Page Updated: 2005 03 13

  1. How to make a Cylindrical Veneer Box ..... by Doug Denton
  2. Creating Floral Patterns in Marquetry ..... by John Sedgwick
  3. Novice Pattern of Jus Friends .... by Frank Harris
  4. Making a Marquetry Pattern .... by Bruce Fairchild   
  5. Octagonal Jewellery Box ..... edited by Shao-Nan Huang

  Back to Canadian Marquetry Home Page


by Doug Denton

First you must decide on the diameter of the box you would like. Try and find a suitable size glass jar such as Kraft Mayonnaise or Bick's Dill Pickles to use as a mould. Make sure the jar is straight-sided. Some jars taper slightly from top to bottom. Some jars have little bumps on them which will have to be sanded off.


To start you need to measure around the outside or circumference of the jar with a cloth tape or piece of string and multiply this figure by five and add about 2 1/2 inches. This will make the box 5 layers or laminations thick with about 3/4 of an inch overlap at the end. You now have the length of veneer you need to make the cylinder lamination. You will also have to decide on what depth you would like the box. If you do not have a piece of veneer of the required length you will have to splice two pieces together with white glue. The veneer should be of a straight grain type running lengthways. Make sure pieces to be glued have perfectly straight sides and ends. (Fig. 1A)

Wrap a piece of saran wrap around the jar so that the veneer will not stick to it when you need to remove it. Mark off the circumference distance from the starting end of the strip and apply white glue to the remaining area of the strip. Brush the glue well into the veneer and wait a few minutes in order to let the glue become tacky. Place jar on unglued portion of veneer strip and roll tightly keeping edges straight. Hold the veneer tight with rubber bands and or string. Leave overnight to dry.

Taper ends inside and outside by rubbing with sandpaper and sand edges square by rubbing on a sheet of sand paper.


Measure the inside diameter of the cylinder and cut 4 circles of veneer about 1/16" larger than the diameter. Use a compass to mark the circles and cut out along the mark with a knife. Glue the circles of veneer together changing the direction of the grain 90 degrees each time and place under a weight overnight. Sand edges of circles to fit tight into cylinder and glue. Measure outside diameter of box and cut circle 1/16" larger than diameter and glue to bottom. After glue sets, sand to fit sides. (Fig. 2A)


The outer shell of the box now needs to be covered with a face veneer with the grain running at 90 degrees to the grain of the cylinder. This will have to be made up of one piece or smaller pieces butt-joined with glue. If you wish to cover the box on the inside you may do so the same way as the outer shell. The top of the box sides may also be covered. (Fig. 3A)


Measure inside diameter of box and cut 5 circles of veneer. Glue together in the same way as the bottom. Sand edges to fit but not tight. Measure outside diameter of box, add at least 3/8" for lip and cut 4 circles of veneer. Glue together in the same way as the bottom and lid.


For the marquetry decoration on the top of the lid you will need one more circle the same size as the last. Use your imagination for the design. After the marquetry design is completed glue it to the top of the lid and finish as you would a marquetry picture.

Fig. 1A Top view of laminated cylinder.

Fig. 2A Profile of bottom.

Fig. 3A Profile of top.


by John Sedgwick

Perhaps the most common of all marquetry subject are flowers such as roses, lilies, daisies, and a multitude of wild and domestic varieties. Although the selection of flowers is limitless, some have become so stylized as not representative of their real life examples. The reason for this is particularly due to "technique", most antique jewellery boxes and accent inlay pieces feature stylized roses. These standardized "cookie cutter" motifs have been around for at least 150 years. They are now so common, that plastic film facsimiles transfer are set under a heavy lacquer or acrylic coating. These fake marquetry motifs are exact colour photocopies of the originals right down to the cracks and gaps. It was these designs and others like them that eventually saw marquetry reduced from the premium furniture enhancement of the very affluent to just another wood decoration available to the many not so rich and famous : my word for it is Mac-Marquetry

Having outline what is boring to the point of being comatose, I would like to suggest a few techniques and designs which while being common in visual medium are not often seen in marquetry. First one of the most valuable tools here are illustrated botanical books or seed catalogues. For those of you who cannot draw from a life example there are a multitude of illustrated floral design books and patterns.

