Kickstarter status update

KS marquetry panel in-process

I spent December and January making flowers, and created enough to fill all of the Kickstarter (KS) rewards for the marquetry level. At this point, I’ve begun the process of cutting the ribbons, stems and leaves into the backgrounds (and sand shading…lots of sand shading!). After analyzing the first prototype, and deciding there was plenty of room for improvement, I’ve changed several things:

  • cut more detail lines into one of the flowers,
  • am considering the addition of another color to better show highlights and shadows, and
  • sand shading multiple pieces to suggest dimension.

The image below shows (the back side of) a second prototype. To my eye, it’s better, but I might still tweak it a bit. In any case, I’m happier with it. KS backers please note that the panel you’ll receive will be somewhat close to this. If you are a contributor at this level, please be sure to update your address, and contact information so I can be certain to get it to you. It’d be a shame if after all of this work, and your patience, you don’t receive yours! Now, let me get back to cutting…

A prototype marquetry flower panel for Kickstarter backers

Sand shading

Sand shading is a technique to add depth and realism to marquetry. As its name suggests, you achieve this by immersing the piece in hot sand.

When deciding where to sand shade, consider the light source for your motif. The direction of light incident on the piece is key! An object beneath another will be darkened as will objects that curve away from the source. It’s an exercise in three-dimensional thinking.

In the drawing below, I use a series of “x”s to denote where shading should occur. When executing this design the temperature of the sand, its topography, and length of time the piece is exposed to it govern the effects. This differs in each instance. So, it is important to carefully monitor the process!

Cutting strategy

When cutting marquetry, it’s best to analyze the drawing to think things through. What is the most efficient path? How do you remove smaller pieces from larger ones so that you can still manipulate the packet?

There are some guidelines:

  • Begin by backing veneers with newsprint on the “good side” to help support the fibers.
  • Always cut from the “glue-side”, and tape the show face. This makes things easier when it comes time to mount the marquetry “skin” onto the core.
  • I tend to cut clockwise around a piece if I’m using the mini-chevalet and the Boulle technique, counter-clockwise if I’m using the double-bevel (conical cutting) or Silas’ method with the fretsaw. This has more to do with which way the teeth are pointing on the blade, and what is easiest for me to see since I’m right-handed.
  • For a large drawing, build from the center out. This keeps things easy to manipulate, and can help make up for a saw with limited “throat depth”.
  • Work in logical units. Create each flower individually, for example, then add that into its surroundings as the design is created.
  • Is it possible to render your drawing as marquetry? While we can cut rice-grain-sized pieces, sometimes the design must be modified for details that are just too small to be composed in wood veneer, or beyond the marqueteer’s skill level!

Apologies if this post is “in the weeds”. I thought it might provide insight into the process of creating marquetry (and parquetry!) since this is an almost unknown art form in North America in my experience.

Dyeing veneer: The drying processs

I’ve mentioned previously that nature does not provide all of the colors desired to compose a design. In these cases, you’ve got two options:

  1. Get creative, and stylize your design to work with the palette at hand, or
  2. Use dyed veneer.

The video below shows my process after the veneer is removed from the dye bath. It needs to be pressed dry to prevent mould, and kept flat. I hope it will provide a bit of insight into the process.

Once the veneer is dry, I’ll glue newsprint to the front (show) side to provide structure during the cutting phase.

A marquetry primer

Marquetry Portrait Poster

Having reviewed my previous posts on the topic, it occurred to me that I should provide a (somewhat) proper definition for those unfamiliar with this discipline of woodworking. If you have followed along thus far, and were confused, my apologies!

Marquetry is a woodworking embellishment wherein pieces of veneer are cut and arranged to form a desired pattern. Typically, it is found on panels, or furniture.

There are several methods to create marquetry pieces:

  • Piece-by-piece, is perhaps the most challenging, requiring great skill. With this method, a packet of like colored veneers is created. Multiple copies of a single piece are then cut from this packet. A single design may require multiple packets, one for each of the different parts that compose it. Once all pieces are cut, they’re assembled into the final design.
  • The traditional Boulle packet stacks two different colored veneers together from which the design is cut. These pieces are then interchanged to create “positive” and “negative” final designs.
  • Conical cutting is similar to Boulle except that blade is angled slightly. This creates tapered pieces which fit together snugly leaving no saw kerf.
  • Perhaps the simplest marquetry technique is the window method. Requiring only a knife, a design is cut from the background veneer, which then becomes the template to cut the desired complementary veneer.

A previous posting provided references illustrating these methods. Of these, both Boulle, and piece-by-piece are well suited to production, making several copies per design cut. The window, and conical methods yield solitary products.