Making Dust

Intarsia is considered a craft, but it is also art. It is a little known art form which evolved from fifteenth century marquetry. Although marquetry is usually a picture in wood made from very thin and flat wood which is carefully inlaid onto another flat surface like a tabletop. Intarsia is very similar except the wood is thicker and shaped to give the picture three dimensions. Both Intarsia and marquetry came into existence somewhere in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A more modern form of Intarsia has come into being in the twentieth century. The latest form is less formal and more whimsical. It is what I endeavor to practice.

Many pieces that I craft are my original designs. So far the most pieces I made are from patterns designed by gifted artists. After making several pieces from patterns I began to experiment by adding a small touch of whimsy of my own. This practice is now evolving into completely original works.

My first Intarsia work circa 2000 A.D. Two Dolphins from a pattern

More work from patterns

Work from a pattern that has been embellished

COVID 19 Nurse, Thermometer added to a pattern design

The cloud, sky, grass, and the dandelion are touches to a pattern

The lure is an embellishment

My first original work. The image is from a calendar photo.

Horn Man from a photo of my grandson practicing his trumpet

Three Red Roses, from a photo

Cecil the Lion from a photo

Night Hunter, from a photo of a Barred Owl in Flight

Hummer Snack, from photos taken in my garden

Two White, One Red Rose, from photo

Coming in 2023 but to be unveiled later because I am just beginning the pattern design. A typical original work like Horn Man, Cecil the Lion, or Night Hunter can take up to five hundred hours of cutting, shaping, sanding, framing, and finishing. Because I pride myself on being a wood worker, I also make the frames. The round frame shown on the last photo has been my biggest challenge to date. Cecil the Lion is my favorite, and Horn Man took the longest.

I have gotten my inspiration from Intarsia artist Judy Gale Roberts.

It Finally Happened

For the past fifty or more years I have been working with woodworking machines. One thing I have learned is that kick-back on a table saw can be serious. For fifty years I have taken extreme care to set up my cuts so the possibility of a kick back was minimized. Today, I experienced a serious kick-back. A small piece of wood caught the spinning blade and shot back at me like a bullet. Ouch that hurt! It happened as fast as a bullet too. There was no time to react. In fact I didn’t realize the kick-back until the piece hit my arm at the inner elbow. I thank God that it didn’t hit me in the head. I would have dropped like a rock.

Insurance companies are always citing that accidents will happen, and show the probability. It is not that you will never have an accident, no matter how careful you are, it is only a matter of when it will happen.

In my case this happened because I was too comfortable with the cut I was making. The piece I wanted to end up with was small, and I thought the time it would take to jig it to reduce the possibility was not worth the effort. I know now that I was wrong. If the piece is small the possibility of a serious kick back is as great as working with a large piece. Small pieces get sucked into the spinning blade and are shot back with tremendous velocity.

Today, I learned a valuable lesson. Slow down and take every cut as if it is the one than will kill you.

Accident Statistics

A National Consumer League (NCL) fact sheet reports even more disturbing numbers, “an estimated 33,400 individuals required emergency department treatment to address injuries caused by table saws. Of these 30,800 (92 percent) were related to the victim making contact with the saw blade.” (2)

NCL goes on to explain, “More than 4,000 of these injuries require amputations – an average of 11 per day.” (3)

A survey conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported the estimated total of table/bench saws related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms for a two-year period was 79,500. This total represents 78% of the estimated total stationary saw injuries of 101,900. The numbers are based upon National Electronic Injury Surveillance System data. (4)

Christmas Shopping Post Covid

Lovely and I went shopping today, and were surprised with the traffic. Most of it was in the shopping center parking lot. She was returning a blouse to Ross and I was looking for brass tubing for a project. I thought Michael’s would have it. After grabbing a couple of bottles of paint in colors I don’t have I roamed the aisles of the story searching for brass tubing. Lovely found some really cool accent pieces to help brighten our home for the holidays. I finally broke with the man-thing tradition of not asking for directions and asked. The answer didn’t surprise me, “they don’t carry it.”

I darted for the check out only to be stopped by a line about fifty yards long, and not socially distanced. We crept along as five checkout people worked their asses off to move us along. The fifteen minute wait felt like eternity, but we finally made it out. Along the way we were entertained by a cute little three year old who was helping mommy shop. Ahead of the twin pigtailed blondie was a dark haired five year old boy who was helping his grammy shop. Both kids were exceptionally well behaved and socially engaging. Thank God for them helping us pass the time of day to get through this line.

On the way home I wound up lecturing Lovely about the sanity of shopping on a weekend when all the workers of the world are home. Old people like us should shop on week day mornings or early afternoons. She didn’t argue with me only nodded her head positively, and listened dutifully.

