Intarsia – An Introduction to this Exciting Craft

What is Intarsia?

Sitting CatIntarsia uses different shapes, thicknesses and species of wood to form a mosiac like design with a 3D effect. The grain and colouring of various woods are used to create the picture or pattern.

The pieces of wood, which are cut out with a scroll saw, interlock tightly together.

<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Intarsia self portrait fom Italy dated 1502'/>

History of Intarsia

The art of Intarsia probably originates from East Asian ivory and wood inlay work. It spread to Islamic North Africa with the first Intarsia in Italy dating from 1430.

This amazing self portrait. which was created by Antonio Barili in 1502, is made from pear, walnut, maple and palisander wood.

Sadly it was destroyed during the Second World War.

Intarsia started to become popular in the United States in the 1970s, probably with the advent of the scroll saw.

How a Intarsia Picture is Created

Whilst researching Intarsia I came across a series of six excellent videos made by Bob Bloodworth.

Bob has kindly agreed to the use of his videos in my article. You may like to visit his website where you will find free scroll saw patterns and video tutorials on scroll sawing and Intarsia.

This post features six of Bob’s videos interspersed with books on Intarsia and inspirational Intarsia artwork.

All of the books can be found on Amazon.

The tutorial features the way in which Bob created a seashell. You may like to look at his introhis

Part 1 of 6

Pattern Preparation and Tracing (9.12)

0.00 Introduction

2.13 Securing the pattern

4.04 Numbering the pieces. Arrows for direction of grain

5.13 Tracing the first piece

,img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Horses Head Intarsia'/>>

Bruce Caywood

Magnificent horse’s head







<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Book Intarsia Woodworking Projects'

Intarsia Woodworking Projects

‘Intarsia Woodworking Projects’ 21 designs and full size plans with expert instruction for all skill levels…..beginner, interrmediate and advanced.

Part 2

Wood Choices and Commencing to Cut

0.00 Discussing the choice of wood

2.06 Grain of the wood

4.08 Applying the pattern

5.25 Type of blade and discussing the cuts

6.40 Cutting out the first piece

<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Intarsia Star design'/>

A beautiful abstract design


<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Book- Big Book of Intarsia'/>

Big Book of Intarsia [email protected]

‘Big Book of Intarsia Woodworking’

37 projects, explanation of techniques, selecting wood, patterns for animals, birds, nature….



Part 3 

Vocabulary   (8.38)

0.00 Intro to types of cuts

1.48 Critical Cuts

4.41 Non Critical Cuts

5.07 Segmentation Cuts

7.46 Veining Cuts


<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Book - Intarsia Woodworking for Beginners'

Intarsia Woodworking for Beginners

Goldfish and butterfly projects for beginners.

Various techniques explained

Projects split into three levels of difficulty

130 pages

<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Intarsia - Husky Dog'/>

King Leo

Much loved chow husky cross


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Part 4

Layout and Cutting  (11.13)

0.00 Numbering the pieces

1.45 Taping down piece 1

2.25 Outlining piece 2 onto tracing paper

5.03 Highlighting critical cut

5.48 Checking saw blade before cutting

7.10 Cutting piece 2

9.52 Fitting piece 2 to piece 1

<img source = 'pic.gif' at = 'Book - Wildlife Intarsia Woodworking'/>

Wildlife Intarsia Woodworking

Includes how to choose the right wood, shaping and sanding techniques.

Step by step projects for Bald Eagle, Mustang and Moose.

Eleven additional patterns

<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Intarsia cross with intertwined flower'/>

Lovely cross made by Bob Bloodworth, your host on the tutorial videos.

Part 5

Gap Repair  (14.40)

0.00 Identifying gaps

3.15 Planning path of saw blade

3.58 Choosing the size of blade

4.50 Preparing to cut

7.22 Cutting and reviewing gaps. Three passes of the saw

12,43 Final review of how pieces match

<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Intarsia portrait of an old cowboy'/>


Powerful portrait of an old timer

<img source = 'pic.gif' alt = 'Book - The Art of Intarsia'/>

The Art of Intarsia

200 great projects with detailed, step by step, instructions and colour illustrations

96 pages


Part 6

Sanding. Shaping and Finishing  (26.20)

0.00 Cutting out remaining pieces

1.25 Tools required for finishing

4.36 Marking the wood

7.00 Discussing the use of the sander

9.36 Commencing the sanding

17.28 Glueing

20.24 Cutting and glueing backing board

22.10 Applying lacquer and conclusion

I hope Bobs videos will give newcomers to Intarsia the confidence to have a go.

Sources of Wood

Here are some suggested sources for wood

In the United States

In the United Kingdom

If any UK readers would like to recommend a supplier, please leave a comment at the end of this post and I will include them. Thank you.

I have written two posts on scroll saws, which you may be interested in reading.

Scroll Sawing – An Introduction

Scroll Sawing – Patterns and Creations

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