Page Update: 2005 03 13

  1. Tunbridge Ware
  2. How to Inlay Fine Lines with Veneer ..... by Jim MacKeracher
  3. Sliverization ..... by Jim MacKeracher
  4. Bevel Knife Cutting ..... by Doug Denton
  5. Bevel Cutting Frank Harris
  6. Bleeding Padaulk Problem ..... by Mike Stredwick  
  7. Fragmentation ..... by Jim MacKeracher   (separate page ... longer download time)
  8. Zigzag Cutting ..... by Jim MacKeracher
  9. Bleaching Wood ..... by Bruce Fairchild
  10. Silhouettes: A Fret Saw Method ..... by Jim MacKeracher
  11. Hanger Tip ..... by John Sedgwick
  12. Harewood Tip ..... by James Colter
  13. Using Pins to Position Tracings and Overlays ..... by Tony Stuart
  14. Which to Use ... The Knife or Saw?..... by Mike Flower
  15. Transferring Simple Patterns ..... by Jim MacKeracher
  16. Cutting Circular or Oval Borders ..... by Frank Harris
  17. Drawing Ellipses in Perspective ..... by Derrick Clay
  18. Edges, Borders and Inlay Banding ..... by Jim MacKeracher
  19. Black and Blue Spots ..... by Bruce Fairchild

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Prized by collectors today, the decorative wooden objects known as Tunbridge ware were originally fashion able souvenirs from the English resort Tunbridge Wells, south-east of London. The proliferation of these veneered and mosaic boxes, game boards, inkstands and other accessories coincided with the development of the Wells as a spa after the discovery of local mineral springs in the early 17th century. Originally, the heavily wooded area probably provided the material for a cask-making industry, as "tun" means "cask" in middle English.

Tunbridge Wells' popularity as a resort grew as the century progressed. It reached a pinnacle of prestige in 1666 when Charles II held court there to escape plague ridden London. The tourists who followed the royal visitors were in turn followed by itinerant vendors who displayed their souvenir trinkets under the trees. Local shopkeepers developed their own specialty wares to compete. In 1697, the English traveller and diarist Celia Fiennes reported "shops full of ... all sorts of curious wooden ware, which this place is noted for." The unusual objects mentioned by Miss Fiennes were to evolve over the years into the pieces shown here, which are part of the collection of John P. Ryan, president of Smith & Watson, a New York based maker of fine reproduction furniture. Over the past 25 years, Mr. Ryan has amassed one of the largest Tunbridge collections in private hands.

The term "Tunbridge ware" encompasses a range of items that changed greatly in design over the years. In the 18th century it referred to wooden objects who designs featured sharply contrasting wood veneers. Early patterns included the cube design and the triangular Vandyke pattern. Borders were simple, often plain stringing and banding of contrasting woods.

Perhaps the most interesting and technically dazzling work to come from the souvenir industry of Tunbridge Wells is the end grain mosaic ware, which appeared around 1830. Of the documented Tunbridge makers, no one has been credited the distinction of innovating this technique. Some descendants of these makers have claimed the honour for their ancestors, but the question has yet to be resolved by scholars.

Increased pleasure travel in the 19th century led to a corresponding increase in demand for souvenirs, and Tunbridge craftsmen sought a method to speed production of their wares to accommodate the growing market. End grain mosaic work was the answer, although in retrospect the new process hardly seems simple.

Following a coloured pattern on graph paper, a craftsman built up the design with hardwood sticks of various dimensions. The carefully cut sticks were glued to each other, tied together under pressure, and, when dry, sliced traversely into 1/16" thick veneers. The resulting patterned mosaic sheets were then glued to the objects. The final piece was sanded and polished.

There was little fanfare to herald the new technique. Makers preferred to wait until customers had accepted the mosaic work. Once they did, the craft achieved fame on its merits.

At first, the traditional cube and Vandyke inlay patterns appeared with mosaic borders, but gradually, as skills increased, many other design sources were tapped. Graph patterns for Berlin wool-work sources were tapped.

Graph patterns for Berlin wool-work panels, a popular form of needlework, were copied with hardwood sticks to create rich floral and figured borders. Fine butterfly and bird mosaics were done in the late 1820's; local castles and ruins became popular motifs after 1850. Later in the century, animal mosaics appeared. Designs became more elaborate in the late 19th century, but the craft died out in the early 1900's because of a lack of skilled artisans.

Today Tunbridge mosaic souvenirs serve as a reminder of those woodworkers who produced such fine work that even royalty, Queen Victoria, for one, accepted them as gifts with alacrity.

The John P. Ryan Tunbridge ware collection, one of the largest in private hands, spans 1780 to 1880 and includes several choice items.

1) A sarcophagus shaped tea caddy, c.1860, features a mosaic of Eridge Castle on its lid. The side and border are patterned after designs of Berlin wood work, popular floral on figural needlework panels of the period.

2) St. George slaying the dragon adorns the lid of a rare tea caddy, c.1810. Unusual geometric mosaic provides additional decoration.

3) Eridge Castle bordered by floral wool work motifs graces this c.1860 jewellery cabinet.

4) A rare perfume bottle case, c.1830 illustrates the cube and the triangular Vandyke veneer patterns, which predate end-grain mosaic designs.



by Jim MacKeracher

from Canadian Marquetry February 1998

Occasionally thin lines are required to be inlaid with veneer, perhaps as hairs or whiskers in a portrait, or tree branches in a detailed landscape. Straight lines can be made quite easily with a knife and ruler. Curved lines are more difficult to do. The fret saw can produce curved lines of a consistent width.

Determine the thickness of the line to be inlaid. Select the appropriate fret saw blade (Chart B1) and put it in the fret saw. Place cellophane tape on both sides of the host veneer covering the line. With the front side up, saw along the line with blade perpendicular to the table. A piece of waste veneer or cardboard taped to the back will reduce fraying of the host veneer. Start the cut at the end of the line where the starting hole will be least visible. For example, start the cut for a hair or whisker at its root, or for a branch start the cut at the crotch of the limb, making sure to do the outer branches first. Clean out any saw dust from the cut. If necessary, slide the blade back and forth along the cut to clean it out. (Diagram B1).

Next, select the veneer to be inlaid in the cut. It is easiest to use a veneer with straight, fine, even grain. Place this veneer on a flat cutting surface. Trim the edge of the veneer with a knife placed against a straight edge running parallel to the grain. Cut thin strips with the knife and straight edge so that the strips are about 1 times the thickness of the host veneer. Take a strip and cut it to the length of the saw cut or slightly larger, taking into account any curvature. Place the strip between two pieces of sandpaper on a flat surface. Sand the strip until the desired thickness is reached. (Diagram B2).