At home, I wound up spending another hour on the computer shopping Amazon for the needed tubing. It took long because of two things: 1. too may choices, and 2. everything is made in metric. I spent quite a bit of my time converting mm into inches so I could understand what to buy. I thought I was pretty good at the inch to mm conversions, but my knowledge has been on the shelf for thirty years. The cob webs got in the way of my mental conversions. I finally made a crib sheet which was a table of mm vs inches. The tubing is now on it’s way, and I will be able to finalize my wing flapping bird with metal bushings and axles. In the meantime watch my prototype bird flap below.


Brain Storms

Lately, my mind has let me down when it comes to original ideas. So many times I would awaken with some really fantastic schemes rolling around in my mind. This morning was one of the better ones as far as yielding ideas. They were so good in fact, that I noted them on my phone before they were lost into the ether world. The true test will come when a couple of weeks from now I review my idea list and I still understand what I wrote.

My brain polarity must be at the apogee of its orbit, because I feel very positive, energetic, and ambitious. This is the exact opposite of what I felt for the past seven days. Funny, how things can change so radically in such a short period. I celebrated with a solitary two-mile walk. It felt good.

The challenge will be to capitalize on this burst of energy with positive activity. The plan is to do so. I am studying details of a new challenge to myself. For many years, I have been amused by a device called a “whirligig.” Simply put, the whirligig is a wind driven weathervane. It is believed to be invented in China around 400 BC. Another earlier reference in Wikipedia is to a Sumerian wind driven weathervane dating to 1600-1800 BC. Whirligigs became an early American art form around the time of the American Revolution during the first Green New Deal movement dedicated to preserving air quality by using wind power. Most likely the devices were made by bored farmers, fishermen, during long dark winter hours.

Twenty years ago, I bought a couple of books on the subject fully intending to take it up as a hobby. My new goal is to take on the challenge to become a world expert on whirligig design and manufacture. It is one thing to picture an idea in your mind, it is another to actually implement it. I feel I have the skill needed to make these things, and I am creative enough to be able to invent some new ideas as well. I will begin with pure simplicity to learn the basics and work my way up to complicated designs with multiple movements. The very first effort is on the work bench in my newly remodeled work shop anxiously awaiting to come alive.

Watch this video to learn what a whirley-gig is.


Recently I wrote about the project of converting my basement into a living space. That project is 80% complete and I have moved on to another huge project, i.e. reclaiming my workshop.

It turned into dominoes. Lovely and I invited her adult grandson to move in with us. He would need space for all the belongings he inherited (like fully furnished nine room house , and a 2.5 car garage). I made comment that his furnishings would become extremely dusty if they were to be stored in our basement. I used the entire basement for my wood shop-intarsia studio. I advised them that I would not allow the move to occur unless I were given the opportunity to separate my shop from the remainder of the basement. All of these ideas have been percolating in my mind since 2008 when phase one progress stopped.

I chose to proceed with phase two by separating the shop and to complete the unfinished 2008 effort. Looking back it would have been much more simple had I just walled off the shop and stopped.

Along with construction there began the process of culling the many possessions accumulated over sixty years of home ownership, and inheriting the leftovers of three prominent family members. My rule became one of disposing of most stuff, but If I were still undecided it would conveniently go into my shop space for future disposition. We call that “kicking the can down the road.” It did allow me an unfettered area to complete the house in the house project.

The time has arrived when I can no longer stand the mess I created in my sacred space. Lovely left town for a few days, and left me on my own. We kissed goodbye and she left for her sabbatical, and I descended to begin the “great transformation”. She has been gone for six days now and I am working day and night to finish this project. I can truthfully state that progress is being made, but I am still far away from having a model shop space. At least I can begin working “in” while I work “on” the space I allocated for myself. All I can say is that I have slept quite well this past week.

Here are some photos of the shop:

What did I learn from this project?:

  1. I will never make it as a contractor.
  2. The best decision I made was to hire a professional taper to finish the H-I-H walls.
  3. Throwing away stuff is heart wrenching but also cathartic.
  4. I will never make it as an electrician, (thank God my son-in-law knows enough to be dangerous.)
  5. I should trade spaces between my shop and the H-I-H space. All of a sudden I feel cramped in my dream space.
  6. I must limit materials to that which is being worked on, and leftovers will be disposed of immediately upon completion of the project.
  7. Dust collection is a seriously needed luxury.
  8. Limit projects to works of art only.
  9. All tools must have a designated storage space.
  10. Never leave tools out on the bench over night.
  11. Using scrap pieces of drywall to finish a wall only makes taping a larger job

The Recreation Area, Bathroom Entry is on the Left
The Dining Space Looking into the Entry Hall, Kitchen is on the Left