Intarsia woodworking is a method of cutting or otherwise altering pieces of wood to create a pattern or design. It is a type of inlaying process that involves setting wood of contrasting tones next to each other; the wood is often highly polished for an attractive finish. An intarsia woodworking craftsman will use a scrollsaw and/or jigsaw to cut the often intricate pieces, and doing so often takes a significant amount of skill and practice. The process of intarsia has been in use for centuries in various cultures throughout the world.
The practice is very often used to create pieces of decorative furniture such as tabletops or cabinet doors. The process of intarsia woodworking often starts with plotting a design that will be cut into the wood, and deciding what types of wood will be best for the design. A scrollsaw will be used for much of the intarsia woodworking cutting, though a jigsaw can be used for some as well. The scrollsaw is a specially designed saw useful for cutting intricate designs and tight curves, and it features a bed or platform on which the wood will rest during the cutting process. This helps ensure the user has accurate control over the piece during the cutting process.
A jigsaw is another type of cutting tool that may be used for intarsia woodworking, though this tool is not capable of making cuts as intricate as the scrollsaw. Sanders such as belt sanders, palm sanders, or sanding blocks must also be used during the intarsia woodworking process to create a smooth surface before the individual pieces of wood are fitted into place. The idea behind this method is to place contrasting colors of wood next to each other to create a piece that looks almost three dimensional. The process usually involves selecting at least two different types of wood, though in some cases, one type of wood can be used and simply stained or otherwise colored differently.
Many intarsia woodworkers, especially those new to the craft, will use patterns or templates that will help them guide the cuts properly. This template is usually made from a thin paper that can be glued to the piece of wood, though in some cases a woodworker may simply draw the template onto the wood and make the cuts against the pencil marks. Especially skilled intarsia woodworkers may be able to make the cuts without any template at all, though this is rare.