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Try Intarsia: Geometric Stone Pendant

Apply the old precise technique of intarsia to construct this pendant! Cut, grind, and glue stones for a geometric image.
Charm full
TIP: When creating intarsia, place all of your cut stones in a dish of acetone. When you’re ready to use them, dry them on a paper towel. That way you don’t have to clean each stone as you work.
Silver bezel
This 1⁄4-in. (6.5 mm)-thick intarsia stone is framed by a simple silver bezel.

Originally used by Italian woodworkers to create intricate patterns, intarsia is a very old, very precise technique. Adapted to lapidary, the technique involves working with tiny pieces of thinly sliced stone to make an image. It’s similar to making a mosaic, but lapidary intarsia uses no grout or mortar. Instead, each stone is bonded directly to the stone next to it. Intarsia is also not inlay, because you make the entire stone composite first and then set it into metal; with inlay, you’d cut stone to fit within a metal recess or channel.

When you’re making a stone intarsia piece, you start from the center of the design and work outward. As you progress, your design will come together like a puzzle. I was inspired to make this intarsia pattern by the crisp boxes and bold lines of artist Piet Mondrian. This is my miniature stone tribute to him.

SUPPLIES

  • Rough rock slabs: 1–2 mm thick, assorted colors
    • black jade: 3⁄4 x 3⁄4 in. (19 x 19 mm)
    • white jade: 2 x 2 in. (51 x 51 mm)
    • turquoise: 3⁄8 x 3⁄16 in. (9.5 x 5 mm)
    • red agate: 3⁄8 x 3⁄16 in. (9.5 x 5 mm)
    • basalt: 1 x 1 in. (25.5 x 25.5 mm)
  • Lapidary equipment: trim saw, lapidary machine with grinding wheels and/or flat laps in various grits (80, 220, 300, 600, 1200, 3000 grit); felt or leather polishing wheel or lap with polishing compound (cerium oxide, tin oxide, or sapphire powder)
  • Cyanoacrylate glue: Hot Stuff glue, Super-T Medium viscosity
  • Magnifying glass or Optivisor
  • Acetone

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Determine your design. A simple design with straight lines will be easiest to make. Sketch your design, noting which stones will become which design elements. You’ll work from the center of the design out-ward [Template]. Refer to this template for all references to numbered stones.

Alternatively, try skipping the sketching step. Simply follow the instructions for cut-ting, grinding, and gluing stones, improvising the design as you make your composite until you achieve a pattern you like, which you can then finish and polish.

Intarsia_step 1
Step 1

Cut small stone pieces. Using a trim saw, cut your slabs of rock into pieces that are slightly larger than they’ll be in your finished design. Keep in mind that you’ll be grinding away stone as you work, so cut all of your pieces larger than your desired finished size. I cut several matchstick-sized pieces and a few small rectangles.

Grind stones for the first join. Choose two stones that will be side by side at the center of your design. I chose a stick of white jade (stone 1) and a stick of black jade (stone 2). Decide which edges of the stones to bond.

Using a lapidary grinding wheel or abrasive flat lap that’s about 220 grit, grind the join edge of stone 1 completely flat by lightly pressing it against the grinding surface [STEP 1]. Make sure to hold the stone perpendicular to the grinding surface; you want a 90° edge on the stone. Repeat to grind flat the join edge of stone 2.

Clean the stones. Using acetone on a rag or paper towel, thoroughly clean the two stones. Allow them to dry completely.

Intarsia_step 2
Step 2

Glue stones 1 and 2 together. Working in a well-ventilated area, carefully apply thick cyanoacrylate glue to the flattened join edges of each cleaned stone. Join the flat edges, and apply pressure until the bond sets (about 30 seconds). You now have a composite of stones 1 and 2.

Lightly grind the unbonded edge of stone 2 until it’s flat. Once I’d secured my stone 2 to the larger stone, I could grind it down to a very small sliver.

Add stone 3. Prepare a piece of white jade (stone 3) by grinding and cleaning it. Glue it to the free edge of stone 2 [STEP 2].

