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Selecting Intarsia Wood

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image Preserve the beauty of your work by understanding the effect of time

Preserve the beauty of your work by understanding the effect of time

For me, the best part of an intarsia project is picking out the wood to use. I spend hours matching up different colors and figures of wood. Often, woodworkers don't realize the vibrant wood they use in their project will change over time. Careful wood selection and a knowledge of how aging affects the color of specific woods will help your intarsia project stand the test of time.

I have been very fortunate to be able to use many different types of woods in my intarsia. I have learned a lot about the color changes wood goes through as it ages. When I created my first rose box, I used pink ivory for the rose. It was the most beautiful wood I had ever seen and it made the perfect rose. Unfortunately, pink ivory turns brown. I did some research and found bloodwood. As the name implies, the wood is red, and best of all, it stays red.

To save you the expense of choosing wood through trial and error, I'm sharing what I have learned from experience. Please note this is not a complete list, but it does provide a range of colors to help you make the most of your intarsia projects.

Species Color and figure Intarsia uses Effects of time
African padauk reddish orange orange background wood darkens with age
American walnut nice brown color good general dark wood no change
Apple tan flesh tone darkens with age
Ash wide open grain, light with tan stripes landscape no change
Bird's-eye maple light tan great accent wood slight darkening with age
Bloodwood red anything red no change
Bubinga brick red with wild grain good general wood no change
Canarywood yellow with orange streaks great accent wood darkens with age
Cherry reddish tan frames and boxes darkens with age
Cocobolo wild grain, variety of color and shades good background wood darkens with age
Species Color and figure Intarsia uses Effects of time
Ebony black anything black no change
Fishtail oak reddish brown, unique grain tree trunks, bird feathers no change
Holly almost pure white, tight grain anything white no change
Honduran mahogany nice grain, reddish brown frames, boxes darkens with age
Ipe greenish brown background darkens with age
Jatoba nice grain, reddish brown background darkens with age
Kingwood purple with black stripes, wild grain background darkens with age
Lacewood light brown to silver, unique grain water, bird feathers no change
Hard maple light tan good general wood darkens slightly
Osage-orange bright yellow not recommended due to change turns dark brown
Species Color and figure Intarsia uses Effects of time
Pau amarillo yellow fall leaves, anything yellow no change
Pear peach color flesh tone darkens with age
Pernumbuco bright orange with black stripes, rare anything orange, fall leaves no change
Persimmon light tan with tight grain cloudy skies no change
Peruvian walnut uniform chocolate color, nice grain anything brown no change
Poplar (green) variety of shades available anything green, trees may darken to brown with age
Purpleheart purple mountain tops, anything purple darkens with age
Sycamore tan, light unique grain feathers on birds holds color well
Tulipwood red on creamy background, beautiful grain sunset, sunrise, flower petals no change
Wenge black with brown stripes, coarse good dark wood no change
Zebrawood black lines against tan background good background wood darkens slightly

Click on the article attachment to download a printable version of this chart (PDF required).

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Author info
Mike Mathieu Mike Mathieu's father had a lot of hobbies and the biggest lesson Mike learned from him was how to be creative. He enjoys collecting different woods to use in his intarsia projects and has shared his collection with other scrollers by creating a series of intarsia project kits. more