Canadian Woodworking


Author: Fred Martin
Published: April May 2003

Although this is a 3D intarsia, like any other intarsia design, it can still be made with a backing if you prefer.


The woods listed are given only as a guide. Use whatever woods that are available to you and that provide the required contrast.  The advantage to 3D intarsia is that the intarsia isn’t limited to wall mounting alone, but can be displayed on a table, on its own stand, on an easel, or even hung in a window.


Transfer the pattern onto tracing paper, making sure to include the grain direction arrows. The tracing paper allows you to see the grain of the wood as you mark your pieces. Select the piece of wood for the lower shore, then, using the traced pattern and transfer paper, mark and cut it to shape (using a bandsaw or scroll saw). Sand the edges with an oscillating spindle sander or a sanding drum mounted in a drill press. Ensure that the edges are square. Square perpendicular edges are essential for the pieces to fit correctly. After the edges are sanded, make sure you remove the “burr” from the underside of the piece with sandpaper or a bow sander. This allows the piece to sit flat. Do this to every piece.

Select the piece for the second part of the shore, slide the transfer paper under the pattern, and place the first piece in position. Mark the piece using the pattern and the edge of the first piece as a guide. After this piece is cut, the edge sanded and fitted, tape the pieces together using duct tape. I use duct tape as it holds much better than masking tape. Continue marking, cutting, fitting, and taping pieces together until the entire lighthouse is cut out. Remove the tape and drill blade entry holes for the windows (alternatively, these could be burned or painted on), cut the windows out.

Drill a ⅜” hole for the round window, above the door, and glue in walnut dowel. Select the walnut for the windows. Mark the windows using the holes as a guide. A draftsman’s pencil allows you to extend the lead, making marking easier. Apply glue and slide them in. Don’t worry about excess glue. It will be sanded off later.

The piece of wood used for the sky is fairly wide and it is easier and more stable to laminate it out of several pieces. I use western red cedar fence boards and plane them down to ⅝” and edge glue pieces. Let dry and sand smooth.

Now it is time for shaping and contouring. The sky is the lowest part of this design so use this to mark the edge of the lighthouse where the contouring starts.

Use what tools you have to shape and contour the lighthouse, staying above the line you marked. Continue contouring using the previously shaped piece as a guide to mark the next.

After contouring use a bow sander or a piece of sandpaper to blend and smooth each piece. When all the pieces are shaped and sanded, place a piece of wax paper over the pattern. Apply glue to each piece, using an accordion glue bottle, and assemble.

Mark the clouds on a selected piece of wood, using the pattern and then cut and square the edges.

Lay the pattern on the wood. Slide transfer paper under it. Place the lighthouse and clouds in position. Carefully scribe the lines, cut out, and check fit. Contour the sky and clouds. Place wax paper over the pattern and apply glue to the left side of the sky. Lower the lighthouse into position and insert clouds. Apply glue to the other half of the sky. Insert clouds and slide into position. Let dry.

You can fill any gaps on the back by applying glue and rubbing it into the joints. Sand the back flat and contour the back edges. Apply the finish of your choice. Attach a hanger for wall mounting or display it on a stand to be viewed from all sides!

Fred Martin - [email protected]

Fred is an intarsia artist from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

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