Intarsia Wedding Gift

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Blog entry by justoneofme posted 04-14-2012 08:34 AM 3412 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi Everyone!

It’s been hard to concentrate on woodworking with Easter holidays, company, and spring being sprung in the garden … but at last I’m ready to post another continuation of the Intarsia Wedding Gift.

The last blog left me ready to begin work upon the framing structure for this mirror … I’m not talking about the finishing frame that will show on the outside! My expertise does not lay in the area of carpentry, framing, etc. And so, when I reach this point with each project, it’s always something that makes me have to put on that heavy-duty thinking cap!

Actually Lumberjock Stefang suggested best … “if you can’t do it, get somebody else to make the framework”. A very good suggestion that I stuck to faithfully for many years, but unfortunately my woodwork’n buddy Des retired! I ended up purchasing a good many of his tools, including his very old and reliable table saw. I’m still a bit squeamish when it comes to using this beast, but I’m gradually learning not to fear as much as respect it’s power … endeavouring to go beyond the Intarsia part of this project.

My idea was to make a light-weight backing frame, because when all is said and done, this complete mirror to hang will be heavy enough! I end up using lots of ‘doorskin’ for substrate material and other needs within the shop. It’s 3/32” thick. The object of the game was to glue two layer of doorskin together, cross grains to prevent warping. Why I didn’t just use 3/8” plywood to begin with is beyond me … I just wasn’t thinking!, so spent extra time cutting, prepping, and gluing. But, maybe I needed that extra ‘thinking time’, and I now have plenty of extra doorskin left over for future use!!

After all that extra work, I ended up with 2 individual glued layers of doorskin: 1 ... for the upper part of framework where the mirror will fit into a recessed area and all the Intarsia pieces will be glued to; 2 ... for the backing underneath, to support the mirror as well as a major portion of the upper framework. This may become clearer than mud as you read further along!!

In this photo, the black rectangular outline represents where the mirror is situated within the design. However, the more ‘meat’ the intarsia pieces can be glued to, the better … I can’t glue to the mirror! , hence the curvy line following closely around the inside perimeter of the design, instead of using a rectangular mirror. Those pieces of Intarsia that present themselves over the mirror area will be glued side to side, then reinforced from beneath with a very thin layer of glued fabric. That’s my ‘vision’ right now … I may be singing a different tune when that stage is reached!

A cardboard template was made and sent off to the glass shop, making sure they would be able to cut my curvy mirror. Once, given the okay, I went ahead with the waxed paper template, marking it’s exact position upon the upper part of the doorskin framework, in preparation for cutting with the jigsaw.

What fun that was! To my way of thinking, a jigsaw is a very inferior cutting tool. But there again, my last experience using this old and very tired workshop jigsaw many years ago … has probably contributed to my slanted opinion!

The doorskin leapt beneath my hand pressure as it vibrated its way around, while I desperately tried to follow a line that distorted like a plucked string from all that movement. And yes … ’inferior’ did once again come to mind! But less than half way along, my thoughts suddenly screamed HOT! My hand, gripping (what seemed a far cry from) firm control, let go just as suddenly. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to snap a photo of the smoke curling from the jigsaw handle, toward the ceiling … but all I could do was watch in fascination while rubbing my tender palm!

A new, smaller model jigsaw was purchased to finish the job. Was that tool any better? Only slightly, but unfortunately it’s the only way to cut an inside line that is far too big for the scroll saw. So I’ve re-assessed my opinion of ‘inferior’ and given it an ‘adequate’ ... because of it being a necessary evil!!

With the mirror recess cut away, the upper framework was turned over and plywood framing was glued down around it’s perimeter.

With that plywood framing completed, the 2nd layer of prepared doorskin was cut to size … fitting inside the plywood frame. Then strips of double layered doorskin reinforcements were glued in place for added strength and extra support against the underside of the mirror … with the final strips extending over the plywood frame, and screwed in place … for easy mirror replacement if necessary. It may seem more like ‘over-kill’, but at least I know this support won’t warp … and it’s still very light and easy to manoeuvre.

Oh ya … my method of clamping pressure seems rather interesting, eh?! No … I don’t smoke!! But these tins, were handed down by a true smoker, and work when clamps just won’t reach. Combined with that heavy slab of iron, it’s the perfect solution … because this tobacco tin is filled with old piano tuning pins! If you’ve read my most recent ‘project posting’ you’ll understand how it is I manage to have tuning pins floating around my shop!!

Ah! The mirror fits, with just enough cushioning beneath to bump it up level with the surrounding doorskin surface. Everything feels solid!

With the mirror’s surface covered in saran wrap to protect it from glue and paint, a make-shift exterior frame is stuck down with double-faced tape … following the exact lines drawn on the board. Then the transfer of all the many Intarsia pieces (from the safety of the spray room table) into the make-shift frame and around the mirror slowly takes place.

