Marquetry is the art of covering a wooden object with designs, or images, in wood veneer. Woods commonly used in marquetry include rosewood, satinwood, ebony and other exotic species. Different veneers produce varied effects of color and light. The production of fine marquetry requires great skill in fitting together sometimes minute pieces of veneer. Marquetry differs from inlay in that the entire surface is covered with the applied pieces.
Tools and Supplies
Producing marquetry images requires collecting an assortment of veneers. Each wood is different and possesses subtle variations in shade, grain and textural appearance. Veneers can be purchased from numerous online suppliers. A sharp craft knife is used to trim the veneers to the proper size and shape. Experiment with differently sized blades and styles of knives to find those that work best. Pieces of veneer are pressed into place with the help of a wood block called a rubbing stick. The most commonly used kind of rubbing stick comes in the shape of a gothic arch. Ordinary PVA wood glue will securely fasten veneers to any wooden surface.
Veneers are normally cut using patterns. Use tracing paper to copy desired designs. Masking tape will help to hold veneers in place as you prepare to cut. Tape your veneers to the traced designs. Apply white paper veneer tape to veneers to prevent splitting during cutting. Veneers can splinter or break easily as they are extremely thin. Metal rules and set squares are essential to finishing the completed patterns of veneer. Have various grades of sandpaper on hand to achieve just the right textural effect, and smooth down any rough pieces. Apply wood polish to the completed picture. Check with craft organizations like the Marquetry Society and the American Marquetry Society to determine the best polishes for each kind of veneer.
Planning a Picture
Marquetry has come a long way since the days of the ancient Egyptians. Early examples of marquetry were often flat in appearance and featured simple designs. Modern techniques make possible the creation of pictures that have all the finesse of fine oil paintings. Varied methods of cutting and shaping, such as sliverization, fragmentation and spear cutting, render an amazing range of edges and thicknesses. Slight changes in color can be captured in tiny pieces of wood. Placed side by side, these miniature veneers mimic the subtle shading of oil paint.
Let your imagination be your guide when creating subjects for marquetry. Historical motifs are common, in particular the floral arrangements and artful grotesques of renaissance, baroque and rococo décor. Plan a design on paper, or use a computer graphics program. Make a single, substantial image the focus of a rich design. Place the main image in the center and surround it with an array of decorative elements. Each piece of the design should complement its neighbors, working together to create a coordinated whole.