Your composite is now made up of three stones. Lightly grind the unbonded top edge of the composite until it’s flat.

Intarsia_step 3
Step 3
Intarsia_step 4
Step 4

Add stone 4. Prepare a piece of turquoise (stone 4), and glue it to the composite’s flattened top edge. It’s okay if the edges of your turquoise don’t line up with the right edge of the composite; you’ll grind stone 1 down later to match it. Lightly grind the left edge of the composite until it’s flat.

Add stone 5. Prepare a matchstick-sized piece of black jade that is longer than the composite [STEP 3]. Glue this (stone 5) to the left edge of the composite.

Grind the ends of stone 5 down so that they’re even with the ends of the composite. Grind the edge of stone 5 down until it’s the desired final width. 
Lightly grind the right edge of the com-posite until it’s flat and flush with stone 4.

Add stone 6. Prepare another piece of black jade (stone 6), and glue it to the right edge of the composite [STEP 4]. Grind stone 6 until it’s the desired final length and width. 

Intarsia_step 5
Step 5

Add stone 7. Prepare a piece of white jade (stone 7), and glue it to the left side of the composite [STEP 5]. Lightly grind the unbonded edge of stone 7 until it’s flat.

Add stone 8. Prepare a piece of white jade (stone 8), and glue it to the right side of the composite. Lightly grind the unbonded edge of stone 8 until it’s flat.

Attach stones 9a, 9b, and 9c to stone 10. Grind the short ends of a piece of red agate (stone 9a) and a piece of black jade (stone 9b) until they’re flat. Apply glue to these short ends, and hold them together until they’re fully bonded.

Intarsia_step 6
Step 6
Intarsia_step 7
Step 7

Grind the unbonded edge of stone 9b until it’s a thin sliver. Prepare a piece of white jade (stone 9c), and glue it [STEP 6] to the end of stone 9b, creating a three-stone mini-composite.

Grind one long edge of this mini-composite flat. Prepare a piece of black jade (stone 10), and glue it to the flattened edge of the mini-composite [STEP 7].

Add stones 9a, 9b, and 10. Flatten the free edge of stone 10. If necessary, use a trim saw to trim the bottom stones of the large composite. Flatten the bottom edge of the large composite, and glue the unbonded edge of stone 10 to it.

Intarsia_step 8
Step 8
Intarsia_step 9
Step 9
Add stone 11. Trim and flatten the top edge of the composite. Prepare a piece of black jade (stone 11), and glue it to the top of the composite [STEP 8].

Add stone 12. Grind stone 11 down until it’s at its final width. Prepare a piece of white jade (stone 12), and glue it to the composite against stone 11 [STEP 9].
Intarsia_step 10
Step 10
Intarsia_step 11
Step 11

Add stones 13 and 14. Prepare two long pieces of black jade (stones 13 and 14). Trim and flatten the left and right edges of the composite. Glue stones 13 and 14 to those edges [STEP 10].

Add stones 15 and 16. Prepare two more pieces of black jade (stones 15 and 16). Trim and flatten the two short ends of the com-posite. Clean and glue stones 15 and 16 to those flattened ends.

Refine the composite. Trim and grind all the extra stone bits off of your composite. Grind the back of the composite until it’s flat and smooth. Rinse it well with water, and allow it to dry completely. Do not use acetone to clean the composite; you don’t want to dissolve the glue.

Add a backing stone. To make a backing stone, which will support and strengthen your composite, use a trim saw to cut a thin slab of basalt that’s slightly larger than your composite. Use your grinder to flatten one face of the slab. 

Clean the backing stone with acetone, and allow it to dry. Add glue to the back-ing stone’s flattened face [STEP 11], and attach it to the flattened back of your composite. Once the glue is dry, grind the edges of the backing stone until they are flush with the edges of the composite.

Finish and polish the composite. Grind all sides of the composite until they are smooth.

 

**For the rest of the instructions, as well as a handy trick to hold your finished intarsia pieces while polishing them, view the free, downloadable PDF! 

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