Terp Intarsia

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Project by jfk4032 posted 11-30-2015 11:53 AM 2419 views 2 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Maryland Terrapin intarsia piece is for my youngest son who is graduating University of Maryland, also my alma mater, next month. There are 91 pieces using 9 wood species; wenge, yellowheart, bloodwood, aspen, holly, ebony, ziricote, pink ivory and some amazing maple burl from Greg and Jacki over at Oregon Burls.

As I’ve done on previous pieces, I traced the official university logo in Adobe Illustrator and then made some slight modifications to enhance the piece and make it easier to cut and assemble. This is the first time I’ve used overlays of several sections to create extra lift and depth between groups of pieces beyond what shims can do. I also carved in some detail into the turtle back shell and belly side of the shell with a bench chisel and some triangular files. I think a decent set of carving chisels is next on the list of must haves.

The maple burl slab must have been freshly cut as it was quite wet. It took about 2 weeks to do a series of 1 minute microwave blasts in a large plastic bag to reduce the moisture content to a workable level. Almost all of the pieces were cut with double bevel cutting for nice tight fits. Some of the combined heights were over 1.5” on some very hard woods, so the cutting was very slow on some of these pieces. I used some chipboard cutout pieces as thin shims on the Maryland “M” to create a thin and consistent upward staircase effect and more traditional wooden shims elsewhere throughout the piece to create pleasing lifts.

With each project I’m getting more comfortable shaping and carving. On the head and right hand I used a scrap 2×4 piece to practice before using the live maple burl piece and had a good idea of what I liked and didn’t like from those samples to actually execute. I picked up some new carving bits and cutters for my rotary cutter at the Fox Chapel woodworking show and open house earlier this year and put them to good use on this piece.

I used a variety of finishes and finishing techniques on this Terp. To bring the wonderful maple burl figure to life I first rubbed on a thin layer of pure tung oil. To keep the aspen as white as possible I used Deft spraying satin lacquer with a 0000 steel wool to soften the look and even out the surface. I also used this on all bloodwood pieces as I didn’t want some of the other finishes adding more yellow to the bloodwood potentially making it more orange. For the eyeball and tongue pieces I used a high gloss brush on poly to make those pieces look shiny and wet. For the ebony mouth area I used Deft spraying gloss lacquer and then buffed it out. For the rest of the pieces including all of the burl, I used wipe on satin poly and then rubbed 0000 steel wool to the surface to make it look more satin after about 4 coats.

A full work in process album is posted here:[email protected]/albums/72157660953027439

Let’s Go TERPS!

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

14 comments so far

View observer100's profile


476 posts in 2075 days

#1 posted 11-30-2015 12:22 PM

Super nice work! Love all the detail and your description was very interesting reading.

-- Seeing is believing.

View Redoak49's profile


5015 posts in 2953 days

#2 posted 11-30-2015 12:48 PM

That is simply amazing work. The Wood selection and finishing is excellent. The shaping of the pieces is the best I have seen. Thanks for posting this and some of the pictures showing how some of the pieces were made and a close up of the shaping.

View Ivan's profile


16509 posts in 3832 days

#3 posted 11-30-2015 01:19 PM

Incredible wood colours and details. The facial expression of this turtle is amaizing. Bravo, outstanding work.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30578 posts in 3302 days

#4 posted 11-30-2015 01:41 PM

Very impressive piece

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Redoak49's profile


5015 posts in 2953 days

#5 posted 11-30-2015 03:08 PM

Just looked thru the pictures and very interesting.

I would be interested in what scroll saw you have, what blades you use and what you are using to shape the pieces. The pictures show how good your cutting is and your shaping the pieces

View luv2learn's profile


3097 posts in 3267 days

#6 posted 11-30-2015 03:21 PM

Awesome craftsmanship Joel, your son will cherish piece for a long time.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View jfk4032's profile


383 posts in 3491 days

#7 posted 11-30-2015 03:31 PM

I have the 22” Hegner scroll saw. I use Flying Dutchman UR #5 blades for most of the cuts and a super fine 00 blade to separate common internal pieces after they were double bevel cut to minimize the kerf gaps. To get precise thicknesses prior and post scroll cutting, I use a Jet 16-32 drum sander, easily the most used machine in my shop. For shaping I use an inflatable drum sander to hog off large areas, and a 1” belt sander and oscillating sander for smaller shape removals. I do most of the detail shaping with a Wecheer rotary carver with a variety of carving carbide bits, mini inflatable drums, and sanding drums and wheels (dremel attachments you can buy anywhere). I also use a variety of detail files when needed. I hand sand all pieces to 220 and then hit them with a 220 sanding mop. I use a Sandflea to flatten out the bottom of the assembled piece(s) prior to mounting to the backer.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View builtinbkyn's profile


3026 posts in 1905 days

#8 posted 11-30-2015 03:31 PM

That is really some magnificent work there – on all three! Look like some nice kids too!

I’d say you probably have a marketable product, should you choose to sell them. Maybe a CNC machine would pay for itself in short order.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View Northwest29's profile


1706 posts in 3455 days

#9 posted 11-30-2015 04:16 PM

Those really look amazing. You certainly did a lot of planning and used many species of wood to great advantage. Great treasures for you kids. Well done!!

-- Ron, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View DocSavage45's profile


9028 posts in 3807 days

#10 posted 11-30-2015 05:28 PM


Wow! That’s a lot of sanding! Nice piece. Thanks for the mini tutorial.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 3430 days

#11 posted 11-30-2015 08:50 PM

As a University of Maryland Alumni, and being only 2 miles from the campus right now, GO TERPS!

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

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3831 days

#12 posted 11-30-2015 09:22 PM

Joel, this is so beautifully done. It really looks great.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View MC's profile


234 posts in 3311 days

#13 posted 12-01-2015 12:42 AM

Nice work…and Fear the Turtle. Class of 88

View wunderaa's profile


248 posts in 3167 days

#14 posted 12-01-2015 03:57 AM

Wow you killed it!

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