Push the strip edgewise into the cut. Start at the end opposite at which the fret saw began its cut. Trim any excess off the end of the strip. (Diagram B3). Turn the host veneer over (back facing up) and press down around the cut. The strip should push through. Spread glue around the strip protruding from the back. (Diagram B4). Turn the host veneer over (front facing up) and press down around the cut. This action squeezes the glue on the back up in to the cut. Wipe off the excess glue from the back. Spread glue around the strip protruding from the front and wipe off any excess. (Diagram B5). Allow the glue to dry. Trim off the protruding portion of the strip with a knife. Remove the cellophane tape from the front and back of the host veneer. Scrape the surface flat with a cabinet scraper. (Diagram B6).










by Jim MacKeracher

Sliverisation is a special technique in which a group of thin slivers of veneer are glued together to act collectively as a piece of veneer. One method is to press flat a pile of shavings mixed with white glue, to the thickness of standard veneer. This special veneer has randomly criss-crossing slivers, good for bushes, birds' nests, etc. A more refined and intricate method is to individually place the slivers, reminiscent of natural wood grain. The slivers are arranged parallel, in a smooth flowing pattern, effective for hair, grass, etc.

The following is a technique to produce a distinct piece of slivered veneer which is cut into the picture with a saw.

Making Slivers

Select the veneers for the slivers. The best veneers to use are straight and fine-grained. Trim the edge of the veneer with a knife and straight edge, making sure the edge is parallel to the grain. Place the veneer between two pieces of wood, with protruding above these wood supports. Set the depth of the iron of a plane to produce the desired thickness of sliver. Draw the veneer across the plane, producing curled slivers. (Diagram C1).

Generate a large enough quantity of shavings of the chosen veneers and store them in separate containers. Sometimes the shavings break up when planed, especially with brittle, dry , or coarse-grained veneer. One of the following remedies before planning may help to produce better shavings.

1. Lightly dampen the veneer with water. This seems to help when working with dry, brittle veneers.

2. Coat the front and back of the veneer with a mixture of glue and water, or the planned picture finish. Press the veneer flat until dry.

Waste Veneer Preparation

A waste piece of veneer with a window cut into it needs to be made. The window allows the pattern to show through while being filled with slivers and glue.

The waste veneer is oriented on the back of the picture with reference marks so that it can be later cut in with a fret saw. Draw several crosses on the pattern and matching crosses on the back of the picture. Punch holes through the waste veneer so that the crosses on the back of picture are visible. Extend the crosses onto the waste veneer. (Diagram C2).

Take the pattern and orient it on top of the waste veneer, using the reference marks. Trace the shape of the piece to be filled with slivers onto the waste veneer with transfer paper. Roughly redraw the traced out shape on the waste veneer slightly larger by to . Cut out the new, larger shape with a fret saw held perpendicular, producing a window into which the slivers are to be placed. ( Diagram C3).

Place cellophane tape over the back of the window, sticky side up. This will help keep the glue and slivers in the window yet allow a copy of the pattern to be visible through it.

Make a paper copy from the pattern of the piece to be filled with slivers, with the appropriate reference marks. To the copy add flow arrows to help orient the placement of the slivers in the window. Tape the copy onto the back of the waste veneer using the reference marks. The copy should be visible through the tape. The waste veneer is now ready for filling. (Diagram C4).

Sliver Placement

The silvers are individually glued in the window of the waste veneer. Start at one side of the window and spread a little white glue onto the cellophane tape with a syringe or brush. Take a sliver and flatten out its curl. Cut the sliver to length and place it on edge in the glue. Press it tight against the side of the window. Two sharp-tipped knives work well in placing the slivers. (Diagram C5).

Cut the ends of a sliver on a bevel where it butts up against another sliver. This produces a gradual and much more natural transition then if the slivers are cut straight across. The ends of those slivers which butt against the window's edge may be cut straight across since they will be removed later when the piece is cut into the picture. (Diagram C6).

Add glue beside the slivers already in place. Position adjacent slivers of different veneer types for contrast and of different lengths for naturalism. Pack the slivers together as tight as possible, pushing the glue out between them. Wipe off any excess glue. Remember to follow the flow arrows of the pattern taped under the window.

A fan shape can be produced by varying the lengths of the slivers. (Diagram C7).

Once all the slivers are in place, spread glue over the top surface to fill in any gaps. Press the waste veneer and slivers flat and allow them to dry. Remove the pattern and tape from the back. Level the veneer with a cabinet scraper.


In Sliverisation Orient the waste veneer on the back of the picture using the reference marks and tape it in place. Cut the actual piece shape from the pattern into the picture using conventional fret saw cutting techniques.

Final Touches

The abrupt ends of the slivers along the edge of the piece cut into the host veneer can be softened. Individually extend slivers into the veneer using the method of How to Inlay Fine Lines with Veneer discussed earlier in this newsletter. (Diagram C8).



by Doug Denton

There have been many good articles written about knife cutting marquetry pictures which explain different methods of cutting. If you are new to knife cutting, I would suggest you first read one of the following books:

The technique most often used in knife cutting is called the window method. I like to knife cut my marquetry pictures from the front using the window method combined with bevel cutting. The following set of illustrations show the steps to be taken in bevel cutting.



by Frank Harris  

from Canadian Marquetry May 1995

Which direction to cut?  Clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Hand held saw with the teeth pointing away from you?

Machine mounted saw with the teeth pointing towards you?

Table tilted to the left, saw vertical?

Table tilted to the right, saw vertical?

Saw tilted to the left, table horizontal?

Saw tilted to the right, table horizontal?

Veneer piece to be inserted from the bottom?

Veneer piece to be inserted from the top?

For a beginner reading and trying to learn from a marquetry manual, the above situations must be very confusing.  He or she doesn't realize, as the expert does, that they will probably never encounter more than one or two of these situations in a lifetime.  They probably wonder how they will ever remember all the rules laid down for each situation.  Rather than trying to remember rules for deciding which way to cut for any situation.  I would recommend to beginners that they always simply visualize a tapered plug (veneer piece to be inserted) being fitted into a tapered hole (background veneer) and cut in the direction which will give this taper.  This visualization technique will make all the rules unnecessary.  It does not matter if you are inlaying from the top or bottom, or the teeth are pointing away or towards you, or any other situation.  You can only cut in one of two directions (clockwise or counter-clockwise) and only one of these directions will give the required tapered plug in the tapered hole.

I feel sure that other marquetarians have other ways of making this decision, so talk about it, think about it and find the way that works best for you.


by Mike Stredwick

At our November 11th 1990 workshop meeting, I was asked by one of the members if I could write an article on the problem of darker woods bleeding into the lighter woods when sanding and finishing a picture. Now it so happened that I was cutting a picture of the Welsh flag at the workshop meeting. For those unfamiliar with the flag, it is a red dragon on a green and white background. The veneers I had chosen were padauk, holly and green poplar.

