Canadian Woodworking

Puttin’ on the ritz

Author: Garnet Hall
Published: October November 2003

This Koala bear is looking every bit the part – dressed in top hat and tails!


I felt that this all-new, upscale look for this issue of the magazine deserved a project appropriate to the event, so “Puttin’ on the Ritz” came to mind.

“Puttin’ on the Ritz” is a basic intarsia project. Special attention to shaping will give it a real teddy bear look.

This project has 50 pieces and when finished is about 20″ tall and 12 ½” wide.


Start with ¾” material and raise or lower as required. Suggestions for LT or DK shades are relative to each other. Just find cedar that is DK, MD or LT when compared to each other. Choose the woods carefully, as this is a very creative step. The woods you choose will make the project uniquely yours.

I used a few unique woods in this project. The vest is palm wood. Palm is actually a grass plant, but has the properties of wood. The vest pockets are snake wood. The two work well together. Although these are the woods that I chose, you don’t have to use these woods. Eye maple would also look good as a vest.

Transfer the Pattern

Transfer the pattern to the wood, by whichever method you prefer: trace with carbon paper, make a template or cut and paste a photocopy.

Cut Out the Pieces

Cut carefully, right on the line. I like a #7, P/S style, or a #7 DT/R blade. Lately I have been using a #5 Hook Tooth blade. The smaller kerf gives a better fit and the hook toothed blade cuts as fast as a P/S blade.

Assemble the Pieces

Assemble the cut out pieces and check for fit. The pieces should fit reasonably well, but they don’t have to be airtight. I am happy if I am within a saw kerf or 1/16″. Fitting can be tedious work, but patience will be rewarded. I usually start with one of the larger pieces and fit surrounding pieces to it, one at a time.

Raise or Lower the Pieces

Once the pieces are fitted to your liking, raise and/or lower any pieces as the pattern (or your imagination) suggests. Raise in increments of ⅛” by gluing scrap plywood to the bottom of the pieces. Lower by cutting or sanding the pieces thinner.

Re-assemble the Project and Draw on Reference Lines

Reference lines help with shaping.


Before you start shaping, give some serious thought to dust control. All of your tools should be hooked up to a dust collector. An air filtration device will remove airborne dust, and as a final line of defense, wear a good quality dust mask.

Shape the pieces to achieve as much dimension as possible. This step, like the woods you choose, is a very creative step. The more shaping you do, the better your project will look. A number of tools can be used for shaping. I prefer to use a small pneumatic sander in a flex shaft.

A sanding tool like the “Flex Sander” compliments the “Sandstorm Sander”. The tension can be adjusted by turning the tension knob. The natural flex of the tool is ideal for contoured surfaces. Try to achieve a smooth transition from one level to the next with your shaping.

Sand the Pieces

I don’t sand past 220 grit anymore, mainly for dust reasons. The less dust I make, the less there is the breath in. Two tools will speed up this process: a flap sander (photo 4), or a “Star Twister”. Remember to always wear a dust mask.

Apply Backing

I use ¼” plywood. The best is Baltic Birch, but ordinary Oak or Birch plywood will also work, just keep it flat. You can use ⅛” plywood for smaller projects (i.e. under 1′ square) and ⅜” for larger projects (i.e. over 4′ square). Assemble the project on the backing board and trace around it. Cut out the back and you are ready for the glue up.

Glue Up

Re-assemble the project, on the cut out backing board, and start the glue up.

Ordinary white carpenter’s glue will work fine. I usually glue up the pieces around the outside of the project first, and then work toward the middle.


Once the glue has dried, apply the finish of your choice. I like a satin clear coat. Put three coats on the front and one on the back.

Now attach a hanger on the back and you’re all set to be “Puttin’ on the Ritz!”

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