle is broken down into many different sections and inside some sections are sub-sections. This method requires a little more planning, but also makes life easier when it comes to fitting and assembling large numbers of tiny pieces.
    This face is a perfect example of a sub section, where as the entire boy is what I call the actual section. I begin with his face because it is in the center and because it is the most difficult. A face can be intimidating, but once you tackle a few, it's actually pretty simple.
    The first thing to do is to cut out all the interior features and any hair that will inlay into the face. Hair that does not go into the face would not need to be cut at this time. The eyes are the most difficult. This particular face is only 1 1/2 inches across, so you can imagine the eyes are very small. Cut out the center of the eye first, and then the white's of the eyes, and then glue those three pieces together. Do this first so that they can dry while you cut out the other features. When the eyes dry, sand the pieces so that the edges are flush all the way around, and do your best not to lose your 90 degree angle.
    Attach the pattern with the transfer paper onto the wood that is to be the face. I use apple for most of my faces. Trace out the outside of the face. Now individually begin adding the features that you have already cut. for example, place the nose into position and trace the already cut piece through the pattern. This ensures a proper fit.
    Cut out the face beginning with inside pieces first, then the face itself is cut.
    Attached Files
    Jeff Powell

  • #2
    Once the pieces fit proper, remove them from the face. This face is on an angle, he is looking slightly upwards and he is looking to his left. Therefore his face tapers in that direction. I draw a line on the side of his face to determine a sanding point. I sand down the face and then I round it out in all directions using a stationary belt sander.
    With that finished, I draw in his eye sockets and basically where his cheeks will be. These are the area's with scribbles in them. These areas are now carved out using a rotary tool with a tear shaped carbide bit. The speed is slow and very little pressure is applied. Remove the wood very gently and you will prevent any damage to the face and yourself.
    Once the carving is roughed out, I hand sand the face so that it is smooth...no carving marks or sanding marks.
    Attached Files
    Jeff Powell

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    • #3
      Jeff,
      I can see that this will be a great thread,
      Thanks
      Rolf
      RBI G4 26 Hawk, EX 16 with Pegas clamps, Nova 1624 DVR XP
      Philosophy "I don't know that I can't, therefore I can"
      Proud Member of the Long Island Woodworkers Club
      And the Long Island Scrollsaw Association

      Comment


      • #4
        When his face is ready, I begin to work on the inner features. I place his nose into the face. Using a sharp pencil, I scribe the nose. I remove the nose and I grind it down on the belt sander. It is a taper from the end of the nose, down to his forehead, and the end is rounded. it is also tapered from left to right.
        The mouth and the eyebrows are also scribed, but they are scribed to be 1/8 inch higher than the face. They are then rounded over to be flush with the face. They eyelides are basically scribed flush with the face, and the eyeballs are slightly lower. When the face is finished, pupils will be added either by drilling a tiny hole and filling it, or burning them on.
        Once each piece, including any hair is shaped, they are all hand sanded smooth. They eyelids are then burned to produce eye lashes.
        I pour a bit of glue onto a scrap of wood and use an old scrollsaw blade to apply the glue into the holes. Apply into the holes from the backside to avoid any glue on the face. Insert the pieces and let them dry.
        Attached Files
        Jeff Powell

        Comment


        • #5
          When this assembly dries, it is time to trim it and verify squareness. This is done using a 1/4 spindle sander. The left eye protrudes out of the face, but this was done on purpose. The eyes were already super small, so it was easier to make the white on the one side larger than necessary and trim later. Once assembled, some of the outer ends of the hair do not line up 100 percent as well. I use the spindle to correct all of these and I also make a quick pass around the entire face to make sure the saw blade didn't bow during cutting. I can see when the spindle is making contact with the wood, if there is any light penetration between the two..and if so, the spindle can repair the square.
          yeah..it rhymes.
          And here it is, the face is finished. It looks weird, but that's only because it's a face without a body and without his hat. The thickness of the face is not important because it will be jacked up with a spacer.
          Using spacers is tricky business. This face can be raised because it is surrounded on all sides by other pieces. Otherwise, it cannot be raised because it doesn't not look good when a spacer is visible from the side. This is something to be considered in planning a project.
          Attached Files
          Jeff Powell

          Comment


          • #6
            Framing your picture...if a picture is going to have a frame, you need to make it a good one. A poor quality or a boring frame will detract from your picture.
            The frame for my pixie harvest mirror took me two weeks to build. It is 30 segments of birdseye maple splined together, with a bead of black walnut 1/2 thick and 1/2 wide containing 24 segments. The first thing I do is make a template out of 1/4 hardboard...this works for any type of frame that is not square. For these two circles, it was simple to make a template by using a router tramel. The segments are assembled, allowed to dry and then sanded flat. I use a spiral pattern bit to trim the frame off the pattern. I then planed some walnut to 1/8 thick and wrapped the inside and the outside of the maple frame to add contrast and hide the splines. The inside of the circle is then dado'd to accept the mirror in the back...but that's a long time down the road. The completed picture is going to be placed over the frame and any pieces that inlay to the frame will be traced and cut out. The picture will be siliconed onto the mirror. The hard part will be cutting the inlay into the frame because the frame is 34 wide, but the throat on the saw is only 26 inches. I'll have to reverse the blade and make pull cuts.
            Attached Files
            Jeff Powell