I knew from past experience with padauk, that you have to seal it before you do any sanding or scraping., but I thought I would do a little research and see what other marquetarians had to say on the matter.

Shortly after the workshop meeting, I received my Winter 1990 copy of The Marquetarian from the U.K., and there to behold was a paragraph about bleeding padauk. Here's what Ernie Ives had to say about the problem:

"There are several courses open to you.

1) Give the individual padauk pieces two coats of sealer and let them dry thoroughly. (If applied too quickly, the second coat will dissolve the first.)

2) Apply the first general sealing coat sparingly. (never pour on the sealer)

3) Use a shellac sealer (or white French polish) to initially seal the padauk and use the cellulose sealer for the general applications.

4) Brush coat or spray with a clear aerosol lacquer before using the padauk. N.B. Bright red padauk will change if exposed to strong light and will probably be a darkish brown mahogany in a couple of years."

Next, I looked up an article by Peter L. Rose on finishing marquetry from Fine Woodworking on Marquetry and Veneer.

"Always buy the smallest can of shellac available - you only need a small amount on a piece of scrap. It should be dry within two hours - if it isn't, it will remain gummy and should be discarded. The shelf-life of white shellac is about six months to a year. Mix the shellac with an equal amount of denatured alcohol and apply to the picture. Let dry and apply another coat. This seals the wood and keeps the lighter woods free of the dust of darker woods when sanding. It also seals in the oil of veneers such as rosewood and teak."

This article mentions scraping the picture flat before sealing. I have found, however, that even scraping padauk can cause it to bleed into lighter woods. I therefore seal the padauk first and then the rest of the picture before using the scraper. I then re-seal the picture, padauk first and then the lighter woods - at least two coats, and let dry before sanding.

Finally, my research lead me to an article by William A. Lincoln in his book The Marquetry Manual. In this article, the first coat of sealer is called the fixative coat. Here are parts of that article.:

"The objectives of the fixative coat are to partially fill the open-pored woods to protect them from staining, and to completely fill the pigmented woods to prevent discoloration. It is also to raise and stiffen the grain of the veneers to facilitate the subsequent block-sanding of the surface without clogging the open-pored woods."

"It is important that the fixative coat and the following base coats of sanding sealer dry invisibly and prevent the penetration of subsequent coats and the suction caused by the finishing coats of polish. This also cuts down on the number of finishing coats as it fills the pores with a tough film which will permit the minimum grain shrinkage."

"The fixative coat is not 'flowed on' like a wash coat, but carefully applied with a fine camel hair or squirrel hair mop brush. Many marquetarians prefer to rub it into the pores with a finger tip protected with a disposable vinyl glove making sure that the open-grained veneers are treated first. (The sealer solvent can be injurious to your health if in contact with the skin.)"

"Pick out the whitest woods first, such as sycamore, horse chestnut, obeche, etc., to seal them, Then work over the highly coloured woods painting each of them within their outline. Do not sand after this coat. Allow to dry and check if the grain is sealed on whether there are patches of veneer still open."

"Have a small quantity of solvent handy to dip the brush in between coating each veneer, to keep it clean, and wipe the brush off each time. Do not go over parts already treated while the sealer is wet. When the whole picture has been protected with this fixative coat, allow the surface to dry thoroughly. Do not sand at this stage. You can then apply three or four coats of full-strength sanding sealer in rapid succession again without sanding between coats."

"The picture should now be left in a warm dry place to allow for drying out and grain shrinkage. After a week or two, the picture should be ready for sanding."

Well, after reading all these articles, you would think my 'dragon picture' would have come out perfect, wouldn't you? Not so. On close inspection of the picture, I discovered a very slight discoloration of the holly by the dragon's mouth. All right, so the dragon was breathing fire, right? Well, whatever, it just goes to show you have to be very careful with padauk.


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by Jim MacKeracher

Zigzag cutting is a specialized technique using a knife. The process involves joining small pieces of straight grain veneer in a series of jagged saw tooth joints. There are several advantages to this technique:

  1. The spikiness of the joint creates a hairy or furry effect.
  2. Colour changes between adjacent veneers is more subtle and blended. The longer and narrower the points, the more gradual the change.
  3. Straight grain pieces of the same veneer can be arranged to produce a curved effect without having to search for the perfect piece.


Knife Sharpening

Zigzag cutting requires an extremely sharp knife. I use an

"Xacto" knife with #11 blades. A newly purchased blade has a steep bevel angle. I found a lower bevel angle gives a finer and an easier cut. Therefore I customize the blade by rebevelling the edges.

Refer to Diagram B1.

The first step is to bevel the unbevelled flat top of the blade at a steep angle (about 30 degrees). This new top bevel produces a diamond shaped tip, which is thinner and sharper for cutting and stabbing than a conventional blade. The top of the blade is placed against a sharpening stone. Tilt the blade to the desired angle and hone the edge. Make sure to hone both sides evenly. I use a coarse diamond stone with water to do the bulk of the bevelling and change to a fine diamond stone with water to put on the final edge.

The next step is to reduce the bevel of the original cutting edge. The blade is placed flat on a sharpening stone. Tilt the blade slightly (a few degrees) and hone the edge. This will thin down the blade and produce a lower bevel angle. The cutting edge of the blade is passed over a piece of leather to polish it.


The best material on which to draw a pattern is Mylar or clear acetate because they are durable and translucent. To reduce the complexity of the pattern, do not draw the individual zigzag pieces on it. It is much easier to make up the pieces as you go. The pattern should have lines for colour and veneer type changes as well as grain direction indicators.


Reference Marks

I use reference marks to accurately position the pattern repeatedly on the front and back of the background veneer. The marks consist of crosses drawn on the pattern and corresponding crosses on the front and back of the background veneer.

Punch ¼" circular holes in at least two corners of the pattern. Attach the top of the pattern in its preferred location on the front of the background veneer with masking tape. Place cellophane tape under the holes in the pattern on the front surface of the background veneer. Draw cross hair lines, centred in the holes, on the cellophane tape and extended onto the pattern. I like to use a drafting pen because the ink dries quickly and does not smudge on the pattern and tape. Remove the masking tape and pattern, and place pieces of cellophane tape over the crosses on the front of the background veneer to prevent them from wearing off. Push the tip of a sewing needle through the centre of the crosses, piercing the veneer completely. Place pieces of cellophane tape on the back of the background veneer where the needle comes through. Tape the upside-down pattern on the back of the background veneer using the needle holes and cross marked holes on the pattern to orient it. Draw the same cross marks on the tape to match up with those on the pattern. Remove the pattern and place pieces of tape to cover the crosses on the back of the background veneer. (Diagram B2)


The order of piece cutting is similar to conventional cutting techniques. First cut the pieces that appear dimensionally behind others. In the case of an animal or flower start at the outside edges and work inwards.

