Marquetry Pictures by Jane Burke
 

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The Art of Marquetry

Technique
Marquetry is the art of combining veneer of different wood species to form pictures or patterns.  The decorative effects are produced by contrasting colors and shapes of veneer, creating the different elements of the design.

There are several different techniques used to create marquetry, such as cutting the veneer with a chisel, a scroll saw, fret saw and even on the band saw.  I find it easiest and most accurate cutting the veneer with a craft knife.  Some people create the entire design in reverse but I always work with the show side facing me.

After cutting one piece out I immediately glue it in place, affixing it with masking tape.  I then cut and glue another piece, by which time the previous piece is dry so I can then peel the tape off to reveal the results.  I can therefore always see the whole image I am working with, which makes it easy to choose the different veneers making up the picture.  I never quite know what veneers I am going to use when starting a new picture, just a vague idea of the texture and color needed to create the effect I want.

 

Colors
Until 2006 I exclusively used natural wood colors.  But, after doing a few projects using dyed veneers I discovered that I could create very interesting, bright pictures which I could not create using only natural veneers.  I used to think I had to be a purist and only use veneer as the tree created it, but marquetry is art and art has a freedom which allows this kind of stepping over boundaries.  By using dyed veneers I can now create more realistic pictures, using blue dyed veneer for a bluebird, or red for a Cardinal.  Using natural wood colors these birds would not look as realistic as their true colors in nature.

The butterfly to the left is made from black, yellow and orange dyed veneers.  The thistle is also made of dyed veneers in different hues of red and green.  The background veneer is a natural piece of yellow poplar.

 

Shading
When doing pictures where there are shadows I most often create this 3 dimensional effect by picking light and dark veneers where shadows and highlights are needed.  However, sometimes I create these shadows by charring the veneer in hot sand.  The limitations of this technique is that it only provides a blackening of the veneer, not a darker shade of the color of the veneer.  It has its place, like in the basket weave of Celtic knots.  However, when making fruit I most often prefer to choose different shades of the same species of wood to create the shading.

The basket of fruit to the left shows shadows and highlights created from different colors of natural veneers.  The basket weave of the Celtic knot shows shading done with hot sand.

 

 

Creating a picture
Once the sheet of marquetry is finished I then glue this to a piece of plywood.  After allowing the glue to dry I then sand the veneer flat.  I then apply several coats of durable finish to protect the surface and have the picture framed.

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Copyright Reserved - Created November 2008 - Jane Burke - e-mail Jane