            Comment


            • #7
              Building the hat was probably more challenging than the face. It is representative of a pumpkin. The thing about pixies and fairies is that they steal their wings from insects or nature, and they also wear clothing made from nature or perhaps discarded human trash such as rags or pretty much anything.
              As I trace and cut each piece, I tape them together with masking tape..at times you need to tape top and bottom. Profiling seems easy enough, because a pumpkin will curve side to side and top to bottom, but this pumpkin is cut open and folded back to be a hat. I raised the head with a 1/8 inch spacer and shaped the neck and remaining hair before shaping the hat. This helps to be sure that the hat sits higher than the face and hair. When shaping the collar, I leave it proud of the neck, and I make it higher and rounded on the left side because there will be an arm there that will extend outwards to reach around the trunk of the grape vine.
              I finish sand and glue those parts to the face so as not to have so many tiny pieces to work with at the same time. When shaping the hat I begin with the orange area first. I know that the height of the orange area will be just a smidgen higher than his hair. I shape them all like a dome, but on the sides I flare them out. Then I shape the yellow pieces, which represent the inside of the pumpkin being folded outwards. These need to protrude as much as possible. The little leaves are shaped to match the dome, but be 1/16 higher. And finally the stem is sanded down and rounded to match.
              Yeah, I know a pumpkin doesn't have leaves under the stem, but it looks better this way. It's my art, so I can be God.
              Once all the pieces are shaped, I slightly bevel the edges and hand sand them smooth. The leaves are beveled on the tops and sides, but not where they meet the pumpkin skin, because it looks more crisp this way.
              Having a hat and a neck really improves the look of his face.
              Your looking at 50 pieces here over a 12-14 hr working time. The body will cut and assemble easier and faster.
              Attached Files
              Jeff Powell

              Comment


              • #8
                Fantastic work and tutorail. This is way beyond me right now but I can appreciate the skill involved in what you are showing. I can't wait to see the finished product.
                Dan

                -Just do'in the best I can every day

                Comment


                • #9
                  Here's the wings. When building an intarsia, I like to look for pieces that can be gang cut whenever possible. In most situations it's just not possible because of saw kerf and grain directions. For these wings, I am able to cut the outer 5 pieces at one time, and then I trace in and cut the other pieces one at a time. The saw kerf will eliminate a little bit of the wings length by doing this, but because the wings have no surroundings, it's not important.
                  Once all the pieces are cut out, they are hot glued together (just a few dabs), and taped together (for added security), and then the entire wing is shaped on the belt sander at the same time. I pre-heat my kitchen oven to 450, put the wing on tinfoil, then place it in the oven for about 2 min. I remove the wing and quickly pull it apart. Using a knife, I scrape off the hot melt glue once it re-dries, which is pretty fast. Back at the sander, I put a slight bevel on the edges of each piece, hand sand everything smooth, and glue them all together.
                  Attached Files
                  Jeff Powell

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The hand. The hand is cut out and then it is profiled on the sander. in this instance, the hand curves up and then down at the fingers, to simulate his holding on to a round surface (which will be the vine). I use a power carver to round the fingers, and then I sand the hand nice and smooth.
                    Now I take my pencil and I draw in his fingernails. If this was a woman, I would actually cut her some fingernails, because she would be wearing nail polish, but this is not a girl. Using a sharp knife, such as a chip carving knife, the pencil marks are scored. Now shave from the hand towards the fingernail, thus leaving the nails slightly higher than the fingers. If you do the opposite, and carve down on the fingernails, it'll look like he was in a bad accident. I take my time and remove very small shavings. Once I have it looking close to what I want, I carefully sand away the carving marks. The fingernails do not stick out more than about a paper's thickness from the finger. My photograph really exagerates what is actually done.
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by workin for wood; 09-27-2006, 12:03 PM.
                    Jeff Powell

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                    • #11
                      These are the finished photographs of what I believe the boy pixie should look like. the angle shot helps alot to show the elevations in the picture.

                      That's pretty much all there is to know...if you have any questions, feel free to let me know.
                      Attached Files
                      Jeff Powell

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Feels like I'm never going to get this project done. My work is short handed and I've been working 60 hrs a week. I want it to be done so I can give it to my wife for christmas, but dont see it happening. I am finally at the half way point though. 300 down, 300 to go. It's not the biggest or the most pieces I ever did, but it seems to be topping the scales for difficulty level. I think the worst part is the grapes. I have four grape clusters averaging 50 grapes each and silly me has to make them out of purpleheart. Seems like I need a new blade every 5 grapes. One cluster down, three to go...
                        Attached Files
                        Jeff Powell

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I believe iv'e said it before but your work is awesome.
                          I really appreciate the pictures that you are posting.
                          Rolf
                          RBI G4 26 Hawk, EX 16 with Pegas clamps, Nova 1624 DVR XP
                          Philosophy "I don't know that I can't, therefore I can"
                          Proud Member of the Long Island Woodworkers Club
                          And the Long Island Scrollsaw Association

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            No problem Rolf. A picture does say a thousand words. Don't want to let it go to my head, but that picture is definitely heading to the awesome category. I'm inspired by pictures to. There was an issue of Wood magazine a few years ago with a clock contest. Someone made an intarsia clock..it was a regular old style bell on top clock but it had water under it with the clock reflecting back from the water in reverse. That was the most inspiring intarsia I ever saw. He didn't win..a huge spider clock won, and the spider was pretty cool, but the intarsia clock was much more awe inspiring. Whoever that was is better than me, but it is my goal to one day be as good as that.
                            Jeff Powell

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by workin for wood
                              Don't want to let it go to my head, but that picture is definitely heading to the awesome category. I'm inspired by pictures to. ...... Whoever that was is better than me, but it is my goal to one day be as good as that.
                              Another thanks for posting pics of your progress/process.

                              And with an attitude like you have, you WILL "be as good as that" soon, if not already!

                              Great stuff!
                              ‎"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They're easier to ignore before you see their faces. It's easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes."

                              D. Platt

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