Place the pattern on the front of the background veneer. Draw, with transfer paper, a zigzag piece onto the veneer making sure to use the lines on the pattern and grain direction indicators as a guide. The inside of this piece is waste to be replaced. The saw tooth edge is the finished visible joint. Make the piece slightly wider and longer than necessary. The extra will be removed when the adjacent pieces are cut in.

Move the pattern to the back of the background veneer and draw a similar outline on the back. Add lines to indicate the direction the grain is to follow. Cellophane tape both sides of the background veneer and replacement veneer in the areas to be cut. This gives the veneer more strength and prevents glue staining. Attach the replacement veneer on the back of the background veneer with masking tape, using the grain direction lines and piece outline as a guide.

With the front of the background veneer up, cut all the points starting at the crests of the points and pulling the knife towards the troughs. Stop the knife just as it enters the waste at the troughs. I initially stab the tip of the knife vertically in the veneer at the crest of the point. As the knife is drawn to the trough the blade is lowered so more of the knife's edge does the cutting. Several lighter passes with the knife are better than one heavy cut. This prevents the knife from being lead off its course by the grain of the veneer. The idea is to cut out the waste from the background veneer and just score the replacement veneer attached underneath. Finish cutting out the waste in the background veneer. (Diagram B3)

Detach the replacement veneer and cut out the piece marked by the score marks. Place white glue along the edges of the window in the background veneer. Insert the saw tooth tips at a slight angle and lower the rest of the piece into the window pushing it towards the tips. Spread some glue along the outline of the piece and work it into the joint with a finger. Wipe off any excess glue with a paper towel. Remove all cellophane tape from the front and back of the background veneer and zigzag piece.

Follow the same procedure for the next piece making sure to slightly overlap the edge with piece already in place. If the grain changes direction from the previous piece place the joint between them so the grain reflects from the joint at the same angle in both pieces. (Diagram B4)

Alternative Method

An alternative method is to cut out the waste in the background veneer and create a window without attaching and scoring the replacement veneer. The window is positioned over the replacement veneer and the edges of the window used as a guide for the knife as it cuts through the replacement veneer. I use this method only when it is too hard to see the score marks produced in the first method. The fit with this second method is less precise. Very long thin points can move as the knife cuts along side of them even when pressed down creating an inaccurate piece.

Odds and Ends

Zigzag pieces are easier to work with if limited in size to five or so points. All points should be cut parallel to the grain. An irregular pattern of point widths and lengths is much more natural looking. A shadowed picture with more depth can be made by consistently wood burning one side of each piece. (Diagram B5)


by Bruce Fairchild

To darken an area of a picture we can use sand shading to give depth and detail. To lighten an area of a picture we can use bleaching. Not all woods react the same to bleaching, and you must experiment with the bleach you are using on the type of wood and the time of exposure to bleaching before neutralizing. When experimenting, an accurate time of exposing the wood to the bleach must be recorded, and then after drying observe the effects. All bleaching must be neutralized or the reaction will continue until the wood is dry.

I tried hair bleach (Hydrogen Peroxide), without neutralizing with water and this bleach did not take much if any pigment out of the veneer. Laundry bleach (Sodium Hypochloride) did a fair job of bleaching the wood and the effect was related to time exposed to the bleach before neutralized with water. Oxalic acid crystals are said to be the next strongest bleaching agent and are neutralized with water and borax. I did not experiment with Oxalic acid and can offer no advice.

The strongest wood bleach is a commercial wood bleach consisting of two bottles Part A and Part B, (Sodium Hydroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide). A ten second exposure to this bleach without neutralizing will remove most of the pigment from a piece of mahogany. This bleach is also neutralized with water after the desired bleaching time.

My advice to you if you plan to use bleaching is to experiment first and keep an accurate record of the exposure times per type of wood.

There is an article in the Spring issue of the British Marquetry Society's journal The Marquetarian, which deals with a problem on bleaching. A Mr. Basil Heath-Brown use laundry bleach cut with 5 to 10 parts water. He claims that washing with water did not neutralize the bleaching action, in his case.


by Jim MacKeracher

Silhouettes are one of the simplest ways to learn how to use a fret saw. More complex pictures use similar fret saw methods. Here is one procedure for fret sawing silhouettes.

Select two contrasting veneers and cut them the same size as each other, making sure that they are larger than the chosen pattern. Try to avoid using hard or coarse-grained veneer. Temporarily tape the top of the pattern onto one of the pieces of veneer.

Place transfer paper (graphite, not carbon) between the veneer and the pattern. Trace the outline using a fine-tipped instrument such as an empty ball point pen. Remove the pattern and place cellophane tape over both sides of both pieces of veneer covering the traced pattern. The tape helps support the veneer and minimizes glue staining. Tape the two pieces of veneer together with masking tape, the traced pattern on top. (Diagram A1).

Puncture a hole through both veneers with a needle. The hole should be small, just large enough to insert a fret saw blade. Place the hole on the tracing line in the least obvious location, such as the trough of a valley made by the line. Use a thimble or drill the eye of the needle into a small block of wood to help propel the needle through the veneers.

Tighten the bottom of the saw blade in the handle of the fret saw. Size 2/0 special marquetry blades are recommended for a beginner. Thread the loose top end of the saw blade through the puncture hole from the bottom of the veneers. Tighten the top of the saw blade in the fret saw, making sure the blade is under adequate tension. Place the veneers onto the fret saw table. Saw around the shape using the table's edge as a support for the veneer.

Hold the saw stationary, moving it up and down with one hand, and push and rotate the veneers towards the saw blade with the other hand. Short smooth strokes often work the best. Do not force the saw action. It is better to take your time and thereby reduce the possibility of breaking saw blades. Make sure to hold the saw stead y and perpendicular to the table top and veneers. ( Diagram A2).

Once the sawing is finished, loosen the top of the saw and pull the veneers out. Remove the loose pieces carefully and store them. Complex pieces can be taped in place with masking tape until the entire silhouette has been sawn. Saw the remaining pieces using the same technique.

When all the pieces are sawn out, remove the masking tape holding the veneers together. Interchange the pieces and place them in the holes. Tape them in place on one side only with masking tape. Spread white wood glue around the piece and force it into the saw cuts. Wipe off any excess with a paper towel. Set the veneer aside to dry, placing a heavy object on it to ensure it dries flat.

Once the glue is dry, remove the cellophane tape from both sides of the veneer and glued-in pieces. Scrape with a cabinet scraper or sand the picture flat. The silhouette is now ready for mounting and framing.


