+Gluing Intarsia Tips

by Judy Roberts 9 Comments

+Gluing Intarsia Tips

Many people have shared with me their frustrations with gluing their projects down. “It fit so good until I started gluing it, I don’t know what happened”. I understand the feeling, after over 35 years of experience I have had just about every problem imaginable.

Make a "custom" backing:
I trace around the finished project onto a piece of white paper. It’s helpful to spray a light coat of spray adhesive to keep the parts from sliding all over the place. I glue this tracing/pattern to the tempered hardboard. When cutting the backing stay about 1/16” inside the line. I use 1/8” tempered (on both sides) hardboard (also known as Masonite). This has proven to be a very stable product, plus the darker color helps to minimize the backing.

Below are the techniques that I use on all my projects:

I always glue the parts onto a backing, I never edge glue parts; here's why:
• You can give a little space between parts that were cut and put back together.
• If parts don't fit perfectly a little space between them makes it less noticeable. This space also helps with shrinking and expansion. 
• If you have any parts that are cut into sections then put back together (like the dark parts of the cat's face) you loose wood with each cut. Gluing the parts to the backing lets you evenly space parts like these. Edge gluing them will make a gap somewhere.
• Applying the finish before gluing the parts down will help ensure the parts are sealed properly. We put a coat on the surface and all the sides, not on the bottom of the parts. We put three coats of polyurethane gel before gluing the project down. An added benefit to applying the finish first is if you get a drop of glue on any of the parts it wipes off very easily.

I have been using Titebond Quick & Thick Glue.
It is the thickest, fastest-drying glue available for use with porous and semi-porous materials. The glue provides a strong initial tack and fast speed of set, yet allows realignment of working pieces. It also develops a bond stronger than the wood itself and it is very flexible which allows for some shrinking and expansion.

CA glue does is not very forgiving, I rarely use it.  I only use it for spalted wood that needs a thin glue to give it strength.

Problems with Edge Gluing:
• Gluing parts that are not cut square will cause more fit problems. 
• It will "magnify" parts that do not fit very well. 
• Very hard to get a good bond between thin parts.
• Edge gluing makes it hard to apply a finish to the project.
Not to mention the stress problems the wood encounters with humidity fluctuations. Wood shrinks and expands with the humidity. If you edge glue pieces of wood with opposite grain directions there is a very good chance one part will split. 



Ready to start gluing:
First make sure everything fits on the backing. Take the time to check all sides to make sure none of the backing is exposed. Then I glue a few outside edge parts to lock in the entire project.


I use the glue sparingly, a little glue goes a long way. Excess glue can cause the parts to “float” to one side or the other.
On the cat in the box I chose the large lower left side of the box. This is an easy part to remove without upsetting the placement of the rest of the parts.



On the Triggerfish I glued the exterior fins and tale, as mentioned above, these parts are easy to remove. 

After gluing these parts let the glue set up. 

Having a few pieces locked in will help keep things from shifting as you glue the rest of the project down.


Next I glued the right box lid behind the cats ear. 
I glue all the parts that are not raised with a shim.

Then I remove the parts and shims and glue them one shim at a time. The last shim is “Rx3” under the nose of the cat. 


After gluing these parts you have a little time to space the parts as needed. Whenever you cut up sections like the cats eyes out of the same piece of wood the kerf of the saw blade (even using a 2/0) removes some wood from the parts making them a little smaller. If you have lots of cuts like this you need to allow a little space between the parts otherwise the adjoining parts will not fit properly.



Recently I tried using some double-sided tape to hold a few parts in place before I started gluing the project down. The tape held things together while I glued some of the exterior pieces.
It does help, especially with projects like the moose. It made it easier to hold those antlers in place as I glued the ears and parts of the neck to "lock in" the project.



Judy Roberts
Judy Roberts

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9 Responses

Judy
Judy

July 11, 2017

JP wrote “I have always glued parts together, then added backing for small projects. My question for larger projects – example a large animal with voids between legs . Do you cut the backer with a hole in the void area? Or do you leave the backer solid in this area? My concern is having the backer showing will distract from the project. Thank you!”
I rarely glue parts together, always glue each piece to the backing. I cut away the backing for any interior “voids” like between the ear and the antler on the right side of the moose pictured in this article. As I mentioned in the article I trace around the finished piece to make the backing, even the spaces that will be cut out. I drill a start hole and thread the blade through to cut out interior parts of the backing. Thanks for your comments. Judy

Jp
Jp

June 30, 2017

I have always glued parts together, then added backing for small projects. My question for larger projects – example a large animal with voids between legs . Do you cut the backer with a hole in the void area? Or do you leave the backer solid in this area? My concern is having the backer showing will distract from the project. Thank you!

Judy Roberts
Judy Roberts

June 12, 2017

STANLEY,
Did you mean the “cat” (car) in the box? We do have the cat pattern. I-297 CAT IN A BOX link https://intarsia.com/products/i-297-cat-in-a-box
May 23, 2017
while reading at your ariticule on gluing tips and techniques I was drawn to the picture of the car in a cardboard box. Is this a pattern I could purchase?

Stanley Johnson
Stanley Johnson

May 23, 2017

while reading at your ariticule on gluing tips and techniques I was drawn to the picture of the car in a cardboard box. Is this a pattern I could purchase?

Judy Roberts
Judy Roberts

March 27, 2017

Q. “When making the custom backing, is the paper left permanently in place as an interface between the masonite and the parts, or is it removed after the backer is cut to size? Thanks.”

A. I do not leave the paper on. I did experiment with gluing the pattern to the backing to help with the placement of the parts. I found the parts came off with just a little prying. I glue directly to the backing.

Ron Ostromecki
Ron Ostromecki

March 14, 2017

When making the custom backing, is the paper left permanently in place as an interface between the masonite and the parts, or is it removed after the backer is cut to size? Thanks.

Judy Roberts
Judy Roberts

January 03, 2017

“I have a request to enlarge your 50”eagle to 72". My concern is the backing, keeping it from warping. Any ideas?"
Dale, I would use 3/8" thick backing material. After you get the backing cut out I would apply finish to the back and the sides. Try to make sure all exposed wood has a sealer on it. In the 80’s we made a 6 foot eagle in flight and the thicker backing material made all the difference. You might want to stain the edges of the backing so it doesn’t stand out so much. On plywood I use a dark brown leather dye, it covers the “plys” more evenly than stain.

Dale Shadlow
Dale Shadlow

December 31, 2016

I have a request to enlarge your 50"eagle to 72". My concern is the backing, keeping it from warping. Any ideas?

Diana copper
Diana copper

December 14, 2016

Really appreciate your sharing this information. So clear it was like a refresher course. I always have trouble with the gluing down.

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