Canadian Woodworking

Fat truck

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: February March 2003

I have a habit of doodling in my spare time. Whether I’m on the phone, or just passing time, I often doodle. Sometimes a doodle gets a little extra work, and becomes something that I can make into a pattern for an intarsia piece.


Try it yourself sometime. Go through some of your drawings or photos and see if you can come up with something that you can transfer over to a pattern.

This truck is one of those doodles that I decided to transfer over to intarsia. It’s kind of funky. It’s definitely not something that you’re likely to see driving down the road anytime soon, but I enjoyed making it.

Try doing something similar yourself. It doesn’t have to be photo-realistic. Many pieces of art (intarsia as well as other art forms) aren’t necessarily exact replicas.

Although many artists strive for exact representations, it is fun and creative to express yourself and produce a piece of art that is totally original.

I used all Western Red Cedar, except the tires (which are black walnut). The door handle is cut, shaped and glued onto the surface of the door with a 1.8-inch dowel.

This is a basic project with nothing too fancy. The fitting is fairly simple and involves only some raising and lowering

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 to the wood

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 blade. New scrollers might find a #5 or #7 DT/R an easier blade to follow a line with.

Assemble the pieces

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

There are a number of techniques. I often use the “Curse and Pitch” method: if a piece won’t fit, I curse and pitch it into the wood stove. Adjust pieces until they fit. I don’t get to fussy. If I am within a saw kerf or 1/16 inch I am happy. You just don’t want to be able to lose your pencil 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-inch Baltic Birch, but any good quality backing material will work. ⅛ inch for under 1 foot square, ¼ inch for 2 foot square and ⅜ inch for ½ inch for larger projects.

Assemble the project on the backing material and trace around it. Remove pieces and cut out the back. Re-assemble 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, dip or throw 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.

That’s about all there is to it. A few basic wood working skills, a lot of patience and anyone can create an original piece of intarsia art.

So have fun following this pattern, or try your hand at coming up with an original pattern of your own. Your next intarsia project could only be a doodle away.

Actual size 8 inches x 21 ½ inches, 48 pieces.

There is no hard and fast rule for what is dark and what is light. The different shades are simply different shades relative to each other.

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