Chart B1 Jewellery Saw Blade Sizes

Blade No. Thickness (Inches)

(source: Gesswein Canada, 317 Attwell Drive, Rexdale, Ontario M9W 5C1 Tel. (416) 675-9171)



by John Sedgwick

A simple, yet appealing hanger can be made for your pictures using a method described in Canadian Marquetry by Doug Denton.

Doug's method used two small flush-cut brass plates screwed to the back of the picture, over a hole in which a knot reposes. A shoe lace passes between the brass plates, being secured by the knots, thus producing the hanger.

Two tips on this method. First, if you are using particle board for backing, pre-drill (undersized) the hole for screwing the brass plate inlaid to the back. Be careful not to go through to the front of the picture. The purpose of this tip is to reduce the tendency of a screw to force material ahead of the tip, creating an irregularity on the front surface.

The second tip is to replace the knot in the hole by squirting epoxy into the hole and pushing the end of the string into it until it is full. This is also an easier way of obtaining the right length rather than fiddling with the position of the knot.




by James Colter

To obtain a darker shade of harewood, add baking soda to the ferrous sulphate solution. The result will be very dramatic. 




by Tony Stuart

Register pins are used in the graphic arts for assembling film and processing printing plates. They come in various heights, of about 1/8" to 1/4 ", and they are 1/4" in diameter. A big advantage of using register pins for marquetry is the ease with which both sides of the workpiece can be accurately worked. I happen to have a pair of these pins and have used them successfully so I thought I'd pass this idea on.

The regular 3-pin binder-punch I have makes holes just a bit too large, about 0.265" diameter. So I use a one-hole punch (Grand & Toy $2.00) which is just a little smaller than the pins but presents no problems for tracing paper and white-card-wasters.

The technique is very simple. If a one-hole punch is used, attach temporarily the waster (background veneer), tracing paper, and working pattern (transparent overlay) together. Punch two holes as far apart as possible. They should be roughly equidistant from the centre, along one edge. The assembly must be kept flat and together while punching the two holes. Therefore, it may be best to put a register pin in the first hole punched, then check for position and flatness before punching the second. If a regular binder-punch is used, each item, the waster and tracing paper etc., can be punched separately.

It is best to reinforce with cellophane tape thin papers such as tracing paper in the areas which are to be punched. If a hard veneer is to be used for the waster (background), then a strip of soft thin cereal box cardboard about one inch wide should be securely taped to one edge of the waster and the holes punched in the cardboard. The pins are placed in the punched holes in the waster (background).

With the prepunched pattern and tracing paper placed over the pins in position on the waster (background), trace the design in the usual way. Now each time a new section of the pattern is to be traced on the work piece (background), just pop it on the pins and it will be accurately aligned. To work on the back, simply turn everything over and reposition it on the pins.

However, because the pins are not a common item, and because it is more convenient if a regular 3-hole-punch can be used, I tried using wooden dowel to make a pair of pins. They seem to work okay (maybe the dowel is a bit oversized). To make a two-pin setup, take a punched piece of cereal box cardboard to your local lumber store and find a piece of dowel that fits the holes snugly. Cut two strips of cardboard the same size, punch one strip in your 3-hole punch and paste them together. Saw off two pieces of the dowel about 1/4" long as square as you can. Chamfer one end with sandpaper and glue the other end into each of the two outside holes.

The metal pins can be obtained from a graphic arts and printer supply house. So check the yellow pages in your area. Canadian Graphic Supply Ltd., 133 The West Mall, in Etobicoke have them if you purchase a minimum of ten pieces. An unmounted pin costs less than $2.00 and a pin on a metal base is $9.00. You will need a pair of them of course.


by Mike Flower

When I got my first veneers I noticed that they were of different thicknesses and puzzled me. I also wondered how should I get started, what should I use as a tool, a knife or a fret saw. Most of the best picture seemed to be done in England with the Knife. The fretsaw seemed to be much faster, so why bother with the knife?

Although there are people who work exclusively with the knife, the use of the saw can save a lot of time. Fretsaws are not new, they were invented in 1562. In Europe most of the veneers are cut 1/40 inch (0.65 to 0.7mm) in thickness. But in USA, Australia, Canada and other countries veneers are cut 1/28 inch (0.9mm) thick. So the thinner veneers come from Europe and the thicker from the new world. The thinner veneers are easier to cut with the knife and as a result advanced knife-cutting techniques have evolved. The thicker veneers are easy to cut quickly with a saw. For theses reasons the craft has developed along two different paths. In the Marquetry Manual, William A. Lincoln says "those using the thinner veneers in Europe have both perfected both knife-cutting and fretsawing as taught by the Marquetry society, and those who have access mainly to the thicker veneers, use the fretsawing techniques taught by the Marquetry Society of America"

I am very pleased that in Canada we continue to encourage people to learn both tools. From a personal point of view I use the saw when ever practical because it is faster and the cutting is less likely to follow the grain .

When the veneer is very thin or fragile I put Scotts tape on both sides and use the window method to cut the veneer. If for some reason the veneer disintegrates when using the saw I can always use the window created by the saw, tape a new piece of veneer underneath the work and finish the work with the knife.

When it comes to cutting straight lines, I much prefer the use of the knife. I have trouble keeping the saw straight. Sometimes I use the straight edge of a ruler to help with lines, starting at the far point, and making small step cuts, working backwards to the near point. The knife is naturally essential for the stringers and cutting the backing the board, I can't imagine not using the knife sometime during a piece of work So for cutting landscape, terrain, trees etc. I use the saw, for structures, walls masts etc., I use the knife. When I look at some of my earlier pictures some of the lines are too straight. Maybe I should use the saw more often no matter how thick the veneer.

Just remember there is no right or wrong way to do marquetry only the way that works for you. Happy cutting.



by Jim MacKeracher

Photo copy the pattern at 100% then glue the copy to the background veneer. Spray adhesive applied to the back of the photo copy then applied to the veneer is the simplest. Spray adhesive is available from art-supply or craft-supply stores. Rubber cement works well also. When your project is finished, clean any traces of spray adhesive from the veneer with lacquer thinners. Don't swab thinners on unremoved photo copy pieces, as it will dissolve the toner and stain the veneer. Rubber cement residue cleans up easily by rubbing it off with your finger or an eraser.

Transfer by tracing

Sometimes it's a lot easier to draw a simple outline directly onto the background veneer. Slide a piece of transfer paper under the pattern and trace the pattern with a sharp pencil or an old empty ball-point pen. Press hard enough to mark the veneer but not hard enough to indent it. Common office supply carbon paper would work but transfer paper is preferred as it leaves wax-free lines which are easily removed. You can find transfer paper at an art-supply or craft-supply store.


