Chesapeake Bay Retriever intarsia memorial

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Project by jfk4032 posted 04-15-2013 11:30 PM 3949 views 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s my latest intarsia project which has special meaning to me and more to my wife. She became very attached to our Chesapeake Bay Retrievers; Cocoa and Pebbles. The last of the two passed away earlier this year so I wanted to make a gift for her to bring back warm memories of Pebbles.

I purchased the initial pattern from Judy Gale Roberts, her Labrador design. I’m very adept at modifying patterns, but not at drawing something from scratch. So I scanned the design and redrew the entire pattern in Adobe Illustrator so I could could make changes to modify the pattern to better look like Pebbles.

The Labrador head and snout are much wider than Pebbles so I scaled most parts of them to be horizontally narrower. Next, Pebbles had the most piercing golden color eyes so I redrew the eyes to include a full iris as well as a small pink skin flap in the eye corners. The original pattern with the tongue sticking out was not how she ever looked, so I completely redesigned the mouth area. She would smile to us by lowering her jaw and exposing her bottom teeth and tongue. This required deleting and adding many new pieces while modifying all adjacent pieces to fit this change. The rest of pattern was basically the same with some other minor tweaks.

The woods used are Cumaru and Red Cumaru for the all fur, Cocobolo and Redheart for the nose, Garapa, Holly, Ebony and Pink Ivory for the eyes, Ebony, Pink Ivory, Holly, Bloodwood and Redheart for the mouth and Yellowheart, Osage Orange and Black Locust for the bandana.

The Cumaru was very difficult to cut being 5/4 thick and was extremely hard and brittle. Thank goodness for CA glue to repair corners and splinters which occurred through the shaping and sanding processes….also when a couple of pieces hit the floor and corners broke off!

I utilized a couple of new techniques with this project. I detailed some pieces with carbide bits in my rotary carver to achieve concave shapes and edges. Almost all of my sanding equipment yields convex shapes, but not concave. This gave me the desired effects for the insides of the ears, nostrils, bandana knot and the transition pieces from the head to neck. I also bought a mini torch to burn realistic shading on the eye irises. I experimented on some scraps until I got the hang of it and shaded the inside and outside perimeters of both irises. I also turned the pupils perfectly round from some small pieces of ebony and the light highlight spots from holly. I can’t believe how I was able to fabricate the eyes to look so realistic. I finished the eyeball assembly on the lathe as well with CA glue and polished them to a high sheen with wet sanding pads and eventually polishing liquid.

I finished all other pieces with satin wipe-on poly gel except the mouth area and nostrils which I used a gloss brushing lacquer to make them look wet. This was a tough project but as I tackle each new intarsia piece, I’m picking up new skills and trying new techniques. I used a variety of shims for the first time on the face, snout, nose, some of the bandana ribbons and mouth areas. I love the depth that I was able to achieve by using some thicker wood planks and with the 3/16” backer the piece peaks out over 2” high, but because of this, the piece does weigh almost 5 lbs. but only measures 13” x 18”.

I’ll give intarsia a rest until the Fall/Winter as I want to focus more on learning how to better use my lathe.

Thanks for looking!

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

10 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30651 posts in 3620 days

#1 posted 04-15-2013 11:33 PM

Really excellent job

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View milehigh's profile


57 posts in 4622 days

#2 posted 04-15-2013 11:58 PM

Great memorial!!


View Woodenwizard's profile


1369 posts in 4325 days

#3 posted 04-16-2013 12:12 AM


-- John, Colorado's (Wooden Wizard)

View luv2learn's profile


3146 posts in 3585 days

#4 posted 04-16-2013 12:40 AM

Fantastic adaptation of plans to suit your needs. Very nice work and a great memorial to Cocoa and Pebbles. I am sure your wife is pleased with this beautiful gift.

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

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

8345 posts in 4635 days

#5 posted 04-16-2013 01:08 AM

Very impressive! The lighting in the 3rd picture gives it a deep 3D appearance! Excellent work!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View Woodbridge's profile


3751 posts in 3700 days

#6 posted 04-16-2013 03:05 AM

beautiful work. The eyes draw you in. Its a wonderful tribute to two great looking dogs.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

#7 posted 04-16-2013 03:53 AM

Your work is super !!!


View Woods_F's profile


102 posts in 3782 days

#8 posted 04-16-2013 04:21 AM

beautiful work.

View dee2's profile


277 posts in 3618 days

#9 posted 04-17-2013 12:49 AM

You’ve captured the personality, I believe. Those eyes definitely draw you right in. Wonderful keepsake for your wife, great memorial. I had not thought of altering a pattern that way, thanks for sharing. This turned out beautifully.

-- Dee2, OH Aromatherapy....fresh cut wood!!

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4148 days

#10 posted 07-26-2016 07:59 PM

This piece is beautifully done. You have shown a lot of craftsmanship with this piece. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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