Noah’s Ark Intarsia, over 6 months in the making!

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Project by jfk4032 posted 04-12-2015 11:46 AM 2518 views 8 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

By far the most time I invested in a single project, production on it alone amassed around 600 hours, with more time for the pattern creation and modifications. The design was replicated from a tapestry that my parents commissioned from a well known artist, Phillip Ratner, who was a neighbor of ours at one time. I collected and purchased wood for this project over a two year period accumulating 50 different species; the pattern has over 400 individual pieces and as with my other intarsia pieces, no stains used. Special thanks to LJers Elyasaf, Nayo and Ron F. for their wood contributions. The project also has well over 100 shims and measures about 19” x 35”.

I took many work in process pictures and uploaded them here:

As with my previous JMU Duke intarsia piece, I cut over 90% of this project with the double bevel cutting technique. One of the biggest challenges was the size and/or position of some of the larger/longer pieces and having them fit within my 21” Hegner scroll saw using the double bevel cutting technique. I had to get real creative in how I worked these cuts through the saw; reverse the direction of how I clamped in the blades while reversing the bevel angle and feed pieces in from two different directions, bracing some pieces together out of the live area for support as the aggregate piece grew and I needed to have sections of background pieces stable while double bevel cutting newer pieces into them as well as other creative workarounds. Also a big challenge was the frame itself which worked into the design and had to maintain tight 45º miters at the corners.

I always try to use some new woodworking techniques with each successive intarsia project. I used a Razertip wood burning setup for some of the abstract facial details trying to keep true to the original pattern design. I carved/shaped many more pieces than I ever have before with my Wecheer tools getting more confidence in that process. I also used mixtures of bluepine sawdust and glue for some smaller inlay detail (on the whale’s eye). I used a double height sandwich of the same ebony piece on the whale body and the whale tail to give them extra height and expansion beyond the pattern size to yield a larger 3D extended effect. That top piece extended 1/8” to 3/8” beyond the bottom piece which was a snug fit to the adjacent pieces. I also used translucent adhesive backed laser sheets on cutting some of the pattern pieces. This helped me on the alignment of subsequent cuts on some of the more complicated groupings of small pieces. To give upward height on the many of the pieces standing proud against the sunny yellow sky and darker brown sky I started with an overall height of .6” for all of those pieces and sanding those backgrounds down to about .375” leaving the unsanded element pieces (animals, people, clouds and sun rays) standing higher. It’s much easier when double bevel cutting to have a flat surface to lay and secure down the top piece over while cutting. Also for the first time on an intarsia piece is a 5 ply laminated set of splines on each corner.

I applied four different finishes to the various individual pieces. Most used either a wipe on satin poly or a Deft satin laquer spray. The Holly seemed to keep a whiter color with the lacquer spray versus the wipe on poly. I liked the look and feel of the water based urethane on the gray pieces out of blue pine, and all of the little fishes and the whale had a gloss lacquer spray and I buffed them out real shiny with a buffing wheel attachment to a drill. I ordered a set of cleat hangers to put this up on a wall and I’m film laminating a pattern sheet with corresponding wood listings piece by piece to keep on the backside of the piece for future reference as this get passed on as a family heirloom. Now off to clean up the mess I made making this project!

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

23 comments so far

View Elyasaf Shweka's profile

Elyasaf Shweka

79 posts in 948 days

#1 posted 04-12-2015 11:52 AM

Honored to be the first on this. Beautiful, beautiful work.
It was a pleasure to see the process of this piece, piece by piece.
The expressions on the creatures faces, done with minimum gestures, is pure art.

-- Only by the 4th time I realized how it was suppose to be done in the first place.

View Edwin's profile


120 posts in 2420 days

#2 posted 04-12-2015 12:28 PM

I am truly lost for words on this project. It is beautiful. Ed

-- Ed Port Republic

View becikeja's profile


619 posts in 2236 days

#3 posted 04-12-2015 12:34 PM

Well Done

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View nayo's profile


277 posts in 1315 days

#4 posted 04-12-2015 01:23 PM

that is some amazing art!. i was wondering when i would see the final project but now i can see why it took you the time it did.
and when i zoomed in the images, i cannot imagine how you get some of those nice details, eve the teeth on the horse! that is something else.
glad to see it finished.

View shipwright's profile


7094 posts in 2220 days

#5 posted 04-12-2015 02:28 PM

Very well done. I’m more into marquetry but I certainly understand the effort here and the problem solving involved in this project. You get my vote. This is a fine piece of work.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View luv2learn's profile


2409 posts in 1725 days

#6 posted 04-12-2015 03:51 PM

Joel, this is absolutely beautiful piece of artistry. I applaud you for your patience.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View waho6o9's profile


7123 posts in 1999 days

#7 posted 04-12-2015 06:04 PM

Incredible work Joel, patience, attention to detail, and some

serious commitment come to mind in viewing your masterpiece.

Thanks for sharing.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16229 posts in 3641 days

#8 posted 04-12-2015 06:05 PM

Amazing work. Beautiful!

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View RPhillips's profile


1110 posts in 1258 days

#9 posted 04-12-2015 07:22 PM

Wow… this is amazing… great work!

Thanks for linking the pics of the process, I look forward to learning more about this technique.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View Woodenwizard's profile


1244 posts in 2465 days

#10 posted 04-12-2015 08:33 PM

Outstanding, what more can you say.

-- John, Colorado's (Wooden Wizard)

View Ron Ford's profile

Ron Ford

200 posts in 1155 days

#11 posted 04-12-2015 08:34 PM

Unbelievable, over the top, amazing – there just aren’t sufficient superlatives to describe. Joel – you are an amazing artist, AND have the patience of Job.

Thanks for sharing!


-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

View triviasteve's profile


172 posts in 1123 days

#12 posted 04-12-2015 09:05 PM

absolutely amazing! 6 months well spent!

-- You know I'm on the level 'cause my bubble's in the middle.

View JoeinGa's profile


7383 posts in 1429 days

#13 posted 04-12-2015 09:28 PM

Oh. My. Gosh.

This is AMAZING !

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View kooldecker's profile


59 posts in 991 days

#14 posted 04-12-2015 10:17 PM

that is truly impressive. its not woodworking, its art, plain and simple. and I love the subject matter as well. well done!

-- " I dont understand......I cut that board AT LEAST 4 times and its STILL too short!"

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1720 posts in 1392 days

#15 posted 04-13-2015 01:22 AM

WOW!!!! This is some work. Amazing dedication and execution. Well done

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

showing 1 through 15 of 23 comments

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