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by Frank Harris

Refer to Figure 1.

Cut the desired shape and size of oval #1 in veneer.

Cut 1/16" wide strips (parallel with the grain) of the veneer selected for the black and white strips.

In order to make an accent border with the grain running at right angles to the edge of oval #1, it is necessary to make a partial oval from wedge-shaped pieces of veneer as shown in Figure 2 and oval #2. The accent border of the black and white strips can then be cut from oval #2 as detailed in steps 4, 5, 6, and 7. The number of wedges and their angles depend on the shape and size of oval #1 and therefore cannot be documented.

Wide wedges can be used on the flattest parts of the oval and narrower wedges on the tighter curves. Always try to maintain the grain at right angles to the edge of the oval. It is an individual cut and fit process and no production methods using identical wedges seems to be possible. Fasten the wedges together with veneer tape on the underside.

Align oval 1 on top of oval #2 and hold in place with masking tape. Using a compass, draw an oval on oval #2 bigger than oval 1 by an amount equal to two thicknesses of strips from step 2 plus the width of the accent border. Set the compass and holding one leg against the edge of oval #1 draw the oval (see note 5)

Step cut around oval 1 and through oval #2 using a spacer consisting of one thickness each of strips from step 2 between the edge of oval #1 and the knife. Step cut about 1½" then turn the taped assembly over and cut from oval #2 the 1½" piece of veneer along the knife cut. When viewed from the top the taped assembly will show a space between oval #1 and oval #2 into which the strips from step 2 will fit perfectly. Before inserting the strips they must be mitred for a joint and I recommend wetting the strip to conform better to the curve. I also recommend making the mitred joints on the flattest part of the curve and using strips long enough to avoid joints on the sharp curves. Use veneer tape on the underside of the assembly to hold the strips in the cut space.

The next step is to carefully cut out the oval which was drawn in Step 4. I cut mine with a sharp scissors and then carefully sanded the edge to the line using a jig to keep the sanding block at 90 degrees to the edge.

We are now ready to step-cut this sub-assembly into the background veneer while at the same time adding another black and white strip to the outside of the accent border. Tape the sub-assembly (with masking tape) to the background veneer and repeat step 5.

All that remains are the normal finishing operations.


  1. The black and white strip can of course be any colour you select for contrast. Black is usually good with almost any other wood but if the accent border is light coloured then a maple strip might not contrast very well with it.
  2. It is important that the joints between the wedges of oval #2 do not show up in the accent border so a somewhat coarse grained wood will tend to hide these joints best.
  3. To greatly simplify this project use a circle instead of an oval for then all wedges can be the same width and angle.
  4. Depending on the veneer selected for the accent border it might be a concern for some marquetarians to always keep the same side of the veneer uppermost when assembling the wedges and to assemble the wedges sequentially as they are cut from a strip. This would be done to ensure more consistent light reflection from the grain.
  5. Any other method of drawing a concentric oval is of course quite acceptable. The method described was selected because it is simple and does not required any special equipment or know-how.




by Derrick Clay

from Canadian Marquetry May 1994

Ellipses are circles viewed from other than straight on. If a circle is rotated it is foreshortened and we see an ellipse. At whatever angle an ellipse is viewed , one dimension remains constant with the circle. This one constant is the axis - the straight line through the circle and the ellipse upon which it rotates. (fig. 1). As can also be seen from this illustration that a number of ellipses at various angles all have a constant height.

Fig 2 shows how to build an ellipse using a circle as a guide. Start by placing a circle in a square. this gives us the edges that can be used for measurements. The circle is uniform in measurement and so is the square and together


they are the perfect tool for building an ellipse. Start by dividing the square into eight equal segments as shown. Where these dividing lines cross the circle, place reference points. Next decide upon the width of the ellipse and draw a rectangle next to the square, (as shown). This width is related to the angle through which the circle has been rotated. Now divide the rectangle into eight equal parts as was done with the square. The reference points are extended across from the circle to the rectangle and the oval may now be drawn by joining these points and will be related to the amount of rotation of the circle.


To get the proper perspective on ellipses converging to a vanishing point, such as the wheels on an approaching train, we can use a similar method to that used in fig. 2, but since we are looking at a vanishing point, the ellipse must also look at this vanishing point. Referring to fig.3 the rectangle drawn next to the circle in fig.2 is replaced by a trapezium since we have now taken the vanishing point into consideration. The procedure used in building this converging ellipse is similar to that described in fig.2 except that the reference points from the circle are transferred only to the vertical side of the square. These reference points must now extend to the vanishing point. If this was not done the ellipse would not be in perspective to the vanishing point. To obtain the proper height , or axis, for this ellipse diagonal lines must be drawn in the trapezium and where they intersect will be the proper height of the ellipse. Note that the two halves of the ellipse are unequal.


In fig.4 a second vanishing point has been introduced and a second ellipse has been drawn to give depth to the original ellipse.



Light rays travel in straight lines and are blocked by any object in their way. The absence of light caused by the object will create a shadow peculiar to that object. Morning and afternoon shadows are longer and more dramatic than those cast in the middle of the day because of the low angle of the sun at these times. More detailed information on the geometry of shadows can be found on pages 247 - 249 of The Marquetry Manual by William A. Lincoln available in the Society library.

Referring to the following illustration reproduced from this source; if the policeman had been directly in front of the light, the length of the shadow would not be evident as the vanishing point of the shadow would have been covered by the policeman himself and the length of the shadow would not be evident. this would also apply to any person or object directly behind the light source.


If the light source happens to fall behind and directly in line with the object, like the fence post in the following illustration, the correct length of shadow can be determined by moving it to one side and by using the technique shown here move it back into place.


Example 1

Calm water will reflect an object in the same way as if a mirror was placed beneath it. If, however, the surface of the water is rippled or moving, the reflection will be broken up and extended. The depth of the water is of no consequence since reflections occur only at the surface. Reflections always advance towards the viewer and do not behave in the same way as shadows. A reflection is not just an upside down view but a different view altogether as shown in Example 1. where the reflection shows the underside of the boat rail. The closer the object is to eye level and the horizon line the more accurate will be the reflection of it. Example 2. illustrates the effect of rippled water on the reflection of the piling

The photograph in Example 3. shows that reflections always advance toward the viewer and do not behave the same as shadows in that they reflect colour whereas shadows do not. The photograph also illustrates that whereas the reflections of the large trees, by the golfer, advance towards the viewer the shadows are at right angles to the reflections and that only the tops of the trees located further back are reflected. It may also be noted that the reflection of the bridge advances towards the viewer whereas the shadow is directly under the bridge.


Example 2                                                                                                             Example 3


Further information on shadows and reflections can be found in The Marquetry Manual.