A glitch!! With the design all put together within the make-shift exterior frame, the right bottom corner is out of whack. I’m not really surprised because I always seem to be fighting with my squares … Why aren’t they square?!! And so the bottom section, complete with those smaller pieces affected are mounted with double faced tape onto cardboard so everything necessary is kept together … and marked for correction. Measure twice … cut once!!

This photo shows the cleared area, where the affected section has been removed. If you follow the pencil line upward along the right side, you’ll probably notice a freshly broken end to the background section. As much as it pained me to do so, it was necessary to break the bottom part away (to be glued together later) for easier handling.

Only 1/8” out of whack … but enough to be very noticeable if not attended to! At least I know for a fact that the pencil lines drawn on the doorskin are exact. I measured, and re-measured … then measured again!

Finally! It’s all put together, and time to double check for any corrections to elevation, and extra sanding needed … especially for those pieces that rest upon the mirror itself. Those need to be sanded all the way around, as the mirror will reflect the sides and bottoms of those pieces.

This is the start of the ‘rosettes’ that will be used in the construction of the 3-1/2” wide exterior mirror frame. Our daughter loves hearts … thus the reason for the heart shaped opening in the bird house! I thought it would be fun to make personalized rosettes. They may not turn out, but we’ll see. Remember the scroll saw blade (from blog #1), and the method used to slightly dull my blade before tackling the intricate cuts in the design? ... well … this is the same blade, still able to cut out these hearts. It’s ready for retirement, I think!!

Now I can get on with the next stage … painting and staining all those pieces! And gluing the background pieces in place. That’s a bit nerve-wracking because one wrong placement means disaster!!

Thanks for checking up on my progress folks. Until next blog … keep happy making sawdust!

-- Elaine in Duncan

10 comments so far

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 4675 days

#1 posted 04-14-2012 10:44 AM

You intarsia folk always amaze me. Nice work.

View Bob817's profile


679 posts in 3305 days

#2 posted 04-14-2012 10:48 AM

Very Nice!

-- ~ Bob ~ Newton, N.H.

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4257 days

#3 posted 04-14-2012 12:20 PM

Great work Elaine! I like your attitude about taking the time to get everything right and making sure that it is strong enough. Always better to overbuild than underbuild is my motto.

I am really looking forward to the coloring bit. I can’t get many exotic woods here and the ones I can get sell for exorbitant prices. This means I will have to stain or paint most of my intarsia work. Seeing your past work has given me a positive outlook on this. Meanwhile I will pray for rain so you can stay in the shop and do these blogs!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View rejo55's profile


190 posts in 3165 days

#4 posted 04-14-2012 12:21 PM

Amen to ShipWreck’s comment. I would be a blithering idiot WAAAY before I was halfway through a project like this.
(I’m not too far from there, now)
Can’t wait to see the end of this saga.

Have a good’un

-- rejo55, East Texas

View GrandpaLen's profile


1652 posts in 3195 days

#5 posted 04-14-2012 12:55 PM


I’ve always admired the intarsia discipline of woodworking and you are so capable of coaxing the beauty of the wood to project yet another of Mother Nature’s marvels, wildlife in all its Glory.

A wedding gift from the heart and mind of a loving mother.

You are truely an Artisan, thanks for sharing. – Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Skylark53's profile


2824 posts in 3983 days

#6 posted 04-14-2012 01:31 PM

The project will sure be wonderful. Great design and great skill, as well as a great tutorial. Thanks for taking us along.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View shipwright's profile


8621 posts in 3721 days

#7 posted 04-14-2012 01:35 PM

Looking very good Elaine. I’ll comment lots more when I see it myself. Heading home this morning with an ETA of Tuesday.

See Ya.

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

View justoneofme's profile


841 posts in 3402 days

#8 posted 04-14-2012 11:04 PM

I sure love receiving all this wonderful feedback! A big thanks to you all for making my day! Right now I’m taking time out to browse through Lumberjocks … meeting more terrific people along the way … gathering ‘buddies’ too! ... waiting for glue to set as all the background pieces of the design are put in place. It’s a mighty slow process!

Paul … did you ever find out what those white outlines (business card size) are about? I noticed there are those same lines in my blog … 4th pic from the bottom. Anybody else have an idea what’s happening here??

-- Elaine in Duncan

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3590 posts in 4635 days

#9 posted 04-16-2012 04:50 AM


I get those business card outlines, too. I thought it was just because I run an old version of Internet Explorer. If you find out what they are or how to alleviate them, let me know.

About your intarsia mirror . . . it is complicated beyond comprehension! What an heirloom it will be!


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View ~Julie~'s profile


623 posts in 3957 days

#10 posted 05-02-2012 04:34 PM

I think what you are doing is fabulous!
Is there a reason you didn’t just go with a rectangular mirror?

-- ~Julie~

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