Intarsia Basics #2: Preparing Your Wood and Pattern for Cutting

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Blog entry by KoryK posted 04-11-2012 01:20 AM 26313 reads 9 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Introduction and Invitation to All. Part 2 of Intarsia Basics series Part 3: Let’s Do Some Cutting! »


Hello to all and welcome to the first installment of Intarsia Basics. Before we can start cutting we need to select the wood we want to use and get our pattern ready.

Wood Choices:

I prefer to start with stock that is one inch thick because that gives you a lot of depth that you can work with. It will require a little more sanding on some areas but it will help to give your piece a 3D look. It is your choice if you prefer to stain your wood to achieve the colors or use exotic wood. It is hard to tell the difference from pictures, but here are examples of both.

Exotic Woods


If you’re just starting intarsia, I would suggest staining your wood to keep your costs down. After you have gotten hooked and done a piece or two I would highly recommend to give exotic wood a try. Half the fun for me is to find just the right color and grain pattern for a specific area of my pattern that I’m making. I will make a pattern with some woods in mind, but change my mind 10 times after looking at the different woods and grain patterns. I will show examples of both throughout this class and you can make your own choice.

I used poplar for my wood to be stained, but any softer, light wood will work.

For exotic woods I used lignum, ebony, aspen, blood wood, curly maple, and teak.

Preparing your pattern:

If I purchase a pattern I will fold it into sections and put in on the printer to make copies of each section of the pattern if it will not fit onto a single page. It takes a little practice to make sure you don’t print one piece onto two of the pages and sometimes you might have to tape two sections together on a large piece. If I make my own pattern I will print it out and then enlarge with the printer in basically the same way. With this pattern I enlarged it to 125% for the size I wanted and was able to keep it on two pages. Then I made 4 copies of each and cut out each piece of the pattern.

After you have each piece of your pattern cut out you will need to separate them by color (wood) if you’re not staining. Then using adhesive spray you can glue your pattern to your wood.

Here you can see how to glue your pattern onto your wood (stained and exotic). Make sure to pay attention to your grain pattern and match it up with your pattern direction to improve your final result.

One thing you can do that will help your saw blade life and keep the wood from burning while you’re cutting your pieces out is to put regular scotch tape over your pattern after gluing. I can’t explain how this works but it does.

The last thing you need to do before cutting is to make all of your pilot holes for the areas that will need it. Nostrils and eyes will be the most common for drilling.

This will help you get you started and gives you some different options. We will start cutting on the next section, so please let me know if you have any questions.

-- If you not making sawdust, your probably wasting your time. Kory

18 comments so far

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 3927 days

#1 posted 04-11-2012 01:35 AM

Superb, hope your hand is feeling better. I will get crack’n with the templates and the cutting.

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View dustbunny's profile


1149 posts in 4757 days

#2 posted 04-11-2012 08:54 AM

Looks good so far,
I am following this one.
Looking forward to the full lesson : )


-- Imagination rules the world. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte ~

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4796 days

#3 posted 04-11-2012 10:55 AM

Hi Kory. Excellent tutorial. Here is a tip that many will find useful:

This is a great method for attaching the pattern to the wood, I saw this idea in an intarsia tips video and I tried it out on a practice intarsia piece. You use contact paper which is called shelf liner paper, but the liner is actually clear plastic. It has adhesive on one side only. It comes in rolls and is commonly used to line kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, etc. The adhesive side of the plastic has a tear-off paper backing.

You just cut off a piece to fit your workpiece, peel off the paper backing, and stick it on to your workpiece, then spray your paper pattern with adhesive and stick it on top of the plastic liner.

After your pattern is cut, the plastic liner peels right off without leaving any residue. I have been cutting fretwork patterns for many years on my scroll saw, and believe me when I tell you that this is 1000% better than any other method I’ve ever tried, and I think I have tried them all.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4329 days

#4 posted 04-11-2012 11:13 AM

Kory, this is a nice tutorial about one of the things that I would like to do. I will follow it with interest. Thanks.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Skylark53's profile


2868 posts in 4522 days

#5 posted 04-12-2012 02:37 AM

The spray adhesive is quick but when I have time I like using wallpaper paste. The residue sands away easily yet the pattern stays on tight. Thanks for taking the time to do this tutorial. I’m looking forward to it.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View KoryK's profile


229 posts in 4151 days

#6 posted 04-12-2012 03:02 AM

Thanks to everyone for the interest in the tutorial and thanks to Mike and Rick for the tips. Thats what I love about doing this, because I am learning things too. I will try both of your tips because the build up on the sanding drums have always been an issue.

One question for Mike, do you have issue with the pattern pulling off the wood when you use a reverse tooth blade?

-- If you not making sawdust, your probably wasting your time. Kory

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4796 days

#7 posted 04-12-2012 09:06 AM

Yes Kory, but normally only at an edge where the cut line is close to the outside edge of the paper. When you attach the pattern to plastic liner it can slide around a little before it dries. That helps spread the glue a little to insure that there are no dry spots, even on the edges. I didn’t have that issue at all with the liner method.