Drawing an ellipse is not easy. There are various geometric ways of doing it but they all are messy and time consuming. An easy way to draw ellipses is with a little , simple to make a jig called an ovaler. It allows the drawing of ellipses of different heights and widths. Making it won't take long and it will draw ellipses as small as 5½" tall by 3-7/8" wide. If anything smaller than this is required it will be best achieved using a photocopying machine

Begin with a 3 x 3 x ¾ inch block of hardwood as shown in the diagram. On two edges of the block draw a line 3/8" from one face ,i.e. the centre line. Make a mark at the centre of the block on this line and drill a 5/16" hole all the way through the block.

 Draw two lines across the centre of each face of the block and make a sawcut 3/16" wide to open up the centre of the 5/16" holes. Now saw off the corners of the block leaving just 1/8" of wood beside the holes. This is to allow the drawing of the smaller ovals.

The travellers which allow the arm to pivot are made from 5/16" dowel, each 7/8" long. They must be sanded so that they slide easily along the track. This is best done before the pieces are cut to length. Next drill a 1/8" hole in the centre of the 7/8" pieces and fit a 7/8" length of 1/8" dowel into these holes.

The arm on, which the pencil rides, can be as long as you wish and sliding the pencil in and out changes the size of the oval. The three small holes, centred 3/8" apart change the length to width ratio. The hole at the end of the arm should be drilled 7/8" from the nearest ratio hole. A good length to start with is 4½" which will draw ovals as large as 9¼".


by Jim MacKeracher

From Canadian Marquetry October 1995

In this article I will describe the method I was taught at work and presently use to add veneer edges, borders, and inlay banding to panels. This method can be used on all shapes of panels from rectangles to ovals but I will focus on the process for a rectangular panel (Figure 1). The first part of the article outlines how to glue veneer edges on the panel. The second part shows how to selectively glue an oversize picture without a border, trim it to size, and add a border. The third part deals with how to insert inlay banding between the picture and border. For specific steps I will suggest alternatives.





Note that the method requires some special equipment including a press, pipe or 'F' clamps, veneer saw, and laminate trim router or regular router.

The substrate for the panel is cut and worked in its finished size. The best substrate is PC (particle board) or MDF (medium density fibre board) because they are flat, smooth, and stable.

Part 1 - Edges

There are several options to attach veneer edges to the panel. For all options cut a strip of veneer for each edge at least a ½" longer than its corresponding substrate edge. For small panels make the strips at least a ¼" wider than the thickness of the substrate and even wider for large panels. The extra width and length allows for slippage and bends during clamping. The grain direction has no effect on the method only that it is harder to produce and keep together a cross grain strip.

Option A - Vertical Clamping (Figure 2)

This is my preference because it takes up less space, allows for easy clamp adjustment, and edges two opposite sides at the same time. It is limited to small rectangular panels, 3' to 4' maximum, and requires a flat, sturdy table edge at least 1" thick to properly distribute the clamping pressure along the panels edge.

Place a strip of veneer, good side down, along the edge of the table. Spread white glue on the corresponding edge of the substrate. Place the glued edge of the substrate on top of the veneer strip. Spread glue on the opposite edge of the substrate. Position the corresponding strip of veneer, bad side down, on the second glued edge.

Cover this second edge with a caul (a straight board at least 1" thick and as wide as the strip). The caul prevents the clamps from denting the veneer and evenly distributes the clamping pressure.

Clamp this unit to the table with pipe or 'F' clamps. Adjust the clamps in or out to keep the panel vertical to the table surface and eliminate gaps between the veneer strip and the edge of the substrate. Sight along the surface of the panel and adjust the clamps accordingly. A consistent bead of glue squeeze out should be present along all joints. Do not overtighten the clamps or the pressure may warp the panel and produce a bad glue joint.

Leave the panel in the clamps for a hour. Trim off the excess veneer using a veneer trimmer (Figure 3), veneer saw (Figure 4) or file (Figure 5). Sand off any excess veneer and glue from the surfaces of the panel making sure not to round over the edges. A sanding block made up of sand paper glued to 12"x3"x3/4" piece of plywood works well.









Repeat the procedure for the other two edges.













Option B - Horizontal Clamping (Figure 6)


This method will edge any size of rectangular panel but requires lots of space.

Place ¼" thick spacers on the work surface and the panel flat on top of them. The spacers allow the veneer edge strips to overlap the panel edges and prevents gluing the panel to the work surface.

Spread white glue on one panel edge. Tape the veneer strip on the glue edge with masking tape. If you feel you are able to glue the opposite edge do so. Place (a) caul(s) against the strip(s) and clamp. Try to place clamps alternating on top and below to avoid panel warping. Follow the trimming and sanding procedures described in Option A. Veneer the other edges.


Option C - Contact Cement

This method will edge all sizes and shapes of panels. Use it as a last resort because it is messy, smelly, and unforgiving.

Paint one edge and veneer strip with contact cement and let dry. Paint the strip and edge a second coat and let dry until they are tacky to the touch. Place the strip on the edge very carefully because once it touches it cannot be moved. Rub the strip down with a roller, veneer hammer, or wood block to bond the two surfaces together. Trim off the excess as described above. After an hour, rub the edge down again to push down any areas that might have separated. Veneer the other edges.

Part 2 - Picture and Border

This part will describe three steps. The first step shows how to selectively glue the untrimmed picture to the substrate. The second step involves trimming the picture to a selected distance from the edges of the substrate. The third step describes how to attach, mitre, glue, and trim the border strips.

Step 1 - Picture (Figure 7)

The first step is to use a pencil and straight edge to draw guidelines for gluing on the face surface of the substrate. The pencil lines should be drawn where the centre of the inlay will be situated. Place masking tape along the outside of the pencil lines. This will prevent the oversize portion of the picture from sticking to the substrate. Spread white glue over the area masked off. Remove the masking tape and press the oversize picture to the substrate. It is advisable to use reference marks to aid in the exact positioning of the picture and use pieces of masking tape to keep the picture from shifting. If the picture shifts during pressing, simply recut the panel edges parallel to the desired final picture edges and adjust the border width in Step 3.











Step 2 - Trim

The second step involves trimming the picture veneer to final size. There are two options.













Option A - Router (Figures 8 and 9)

The router is fast and accurate but requires precise setup and a special fence.

Set the distance from the router's fence to the outside of the router bit to be the distance from the edge of the substrate to the centre of the inlay. The depth of the bit must be set a hair shallower than the thickness of the picture veneer. Rout around the panel keeping the fence tight against its edge. Make sure the router base lies flat so the bit does not tilt and gouge the substrate. Most of the excess picture veneer should break away. Use a sharp paint scraper, chisel, and/or cabinet scraper to clean off the remainder.

