Third installment of my biblical intarsia piece trilogy now complete

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Project by jfk4032 posted 04-11-2020 01:51 PM 924 views 2 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This Moses and the Burning Bush is the final piece in my biblical intarsia pieces trilogy. The other two projects can be found here: and Once again, this is a Phillip Ratner pattern, which in this case he kindly allowed me to use from his own collection. I modified the pattern slightly in some areas to work better with the cutting and shaping processes. There are about 200 pieces, using 22 species and a custom fit border with 7-ply decorative splines in all corners.

With each of my intarsia pieces I evolve and grow more confident in learning new skills and techniques. On this piece I took an enormous leap of faith forward and cut all of the pieces on my CNC. I did use the CNC to cut and fully shape one piece; Moses’ face. My future son-in-law Johan, did an amazing job with programming that piece. I still shaped, carved, sanded and final fit all other pieces by hand, but this new workflow had it’s advantages for the most part with only a few minor disadvantages.

The biggest advantage was the ability to fit a piece pretty close to being perfect. If a piece didn’t fit the way I liked on the first attempt, I could make micro adjustments to that piece or the pocket a piece fit into and try again until I was happy with it. Also, if I wasn’t happy with the carving and shaping I did on the first try, I could recut another piece and try it again. I did this several times with some pieces that had more detailed carving requirements. Another huge advantage was not having dimensional limitations in the X, Y and especially Z dimensions. My scroll saw has a large 21” throat, but I had several pieces plus the frame that wouldn’t fit on it. This was a very frustrating constraint I had to work around on the two previous pieces in this trilogy. The freedom on the Z axis was amazing. I could really add height to many of the pieces where I couldn’t do this in the past. I still used many shims to accentuate the height of some pieces, but having that extra height allowed for pieces to actually come off the background and be fully dimensional floating in the air. (parts of the bush, some flames, Moses’ arm/hand and the entire staff)

Some of the disadvantages was that every piece had to be meticulously drawn and then programmed to cut on the CNC…very time consuming. I have two different MAC and PC platforms for both of those operations, so there was a lot of back and forth because of that. I drew everything in Illustrator on my MAC and then imported those pdfs into VCarve Pro to program the tool paths and then into Mach 3 to run the CNC via my PC. There was also a learning curve on understanding the fit tolerances between pieces and their associated pockets, with additional discrepancies based on the the types of woods that were used. I was limited in having any sharp corners in the pockets due to the limitations of the router bit diameter. Although the cutting time and accuracy on the CNC was unmatched, every piece had its own hold down strategies and constraints, some pieces had tearout and had be rethought. But overall, these disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantages.

Being a perfectionist, I can’t see going backwards to the scroll saw unless it is a small intarsia project overall or I want sharp corners in the design where a 1/16” diameter bit won’t work with the design. On this project, I still cut all of the shims on my scroll saw where speed and just OK accuracy in the cutting were acceptable.

I used wipe-on on satin poly gel for about a third of the pieces where yellowing didn’t matter or I actually wanted that effect to enhance those pieces and on the others a nice clear spray of satin lacquer finish to keep the color to its original look as much as possible. I buffed out all pieces with a 320 grit soft pad and then 0000 steel wool to create a soft non-sheeny look. I hung this on the wall with cleat hangers and film laminated a pattern sheet with corresponding wood listings piece by piece to keep on the backside for future reference as this get passed on as a family heirloom. This project took about 5 months from start to finish, which is about a month less than the previous two pieces in this trilogy. The CNC did really help decrease the overall turnaround.

Hope you enjoy this posting. I have a handful of projects I’ll post shortly to get caught up with other pieces I’ve made over the past year or so.

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

12 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile


4802 posts in 2794 days

#1 posted 04-11-2020 02:44 PM

Incredible work!

View GR8HUNTER's profile


7666 posts in 1518 days

#2 posted 04-11-2020 02:58 PM

simply incredible and beautiful work all your projects are very nice GREAT JOB :<))

-- Tony---- Reinholds,Pa.------ REMEMBER TO ALWAYS HAVE FUN

View luv2learn's profile


3069 posts in 3108 days

#3 posted 04-11-2020 03:07 PM

Wow, Joel all three of your pieces are incredible. You certainly have talent and patience.

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

View sras's profile


5535 posts in 3935 days

#4 posted 04-11-2020 03:37 PM

A beautiful addition to a stunning set! I’m very impressed.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View BurlyBob's profile


7703 posts in 3071 days

#5 posted 04-11-2020 05:50 PM

That is totally amazing.

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

218 posts in 2538 days

#6 posted 04-11-2020 06:16 PM

No surprise, but this is another AMAZING piece!! Joel – you are the master of intarsia!! Just beautiful!!

-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

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1157 posts in 2513 days

#7 posted 04-11-2020 07:03 PM

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88 posts in 2898 days

#8 posted 04-12-2020 12:29 AM


View W.F. Judt's profile

W.F. Judt

80 posts in 967 days

#9 posted 04-12-2020 01:51 AM

Your intarsia borders on high relief carving. I really appreciate the biblical stories rendered so carefully. Congratulations on excellent work, but especially your willingness to demonstrate this talent with illustrations of important biblical stories.

-- "Faith is a better tool than than fear to process a crisis. Fear views a crisis as a threat. Faith views a crisis as a means for God to work a higher purpose. ā€œ

View bushmaster's profile


3940 posts in 3088 days

#10 posted 04-12-2020 02:21 AM

I love your representation of moses and the burning bush. Nicely done.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

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Craftsman on the lake

3392 posts in 4243 days

#11 posted 04-12-2020 02:43 AM

Okay… that’s impressive…

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View GJK's profile


29 posts in 2192 days

#12 posted 04-13-2020 07:04 AM

If this is what you have done for some/all of COVID-19, then we will have to modify how civilization advances from what was alleged by Sigmund Freud in 1929, first published in German in 1930 as Das Unbehagen in der Kultur (“The Uneasiness in Civilization”). Exploring what Freud sees as the important clash between the desire for individuality and the expectations of society, the book is considered one of Freud’s most important and widely read works, and one of the most influential and studied books in the field of modern psychology. Opening paragraph of CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS. [Translated from the German] “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement ā€” that they seek power, success and wealth for
themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life. And yet, in making any general judgement of this sort, we are in danger of forgetting how variegated the human world and its mental life are.
There are a few men—[my friend Joel being one of them] – from whom their contemporaries do not withhold
admiration, although their greatness rests on attributes and achievements which are completely foreign to the aims and ideals of the multitude. One might easily be inclined to suppose that it is after all only a minority which appreciates these great men [as my friend Joel], while the large majority cares nothing for them. But things are
probably not as simple as that, thanks to the discrepancies between peopleā€™s thoughts and their actions, and to the diversity of their wishful impulses. “

-- Gary, Washington, DC

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