Intarsia Basics #5: Welcome back, Let's Start Adding Spacers and Shaping Our Pieces

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Blog entry by KoryK posted 05-24-2012 03:01 AM 12939 reads 5 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Part 4 Coming Soon (Sorry)!!!! Part 5 of Intarsia Basics series Part 6: We are Almost There!! »

Thanks for joining in again and I apologize for the delay. Hand is doing a lot better and it feels great to be back in the shop. Thanks for your patience and your encouragement to get better.

In this section we will focus on shaping and sanding our pieces. In my opinion, this is the most important part of the process. Depth is what makes a piece really stand out and the more depth you use in your project the better you’re going to like the end result. We have all seen intarsia pieces that look flat and if you put the extra time into adding spacers, sanding a little more, and shaping you will be much happier with your project when you’re done.

When I started this project I wanted to show that you only need some basic tools. These tools are the only ones I had when I started doing intarsia and it progressed from there. To create this project the only electric tools I used were a drill, scroll saw and Dremel tools. So, you can make some very nice projects without having to sell your first born.

Before we start shaping pieces we need to put your spacers in if you want them to add depth. If you’re not familiar with adding spacers it is using some plywood behind certain pieces of your project to add height to an area. Here is a series of pictures to show how I put spacers behind the eyes for the frog that will show you better than I can explain it in words.

You can use as thick or thin plywood as you want, I suggest using thicker than you think needed because you can always sand it down to you desired height.

I did not get a good picture of it, but I also put a ¼ spacer behind the left hand of the frog to raise it up a little more.

You can also get creative with spacing out your pieces like I did on the rear end of the frog. Rather than using a spacer I glued two of the pieces together before sanding. You can do this when one piece meets another that you want to raise on at least 3 sides.

It is your choice of what areas you would want to put spacers behind, just remember that it will not look good if it is not surrounded by other pieces. You don’t want to use spacers on the outside pieces of your project because you will be able to see them when finished. Make sure not to raise a piece too high that a gap will form to the next piece. You can glue two pieces together if you want to raise any outside pieces if it is necessary (example: see Koryk’s project page and look at the lazy dragons toe nails)
After you have added you spacers you can start shaping the individual pieces.

Dremel tools were used for almost all of the shaping on this project and the attachments for them are readily available at your local hardware store (Lowe’s or Home Depot). Here are the ones I used for this project.

Start out with your small drum sander attachment with the 60 grit sand paper (408) to do the major shaping. This is a personal choice of how you want to shape your pieces, just try to picture in your mind the whole project and how that particular piece will fit in it. Do a couple of pieces a little at a time and fit them together to see if you like the results, you can always go back and sand some more.

When you’re trying to meet two pieces together like on the mouth you need to sand out the first piece to your liking then mark it on the other to make them match up. This will help with the basic shape and then you can fine tune it with your other steps.

Once you have gotten the basic shape you’re looking for you can switch to the 120 sand paper for finer sanding (432). After that you can put the drum sander to the side for now.

Even after that, some of the curved pieces will still not be completely smooth and it is time to use your 120 grit flop sander (503). I prefer to do all the pieces in each step before moving to the next because it requires a lot less changing attachments on you Dremel tool if you only have one. I know some artists that do each individual piece start to finish then go to the next and I have tried it, but it leaves little room to adjust if your pieces do not look right. This is a slow process and sometimes that will help you because it give you time to reflect and revise as needed.

You can use EZ4725A attachment after that for those hard to reach areas, but be careful on your Dremel tool speed. If you have the speed up too high it will really gouge out an area if the wood is soft.

Sorry to tell you that you are not through sanding yet, but the end is in sight. It is time to hand sand each piece and you can go to whatever grit you want as long as it is at least 180 to get to the smoothness you want. I am known as a bit of a masochist and have gone all the way up to 2400 grit on some of my bigger pieces, but this is a choice you can make for your project.

After your spacers and shaping you should end up with your basic shape of your project.

In the next lesson we will cover staining (if needed), adding your backboard, final prep, and finishing. Hope to see ya there.

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

11 comments so far

View woodworkerscott's profile


361 posts in 4270 days

#1 posted 05-24-2012 03:42 AM

Thanks. I have been wanting to learn this. It is a very artistic method.

-- " 'woodworker''s a good word, an honest word." - Sam Maloof

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4261 days

#2 posted 05-24-2012 01:06 PM

Glad to see you’re up & atom again.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4475 days

#3 posted 05-25-2012 12:54 AM

Thanks Kory, this is very informative!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4791 days

#4 posted 05-25-2012 04:28 PM

Great blog Kory and great work too. Glad to see that you are back.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Ken90712's profile


18113 posts in 4645 days

#5 posted 05-30-2012 03:39 PM

Love it, I need to catch up on my work, Wife keeps adding things to the honey do list!!!!

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

View becikeja's profile


1193 posts in 4270 days

#6 posted 06-10-2012 10:54 AM

Thanks for doing this, this is very informative.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12602 posts in 4885 days

#7 posted 06-10-2012 01:00 PM

Thanks for this great blog, Kory.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4791 days

#8 posted 06-18-2012 12:13 PM

Looks good Kory. Wonderful blog. I’m looking forward to the staining now. Sorry I’m late seeing this. I’m still on vacation away from home, and I forgot to put it on my watchlist.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View jack2770's profile


11 posts in 4072 days

#9 posted 04-21-2013 02:00 AM


-- javy08

View makeCNC's profile


5 posts in 3234 days

#10 posted 12-22-2013 03:59 PM

wow! you are very talented Kory I love your work !

-- Paul Campbell

View mauricio cruz's profile

mauricio cruz

27 posts in 3188 days

#11 posted 08-04-2014 12:38 AM

gracias por enseñar esto tan maravilloso ,,gracias desde chile


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