Canadian Woodworking

Fat car

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: April May 2003

This is a basic intarsia project that uses Western Red Cedar.

As I mentioned in my last article (see Fat Truck, Feb/Mar 03), I love to doodle.

Sometimes I spend a bit more time on a drawing and it develops into an intarsia pattern. This is one of those doodles. I really like the soft, round look of the curves. The shape flows from one soft intersection to another.

Start with a base material ¾” thick. The door handle is cut, shaped and glued onto the surface of the door with a ¼” dowel.

Choose your wood

Choose the various colors and shades of wood you want to use (or as the pattern suggests). This is a very creative step, so pay close attention to grain and color to achieve an attractive project.

Transfer the pattern

Transfer the pattern to the wood with whichever technique you prefer: carbon paper, template, or photocopy, and glue onto the wood.

Cut out the pieces

Cut out the pieces very carefully. This is the most important step as far as the fitting is concerned. If you cut carefully, right on the line, the pieces should fit fairly well off the saw. I like to use a scroll saw with a #5 or #7 P/S (precision skip blade). New scrollers might find it easier to follow a line with a #5 or #7 DT/R (double tooth reverse blade).

Assemble the pieces

Assemble the pieces and check for fit. Fitting is the fussiest part of the process.

There are a number of techniques. Don’t get too fussy. If I am within a saw kerf or 1/16” I am happy. You just don’t want large gaps between the pieces.

Raise and/or Lower the Pieces

Once the pieces are fitted to your satisfaction, raise and lower any pieces the pattern suggests. I raise with scrap plywood and lower by resawing on my band saw. Some pieces can be sawn lower with a scroll saw or just sanded thinner. Reassemble and draw reference lines to help with the shaping.

Dust Protection

Make sure you have some dust protection for the next two steps. It’s a good idea to have all your tools hooked up to a dust collection system. Have an air filtration devise and wear a good mask. These three steps should protect you from the harms of dust. Shape the pieces to achieve a smooth transition from one level to the next. This too is a creative step. The more shaping you apply to the project the better it will look. Almost any sanding tool will work for this step. I like using a hand held pneumatic sander. I like the control it gives me over the shaping.

Sand the pieces

Use either good old elbow grease and sand paper or a flap sander. Flap sanders have saved me hours and hours of sanding. I no longer sand past 220 grit. It’s my philosophy and practice not to create any more dust then I have to.

Glue the pieces onto a backing

The best backing material is ¼” Baltic Birch, but any good quality backing material will work fine. I use: ⅛” for projects under 1’ square; ¼” for 2 ft square projects; and ⅜” to ½” for larger projects. Assemble the project on the backing material and trace around it. Remove pieces and cut out the back. Reassemble the pieces onto the cut out back and glue up. Any white carpenters glue will work.


Any finish made for wood will work. You can brush, spray, wipe, or dip it on – whichever works for you. The finish can also be applied before glue up. Apply three coats on the front and one on the back. With some basic woodworking skills and patience anyone can do a project like this. It can be rewarding and challenging to come up with your own designs. Never mind if the first one is not perfect and don’t worry about what others may think. With each project, you will learn something about design, and the next one will be better.

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