Things to remember:

  1. Most floral designs will be applied on a box, table, etc. It should therefore make sense when viewed in at least two directions. For example, a vase full of flowers is a poor choice for a coffee table; only those on one side see it right side up.
  2. Centrally mounted designs should be book-matched or 4-way matched
  3. Corner motifs should radiate from either side of a 45 degree corner line or be book-matched with the opposite corner.
  4. Border designs should repeat either from or to the centre and be book-matched with the adjacent side.
  5. Proportion: a border or corner motif should be an enhancement and not dominate the overall design. Curling vine leaves with occasional flowers as an example.
  6. Use plain banding to define the borders and cross these bandings with the floral design to break up the straight lines.
  7. Do not use geometric bandings in conjunction with floral designs - it will look similar to wearing a dress shoe and a sneaker.

Now to the "how to" part. While I am not concerned with speed and production I see no reason to make unnecessary cuts. What often appears to be difficult is simply the result of selective cuts much like cutting a daisy chain in paper - the final pattern bears no resemblance to the cuts made. In the following flower examples you will note that a certain degree of realism is achieved without a major cutting exercise. Any one of these flowers can be positioned at the end of a vine with alternating leaves placed in conjunction with other flowers.

In the following pages are samples showing the sequence of cuts and various floral patterns including a woodburning pattern I adapted for a serving tray design given as a wedding present. note the pattern should be oriented so the candles are at 90 degrees.


Novice Notes on the Making of "Jus Friends"

by Frank Harris

  (bigger picture)

My first attempt was a half size picture using the angle cut fret saw method. The work went pretty fast and provided a reasonable picture but on close examination it was easily seen that the long smooth curves were not smooth at all but were full of little wiggles. The required long smooth transition from the flat feet and the neck section to the thin lines of the body was also not very smooth and can only be described as "lumpy". I came to the conclusion that maybe the only way to get smooth curves was by knife cutting.

My second attempt was full size and knife cut except for the thin lines of the body which were saw cut with the blade vertical. They are not as smooth as I would like but I didn't feel competent to try curves like that with a knife.  I used a #4/0 saw and I think it is too thin, considering the size of the picture. I would recommend using one of those copper‑coloured blades which are sold by Lee Valley as #2/0 marquetry blades. The #2/0 is 0.018" wide and the #4/0 is 0.008" wide.

The knife cutting was very much slower than sawing but the results were also much better. My technique also improved as I went along and I'm sure I could do even better if I made another one.

To begin this project I needed a pattern on Mylar. I tried to make this by tracing from a full‑sized paper photocopy. I could not do this by hand and get smooth flowing lines, so I cut a rough outline of each bird from three separate photocopies and pasted them to some bristol board. With a knife and scissors I cut out the birds thus obtaining a template from which I traced the outline onto the Mylar. I have since learned that some business listed under "Blueprinting" in the yellow pages can photocopy directly onto Mylar. That's for me in the future.

I learned something else from this project which probably should have been self‑evident to me but wasn't. In the window method, the window is everything. As the window goes, so goes the job. The window edges can be carefully trimmed, sanded, or scraped to get them exactly the way you want them before making the insert. When the insert is inset, the carefully manicured window will exactly define the edges and if the insert isn't perfect it can be remade or small pieces can be cut in to fill up those unsightly gaps. Some of this is not too satisfying but it works, I know. The most frustrating problems I had with this job were two‑fold and both had to do with cellophane.

I found it impossible to follow the regular method of marking the insert with a knife, separating the parts and marking with a pencil. I simply couldn't find the knife marks, perhaps because of the clear tape on the black wood. I cut the insert by piercing it right through while following the window edges and then without separating the pieces I pushed the insert (from the back) into the window opening to which I had applied glue. The second problem with cellophane was finding it to remove it. I must have spent hours removing it holding the picture at various angles to the light, finding some more and days later finding more little pieces. Cellophane on black and white seems to disappear.

I used the same colours as were used on the poster I saw at the McMichael Gallery. Dyed white for the main background, dyed black for the neck, feet and body lines, with Peroba Rosa for the brown stripe. The dyed white I had, had a lot of imperfections in it so I fashioned the main background from six strips about two inches wide. Since the birds are pure fiction, anyone wishing to reproduce them could use their own imagination for the colours just as the artist did.

The procedure I used was to first cut in the thin body lines making them longer than necessary on both ends. I then cut in the outside edge of the brown stripe and over cut it into the black area of the neck. Next I cut in the neck and head area then the feet.

That's about all I can think of to say about this project. I hope that my problems, solutions, etc. may help others coping with similar projects. Any and all criticisms of my work or this article will be appreciated.

