Intarsia - First Attempt

About: Hard worker, great laugher, loyal friend/brother/uncle/son, amateur woodworker, and retired reality tv show contestant :)
This instructable will take you through the process of my first attempt at creating a "framed piece of art" using the intarsia technique.  Intarsia is a technique that uses different colors of wood pieced together to create a final image.  There is no stain involved, and you also try to USE the direction of the grain to help with the final look of what you are trying to create.  To learn more about intarsia, you can visit 

Tools Used:
  • Band Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Scroll Saw
  • Miter Saw
  • Router
  • Drimmel Tool
  • Orbital Sander
  • Disk Sander
  • and of course lots of Glue! :) 
Wood Used:
  • Walnut (3/4 in)
  • Pecan (3/4 in)
  • Maple (1/2 in and 3/4in)
  • Cedar (1/4 in)
  • Western Red Cedar (1/2 in)
  • Purple Heart (1/2 in)
  • Mahogany (3/4 in)

Step 1: Creation

I was able to find a free template online for a goose.  Although the template was great for the Goose, I knew I wanted to create an actual "framed piece of art", so I created the rest of the piece with just my own imagination. 

I started the project off by digging through scraps of wood to see what wood would look best for each section.  I have gotten into "milling" my own pieces of lumber as well, so some of the pieces were actually cut from logs I have saved up over the years (pecan, western red cedar). 

I then printed out the goose template, and cut each piece of the goose out.  I figured out which pieces of wood I wanted to use for each section of the goose, and used spray adhesive glue to glue each section to the pieces of wood. 

After each section of the goose was cut out, I then started sanded all the edges.  This is a very time consuming part of the intarsia technique, but a very important process as well.  The whole point of intarsia is to almost give it a 3D look by using different thicknesses of wood, and sanding all the sides together to make it almost look like one piece at the end. 

Step 2: Background Creation

After I was done with the goose, it was time to start creating the background. 

"Water" - I found a piece of Western Red Cedar I had milled about a year ago.  The piece I ended up using had a grain pattern that very much resembled ripples in water.  I found the exact area I wanted the goose to go, traced it out, and cut the cedar with my scroll saw.  The lighter part of the cedar also made it look like "land" and provided a great transition to what I was going to add next...

"Hill Country Background" - The Hill Country Background (I'm from Texas :)) was pretty easy to create.  At first I was going to use a cedar fence picket that had aged, but decided to use Purple Heart instead.  The reason for this is you never really want to add soft woods with hard woods, as they both shrink and expand differently.  Knowing that I had already used soft wood for the water (cedar), I decided to create the rest of the background with hardwood. 

"Sky" - I ended up going with Maple for the sky. I had some issues with scroll sawing out the "hill country background", but after sanding/rounding the edges, the gaps aren't as noticeable.  I then cut the piece of maple in 3 different sections, as I didn't want it to be just one piece of wood

"Cloud" - The cloud is from a piece of Pecan I had cut down in my backyard a few years ago.  Like the rest of the pieces, once I had my "cloud" cut out, I traced it on the Maple, and scroll sawed that section out as well.  The Pecan I used is thicker than the Maple, so it would stick out more than the actual "sky"...which is what I was looking for.

"Sun" - I had lathed a little box out of a piece of cedar I also had laying around, and had a piece left over that was a perfect circle, and already had rounded edges.  However, it was a thinner piece (thinner than the Maple "sky"), so I decided to just glue it on top of the Maple once all was complete.  I cut a little section out of the "sun" to make it look like the cloud was about to pass over it. 

Once I had all the pieces cut out and sanded, I cut out a quarter inch piece of birch plywood I had, and used that as the "back" of my "picture".  This made it easier to glue everything together, and also made it cleaner looking if anyone ever looked at the back. 

Step 3: The "Picture Frame"

This was a fairly simple step.  I had some extra walnut from a sign I did in the past, and cut them into 2 inch sections.  I then went to the miter saw and cut 45 degree angles to create the frame.  After that, I then used a jig I made, and cut slivers into each side, and added little pieces of purple heart for just a little more of a custom touch!  I glued the pieces of Purple Heart, let it dry, and cut it to size with my dremel tool. 

After that, I went to my router, and edged the sides to really give it that "picture frame" look.  Once I was done with the frame, I glued all the inner sides, and laid it over my "intarsia picture"

I then put 2 coats of boiled linseed oil, and called it a day!

Overall, it was a lot of fun, and I think it came out pretty good for my first try.  I definitely think I will try this out a few more times to see if I can hone my skills!  Thanks so much, and I would love to hear any and all feedback! 



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    12 Discussions

    Very nice for a first try! I thought the sun was a knot until I saw the pictures close up lol very nice overall use of scraps.

    I have a friend who does "marquetry" (not sure of the spelling) which is similar but with veneers. But I like your method much better. The 3D effect adds to the scene. Very nice job !!!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    It looks great. I've been wanting to try this for a while. Thanks for posting this!

    Just out of curiosity, what reality show were you referring to?

    2 replies

    Thanks seamster! It was a pretty fun project, and definitely let me know if you ever try one out yourself.

    "Thanks" to my brother (who is married, and is "forced" to watch the show, haha) who recommended me, I had a brief stint on ABC's The Bachelorette. I know, I know! :) I had never seen the show before in my life, but overall, it was a pretty fun experience. I am more of a fan of reality than reality television though :)

    I'm not too familiar with that show, but it's pretty cool that you got to do that!

    Now you can always tell people, "I lost on Bachelorette, but I post cool stuff on the internet so it's okay."


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Well done. It doesn't look like a first attempt. Looking forward to seeing the next one.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice crocodile!

    (It is a joke, do not get mad)

    Talking seriously, your firs attempt seems an advanced creation.

    1 reply

    Haha!!! Your comment made me laugh so hard, I had to run to the computer and respond (after I saw it was a joke, that is) :) Thanks, rimar2000.....I tried my best to research it as much as possible online, but it seems like there isn't all THAT much info on the technique, at least compared to all the other woodworking techniques out there (even went to Barnes N Nobles, but they didn't even have any books on it) will be something I will try again though, and definitely something I wanted to share with others.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Gorgeous! I didn't know intarsia was a word used outside of knitting, but of course it makes obvious sense to me now. Thank you for teaching me a new technique!

    1 reply

    Well, if it makes you feel better, I didn't know intarsia was a "knitting term" until I Google Imaged it :) Thanks for the kind words, and feel free to ask any questions if you try one out yourself.