Option B - Veneer Saw or Knife

Using a veneer saw or knife is slower and less accurate than a router, but for most, safer and less intimidating.

Redraw the pencil outline from Step 1. Clamp a straight edge on the inside of the pencil line. Cut along the pencil line down to the substrate. Repeat for the other sides. Remove the excess as in Option A.

Step 3 - Border (Figure 10)

Prepare the border veneer strips by making them at  least 1/8" wider than the distance from the trimmed picture edge to the edge of the panel. Butt the strips up against the trimmed picture's edge and tape them in place with veneer tape making sure the strips' ends overlap.

The next step is to cut the borders 45o corner mitres (Figure 11). Use a ruler to measure length 'A1' in Figure 11, which is the shortest side. Beginning at corner 'B', mark 'C' with a pencil on the joint between the picture and border so that length 'A2' equals length 'A1'. Lay a straight edge through the junction of mark 'C' and the joint between the picture and border past and through corner 'D'. This will produce a perfect 45o mitre to the outside corner of the panel.

Place a notched support block of the same thickness as the panel at the corner to be mitred (Figure 10). Cut through the overlapping border strips with a knife. Many people draw the knife towards the centre of the panel because it prevents spreading of the mitre, but be careful not to cut into the picture. Tilt your knife blade ever so slightly to undercut the mitre to make up for the wedge-shaped cut the knife blade makes. Mark and cut the remaining mitres.


The border is now ready to  be glued. Gluing must be done quickly to prevent the water in the glue from swelling the veneer and opening the corners. Flip up two opposite strips and spread glue onto the substrate. Flip them back down. Do the same to the other two strips. Tape the corners tightly together with masking tape. Press the panel.

Once the glue is dry, remove the masking tape. Trim off the overhanging border veneer with a knife, veneer saw, or router. To remove irregularities and glue, sand the edge smooth with a rigid sanding block.

Part 3 - Inlay

Inserting a strip of inlay banding involves removing  an exact width of veneer at the joint between the border and picture veneer.

Option A - Router

The router is fast, exact, and unforgiving.

Mark with a pencil on the panel the location of the edges of the inlay.

Select a rabbet bit of the same diameter or smaller than the inlay's width. Set the router fence so that the outside edge of the bit runs along the inside pencil line. Set the depth of the bit to be slightly less than the thickness of the inlay. Test the depth on a piece of scrap.

The router bit must be plunged down into the panel with the fence tight against the panel's edge. Rout the groove making sure not to go past the pencil lines. Turn off and remove the router. Rout the remaining grooves in the same way. If the inlay does not fit the groove, a second router pass will be required to widen the groove. This can be done by adjusting the fence or better yet, by adding pieces of masking tape to the riding surface of the fence. Clear out the corners with a chisel.

Take a piece of inlay and cut an end at a 45o angle (Figure 12). To do this, place the inlay on a hardwood block. Set a sharp polished chisel vertically on the inlay. Twist the chisel at a 45o angle. Look at the reflection of the inlay in the back of the chisel and adjust the reflection to form a 90o angle with the real inlay by rotating the chisel. Cut the inlay by giving the chisel a sharp blow.


Insert the mitre end of the inlay in one corner of a groove. Mark the length with a pencil. Cut the other end at a 45o angle. Proceed around the picture in the same manner. To join shorter lengths use the same chisel and reflection method except cut the inlay when the reflection makes the inlay appear to go through the chisel.

Remove the inlays from their grooves making sure not to mix them up. Spread a tiny amount of white glue in the grooves. Insert the inlays. Tap them in with a hammer if necessary. Several pieces of masking tape will keep them in place. Press the panel.


Option B - Inlay Cutter (Figure 13)

This method is slow but accurate.

A inlay cutter is a hand tool with two adjustable parallel cutting blades. The cutter has  an adjustable fence that runs along the outside edge of the panel. A chisel or router plane (Figure 14) is used to remove the waste between the cuts. The inlay is cut and inserted in the same way as Option A.

Option C - Knife and Straight Edge


This method is very slow and inaccurate.

A straight edge is clamped to the panel at one edge of the inlay marked by the pencil line. A knife or veneer saw is used to cut through the veneer to the substrate. The straight edge is then repositioned to cut the other edge of the inlay. The waste is removed as in Option B. The inlay is cut and inserted in the same way as Option A.

Final Comments

The picture is ready to be scraped, sanded, and finished.

The advantage of the method outlined in this article is its accuracy and reliability. The border strips and inlays are positioned precisely with consistent widths and extremely accurate mitres.


by Bruce Fairchild.

I recently had a piece of marquetry come out of the press with black spot, mostly on the lighter coloured veneers. These spots could not scrap or sand off. I tried wood bleach on the spots, from my experience don't (it changed the veneer colouring by bleaching the colour out of the veneer, in the area I applied it). Since the piece of marquetry was now ruined, I used some muriatic acid on the spots, it remove the spots but destroyed the piece of marquetry. The acid give veneers a purplish shade and the veneer cracked. I should let you know this piece of marquetry was pressed with a sheet of rubber about twice the thickness of an inner tube, which I thought would be good means of applying equal pressure on the difference in veneer thickness.

Now what happened to cause these spots! The prime cause of spotting is caused by allowing the veneers in the press to become damp. Water based adhesives like PVA glue rely upon evaporation of the moisture in the glue. The rubber sheet I used or any other impervious membrane prevents this and traps excess water in the veneers. From this it can be seen that it is best to use absorbent materials when pressing a piece of marquetry.

From the Marquetry Manual by William Lincoln, page 49, "Should the black spot problem be encountered, they can be removed by touching the affected places with weak sulphuric acid (from a car battery for example)". Please read the last paragraph for my feelings on this answer.

Now for blue spot, which I have never encountered. When I was discussing the black spot problem with John Sedgwick he stated he had encountered blue spots. They are caused by chemical reaction between iron and tannin in the wood. The spots are the result of tiny metal fragments picked up from the veneer mill knife, in cutting or from scraper when finishing your marquetry piece. Mineral stains can be encountered naturally in wood or produced when making a harewood.

Recently I tried a weak sulphuric acid solution (from a car battery) on a piece of harewood, it removed the stain from the veneer. At the time I though I had the answer, but was surprised that the area later turned purple colour where the acid had been applied. I tried acid on other pieces of veneer and got similar results. From my experience I would not try to remove stains but try my best to avoid producing stains.

Paul Armstrong has used oxalic acid on a piece of John Sedgwick's marquetry that had blue spots. This solution was painted on and allowed to dry. The blue spots were removed, but the green poplar in the piece had turned brown. After sanding the green returned to the poplar, it was only a surface reaction.


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