"Notes On Making Intarsias"
By Meredith Jones
Kitsap Mineral and Gem Society

"Marsh Hawk," an intarsia by Meredith Jones. The bird and frame are petrified wood from Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, and Montana. The background is blue agate from Oregon and Montana. Approximately 300 hours during three months were needed to make and fit the 267 pieces of which 191 make up the bird. Completed in 1964, "Marsh Hawk," in a case of mixed lapidary work, received a blue ribbon in master competition at the National Show in Yakima, Washington in 1965.

   For intarsia, the grinding wheel must have a flat support table or steady rest for cutting pieces at the proper angle. The edges of each piece should be ground slightly less than 90 degrees. See Fig. 1. This will make your cement joints open in back but assures a tight fit up front. Avoid too much of a V joint as it will tend to open during final lapping. The grinding wheel must be kept dressed at all times to assure fast, true cutting without chipping or fracturing the material.

Figure 1

   As the picture develops, most of us realize we have been returning home from rock trips with the wrong types of material. Much of the common material lacking bright colors and pattern, which we threw aside, is now needed.
   All material should be first tested by spot polishing before assembling because after it becomes part of your intarsia it cannot be removed. Probably the only person who will notice a dull of imperfect piece is you, but I have found that a little bad spot will always stare and stare at its maker.
   As previously stated, start with the most intricate piece or the focal point of your picture and expand it in all directions. Never work clear around an area and then try to fit a piece to fill in the middle. Avoid, if possible, having to fit interlocking or wedge bound pieces, which can be very difficult.

Figure 2

   Prefabricate some pieces, which for instance, would be necessary for the small breast feathers on a Chinese pheasant. Each feather with its dark center would first be made of three pieces as shown in Fig. 2. The many small feathers can then be cut and fitted together.

Figure 3

   Large feathers on the tail or wing tips of an eagle can be made of two pieces of petrified wood. See Fig. 3.
   Petrified wood is a wonderful material for intarsia work. The grain structure with its variety of colors and patterns can be cut at various angles to from feathers, clouds, hills, water scenes, etc. After a small amount of experimenting and practice, it is surprising what the grain patterns can do for you when cut at just the right angle.


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