Medical footnote:

After a long day bent over this picture using a strong magnifier, I awoke the next morning with a severe pain in my left eye and a slightly lesser pain in the right. It was so bad that I was afraid I might have done some serious damage. After an eye examination, it was confirmed that it was only eye strain, however, it took two days for the pain to completely disappear. The lesson here is don't do as I did, take periodic breaks from close work.


Making A Marquetry Pattern

by Bruce Fairchild

from Canadian Marquetry January 1996

The procedure I use to make a pattern is the same for a simple silhouette as for something more complicated and involved.  When I find a picture or print that appeals to me, my first action is to make a photocopy.  Colour prints can be photocopied giving a simpler black and white picture that has different shades of grey.  This photocopy can be enlarged or reduced as required to suit my purpose.

The photocopy is placed on a piece of plate glass, print side up.  A piece of blank paper is placed over top of the photocopy.  A strong light is turned on under the glass making it into a drafting light table.  Placing the photocopy on an outside window on a sunny day will also work.  With this set up I can see the photocopy clearly through the blank paper.  It is then a matter of outlining the different shades of black and white.  I also simplify the pattern by omitting unnecessary details.  After outlining, I number the parts of the pattern: darkest detail areas say 1, then the next darkest number 2 and so on.

When this is completed I make a few photocopies of the pattern.  The next step is to colour the different sections with coloured pencil crayons that are similar to the shade of the veneers being used.  If it is not possible to use the original picture colour (say blue) then I choose some colour that looks pleasing to my eye.

In the fall 1993 issue of the Bradford Exchange catalogue, a colour picture of a plate of Christ caught my eye.  I made an enlarged photocopy of this picture and made a pattern of it using the method described above.   A copy of the original picture and the pattern is included.


Jewellery Box (octagonal shape)

(modified from The Marquetry Course by Jack Metcalfe & John Apps)


Size of the Octagonal Box:              External: About 17cm(L) x 11.5cm(H) x 10.5cm(W)   (7”x 4.5”x 4-1/4”)                                                         Internal:  About 16cm(L) x 6.5cm(H) x 9cm(W)    (6.5”x2.5”x3.5”)


            ½” MDF (for the box): 

                                2 pieces of 11cm (width) x 10cm (height) for the broad sides of the box   

                                6 pieces of 4.5cm (width) x 10cm (height) for two ends of the box

                                1 piece for the base of the box. Size shall be determined after the box is constructed.

½” Poplar  (for the lid top of the box), size to be determined after the box is constructed.

(Rona-Lansing carries Poplar ½”x6”x2’)

            Veneers for the Lid top and the exterior wall of the box:

Suggest Ash Burl (light coloured), Elm Burl or Walnut Burl (dark coloured) or Bloodwood, etc. Pear black veneer (see picture).

Interior veneer lining: Maple or Birch veneers (Bennett brand in rolls available at Rona-Lansing or Home Depot)

            Sapele (Mahogany) strips to cover the open edges of the box and the lid.

Small Box Brass Stop Piano Hinge:                Lee Valley #00D80.02 (96mm x7mm), $1.10

Brass Screws for the hinge (suggest #1 size, ½” long), Lee Valley #91Z01.03 pkg.100 $3.50

Bevelled Mirror, oval, Lee Valley #42K04.03, size 3”x5”, $9.20 (larger and smaller sizes are

also available)

            Adhesive Backed Felt, Red (other colours available), Lee Valley #76K04.05 (17”x24”)  $12.95


  1. Use 10” Table Saw, have the blade tilted to an angle of 22.50. This must be exact. A piece of mitred wood stripe cut to 22.50 can help to check the tilt angle of the blade.
  2. A length of ½”MDF is bevelled cut at two sides at 22.50 (trapezium in shape). Two sizes are required.


  1. Mitre saw set at 90°, cut 2-pieces of the above “A” at 10cm in length (= the height of the box).
  2. Same, cut 6 pieces of the above “B” at 10cm (= the height of the box).
  3. Lay the above cut pieces side-by-side on a long piece of packaging adhesive tape in the following sequence: “A1/B1B2B3/A2/B4B5B6” and bring the whole group upright. Close the ends to form an octagon shaped hollow box.
  4. Put extra adhesive tape to keep its shape. Visual check or measure to ensure its symmetry.
  5. Lay a piece of thick paper (e.g. discarded photo paper) at the base of this open box, and draw the inside contour on a piece paper. Each corresponding side may be marked as A1, B1, B2…….