I forgot to mention how much I liked both of your frogs. It is clear to me that the creative part of intarsia is the sanding and deciding the heights of the various pieces, which looks really well done on those frogs.

I was dreading the sanding/shaping part while working on my practice bird intarsia, but surprisingly I found it to be more fun than the cutting. I used a smallish sanding drum mounted on my lathe and my dremel for the smaller pieces. Here is a photo. It’s not very good, and just rough sanded, but now I know how much fun it is to do this kind of work. I just double taped it to a scrap to see the result. I am just showing you this so you will know I am actually onboard for your tutorial.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View shipwright's profile


8816 posts in 4260 days

#8 posted 04-12-2012 03:39 PM

Great blog Kory. This is so like marquetry, especially classic style. We have the advantage of not having to worry about glue residue as our patterns are glued to a sacrificial “waster” on the front of the veneer packet.

As for what the tape does, I’ve read that packing tape (and I assume scotch tape) acts as a lubricant and in that way helps keep heat and wear down.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Ken90712's profile


18113 posts in 4651 days

#9 posted 04-14-2012 02:47 PM

Kory Thx again for this and I look fwd to getting started on this project this weekend. I thought about this while on vacation, thinking how fun this will be to learn something new. I could use 3 more weeks vacation but who couldn’t? Man it goes so quickly! I’ll be going through some wood today!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5039 days

#10 posted 04-14-2012 02:57 PM

Very interesting a great blog.well done


View DocSavage45's profile


9071 posts in 4304 days

#11 posted 04-15-2012 04:25 PM

I’m wondering where I can find a contemporary steer pattern? I would like to use intarsa to make a logo for my business. Thanks, Just found the tutorial.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DocSavage45's profile


9071 posts in 4304 days

#12 posted 04-15-2012 04:27 PM

Oh yeah,

for someone who might do intarsa for inlay on an occassional piece, what scrollsaw would be a good one for medium price range?


-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4796 days

#13 posted 04-15-2012 08:18 PM

There was a very good review of just about all the scroll saws on the market in Scroll Saw magazine’s Fall 2010 issue #40. Worthwhile to see it if you or a friend has that issue. The editor chose a favorite in various price categories for the overall best value. Based on my own experience, these seemed like good choices. Prices are 2010 prices

$200 or less: Porter Cable Model 888-848-5175 $180
-An excellent entry saw
-16” throat, cuts up to 2” thick
-Toolless blade change, accepts pinless blades
-Variable speed control up front
-Includes light and stand
-Table tilt indicator on top of table.

$200 to $600: Delta model 40-690 $599

-20” throat cuts put to 2” thick
-Toolless blade change, accepts pinless blades
-medium/low vibration
-light and stand included

The prices might be a bit higher or lower now. I have an older model Delta which I have replaced with a better machine, but the Delta was very reliable. had variable speed control and quick change blade features and it was very a very good saw. I’ve had it quite a few years now with no trouble and I am passing it on to my son. So I think Delta makes pretty good scroll saws.

The Delta saw is the same saw as the very popular Dewalt, but for the price you get a free stand and work light. I hope this will help you out. There were 7 saws reviewed in the lower price class and 5 saws in the medium price class.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View KoryK's profile


229 posts in 4151 days

#14 posted 04-16-2012 01:47 AM

Thanks to everyone for following along with the blog,


I’m very impressed with your practice bird, it really looks great. If that is your first attempt at intarstia then your first piece looks ALOT better than my first piece. Keep it up!!


For a steer pattern try to go to and look under intarsia patterns by Garnett Hall, there are a few there. Judy Gale Roberts has one of a long horn that you might be interested in. If you can’t find anything on those sites you like, shoot me a message and maybe I can come up with something else.

As for the scroll saw question, I agree with Mike on the Porter Cable (Hatachi makes the same saw too just different paint job) for a medium priced saw and you can pick one up from Lowe’s or Home Depot. I have had both and the only issue I ever had was making sure your table stays true with working with thicker stock. I also agree with the Delta but unfornatantly it is being discontinued. I got lucky about six months ago and picked one up at Woodcraft for $350.00 (with light and stand) because they were blowing them out. From what they told me Dewalt and Delta had a partnership that has dessolved and Dewalt held the patten on that scroll saw. Dewalt is the exact same saw but it runs about $599.00 without the light or stand. Without going to the price of an Excalibur, Hegner, or Eclipse those are your best choices.

Those are some of the saws that I have used but that is not saying there are not some other ones that will work great. While doing some research for your reply I found a good article that might help you at (scroll saw buyer’s guide), it gives you some good info. It was published in 2010 so it still has the Delta on it, but I don’t know if you can still find one at this time.

Hope this helps.

-- If you not making sawdust, your probably wasting your time. Kory

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4796 days

#15 posted 04-16-2012 06:15 PM

Thanks Kory. If I eventually get half as good at intarsia as you are, I will be more than happy.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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