Second large intarsia project, Abraham and Isaac

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Project by jfk4032 posted 08-14-2017 09:16 PM 2143 views 3 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is the second installment of my large and complex intarsia projects. This design is when the angel stops Abraham from sacrificing Issac. This pattern was again replicated from a Phillip Ratner tapestry with some modifications to add more detail to some of the elements and make cutting out some of the pieces more practical. The project has over 200 pieces, dozens of risers and uses 36 different species while measuring 19.5” x 27”. Almost all of the pieces were cut out using double bevel cutting. This project took longer than the Noah’s Ark which was over 600 hours, so maybe 650 to 700 hours on this one. More work in progress pictures can be found here:[email protected]/albums/72157684357709241

A few different or new techniques I tried or delved deeper into on this project…

This is the most carving in a project I’ve done to date and I’m getting a little more comfortable executing some of the visions I intend or hope to accomplish when I start out. I actually bought a set of small palm carving gauges and did use those a little, but I still found it easier to use my Wecheer rotary carving tools and bits to do the bulk of the carving, rough shaping and detail work. For most of the people parts and the angel I did start with a prototype for the carving, and modified from there with my likes and dislikes over to the final pieces. I really need to do this extra work, because I’m certainly not a carver or have any formal training on how to carve. I kind of plod through the mechanics of carving using some logic and vision and hope it doesn’t turn out that bad. Also, because I double bevel cut these pieces, I really only have one shot to get it right on the live piece with the carving and shaping because these pieces are connected with the fit amongst their own bordering pieces.

On the previous Noah’s Ark project I had issues with the overall size of some of the pieces to cut through my scroll saw, particularly the outside frame that fit into the other pieces. I had to separate and create seams into that frame in order to feed it and cut it on my scroll saw. Although I did work those seams creatively into that design, I wanted to try some different on this one. On this project I had the idea of making the frame separately and then fitting it over the work piece by carving in the elevation changes of the base work piece into the overhanging rabbit cut of the frame. The outer perimeter of this design did have quite a few elevation changes, but they were subtle and weren’t overly drastic so that’s how I produced the frame to fit into the design (or in this case over the design). I used a router following the internal perimeter pattern to create the initial wall shape and a recessed secondary pattern for the subsequent rabbit cut inside the perimeter of the frame. I then used a router combined with some bench chisels to carve out the elevation changes within the underneath side perimeter of the rabbit to fit the frame onto the undulations of the work piece below. The frame does have multicolor laminated strips serving as splines which look nice and do add strength to the mitered frame joints.

I torched the two purpleheart pieces in the upper corners to create a deeper purple color so it contrasted with the adjacent purple pieces. You know there’s only so many wood colors available on the palette of an intarsia artist, so you have to be creative sometimes! This a technique I’ve used before and I’m getting better at keeping the color consistent across the piece. This way I could have two distinct purple colors to use.

I had several overlays on this piece. This is a technique I first tried on the NYU and UM Terp piece for the lettering. and On this piece the angel, ram’s horns, the daggar blade and the alter logs were all overlays for different reasons. On the angel I wanted extra height and dimension and the effect that the angel was hovering above. On the ram’s horns I wanted the full curvature of the horns to be above the background, not cut out underneath it leaving that shape in relief on the surface below. On the daggar blade, I wanted a thin and bevel edged surface that seemed to work better just applied to the surface than cut into it. I collected a bunch of twigs and small branches from my backyard to simulate with a smaller scaled effect the wood/logs used on top of the alter. I sanded down some of the curvatures on the pieces that were overlaying on top of the workpiece…with these logs it would have been impossible to cut each one into the workpiece and into each other, so overlays were the obvious choice.

Last year I purchased a multi-turbine HLVP sprayer for finishing my workshop drawers and to use on future projects like this one. (Once I clean up from this build I’ll take some pictures of new benches/drawers and post that project) I was so anxious to start this project after that 9 month workshop build that I didn’t take pictures before I had all of the surfaces covered with wood and patterns for this project! Since I wanted to use a water based poly to keep the color integrity of many of the wood colors on this project, the sprayer was an easy way to put it on quickly and evenly. I sprayed each piece individually, sanded between coats and went to 5 or 6 coats. In order to spray these individual pieces quickly, I used several corrugated box pieces as a base holder and with double sided tape, adhered each piece individually in groups. So each batch of work pieces on the corrugated background contained 20-50 pieces each.

Some of the pieces that I wanted to shine, (the daggar and eyes) I brushed on a clear oil based poly. I printed out the overall project pattern with a wood type guide by each piece, laminated it and attached it to the back as I’ve done on other projects. I also affixed a sun block window shade attached to the upper backside and rolls down over the piece to minimize the UV exposure when you’re not viewing the piece. When you want to view it, simply roll up the shade and it sits on the top of the frame. This should help keep all of the colors true for much longer.

Hope everyone like this and that inspires some new folks to try intarsia.

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

8 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30556 posts in 3137 days

#1 posted 08-14-2017 09:21 PM


-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View DocSavage45's profile


9001 posts in 3641 days

#2 posted 08-15-2017 02:06 AM

Better than Wow, Noah Joel! I’m a big intarsia fan. Have you seen what the french are doing with impressionist intarsia.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DMiller's profile


537 posts in 1272 days

#3 posted 08-15-2017 03:26 AM

Wow! Very Impressive! I would say that is one of the best intarsia projects I have ever seen! Great Job!

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2825 posts in 4391 days

#4 posted 08-15-2017 12:07 PM

Very cool, wonderful details!

-- Dennis Zongker

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3665 days

#5 posted 08-15-2017 12:46 PM

I can’t imagine the skill and craftsmanship that goes into these types of projects. It must have also taken a whole lot of patience and it is an outstanding project.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View luv2learn's profile


3069 posts in 3102 days

#6 posted 08-15-2017 04:05 PM

Wow Joel, what an ambitious intarsia project. And, what a fascinating subject you have chosen. Your patience is really paying off; your craftsmanship is remarkable.

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

View bushmaster's profile


3940 posts in 3081 days

#7 posted 08-15-2017 04:51 PM

Very fine job, enjoyed it very much, will come back and study it more, with the links.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Grumpy's profile


26493 posts in 4650 days

#8 posted 08-19-2017 01:59 AM

Joel , nice job and congratulations on your ‘Daily Top 3’ award.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

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