  1. Cut out the contour and use it as the template for the base and the lid top of the box.
  2. Use this template to draw the octagonal outline on 1/4” MDF to form the base of the box; similarly draw the same on ½” poplar as the lid top piece.
  3. Use Mitre saw to cut out  “the base piece-MDF” and  “the lid top piece- Poplar”. Check if the pieces fit “reasonably” well to the top and base openings of the box.  They can be sanded later for a good fitting.
  4. Starting the work to glue the box with the base piece:
  1. Allow time to have the glue cured. Minor gaps can be filled with white glue.
  2. Try to fit the ½” Poplar piece to the open top. Some sanding may be required to allow the Poplar top piece to sink half-way (1/4”) into the box. It needs not to be glued at this stage. It can be taped to keep it in place.
  3. Use table saw to cut the box into two parts. The lid piece is about 2.2cm in width, and the remaining part (10cm minus 2.2cm and the kerf of the 10” saw blade) shall be the main part of the box. The table saw blade is raised to about ½” in height. A guide is set to have the proper width cut for the Lid. The octagonal box is push through the saw blade, one side at a time. Be careful with the last cut, as the last cut tends to be swayed off the line. If this is case, much sanding is expected to ameliorate the dented cut

Marquetry Work: 

  1. Make your personal marquetry design for the top surface, and have it glued to the Poplar piece. Take time to get all pieces fit in snugly on the octagonal face.
  2. After the top surface is completed, the Poplar lid top shall be sank 1/4” (or half-way) into the Lid piece. Before gluing, draw a line circumferentially on the protruding face to ensure that all sides shall be sank at the same depth when glue is applied. Gentle tapping will ensure that it is set in uniformly.
  3. The interior surface of the lid and the box shall have veneer covering. Plain white Maple or Birch is adequate. Aromatic cedar veneer was suggested in the Course Book, but it is not available commercially. Use C-lamp to facilitate gluing and with proper protection to the veneer.
  4. Make marquetry design for the exterior wall of the box. Burl veneers of contrast colour and appearance are good choice.
  5. After the interior and exterior veneering is completed, the protruding lid piece at the top of the box shall receive stripes of Mahogany (or Sapele), which are cut in proper size to complete the lid. The joining face of the stripes is mitred at 22.5° to fit the octagonal face. They are glued and taped. The hardwood strip shall be rounded with a small hand plane (Lee Valley Miniature Block Plane, #07P15.01, $16.95) and sanded.
  6. For the opening edges of the box, the width of the hardwood stripes shall be Ό” plus 2x veneer thickness as now the box and the lid both have added interior and exterior veneers. These hardwood stripes are cut and glued to conform the octagon shape of the box (thus the joining pieces are also cut at 22.50). Each piece may require minor sanding to get good fitting. Apply tape to secure the stripe while glue is curing. A stripe of Sapele for the bottom of the box is optional

Hinge Application:

  1. Position the small box stop hinge of appropriate size onto one of the open edges of the broad side of box and the lid. Outline the shape of the hinge and router out the hardwood to accommodate the thickness of the hinge. The Proxxon Micromot drill (available at Chipping Away Inc. in Kitchener, ON, with a small straight bit works well. Dremel Drill would probably work the same. Mark the screw holes on the box and lid pieces.
  2. Use Press Drill to pre-drill the screw holes. #1 Brass screws of ½” long are used to secure the hinge on the lid and the box.  Apply a small amount of Epoxy will secure its permanency.
  3. An oval mirror (use contact cement) and adhesive backed felt are applied to the inside lid; the bottom of the box is also covered with felt.
  4. If an interior partition tray is considered, install the hinge later.

Interior Partition Tray:

         The Marquetry Course Book suggested the use of 1/8” wood to construct the tray. Lee Valley carries 1/8” craft wood of all kinds (e.g. purple heart, mahogany, etc.) that would be suitable but they are expensive.

I have chosen to use Plexiglas of 2mm thick (available at Home Depot) to construct an interior partition box to fit into the marquetry box.  Technically, however, it may be more complicate than using the wood. Moreover, to glue the pieces of Plexiglas requires Chloroform (a chemical that is not available in general stores). Alternatively, one may glue three or four pieces of veneers to produce the multiply suitable for making the partition tray.


  Back to Canadian Marquetry Home Page