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Marquetry Basics

Marquetry Basics

Marquetry is an artistic form of woodworking that is enjoyed by many. An age old practice, it is the forming or creating of pictures using various wood veneers, or other mediums. Often, parts are cut together in layers, or packets, on a scroll saw to ensure a tight fight between the various parts.

  Scroll Saw


The difference between marquetry and parquetry is the fact that the parquetry is the result of cutting straight lines and geometric shapes. The parts are usually uniform and result in panels like chess boards or geometric border designs. The panels rely on straight lines of varying angles as well as grain direction to form the picture or project.

The difference between marquetry and inlays is that the marquetry forms the entire design and is applied to a substrate, while inlays are accents let into the surrounding area.

Marquetry is made using either homemade veneers, resawn on the band saw, commonly up to an 1/8" inch thick, or with commercial veneers which can be as thin as 1/40 of an inch in thickness.

When cutting the mating parts, forming packets of the different veneers allow the pieces to be cut together, resulting in perfect fitting parts. The blade in the scroll saw is held at an angle, which is determined by the veneer thickness. Commercial veneer is cut at around an angle of 18 degrees. Thicker veneers use less of an angle. Cutting in this fashion helps to hide the joints.

Cuts that don't come to the edge of the parts reqire a small hole to be drilled next to the cut line. The fact that the veneer is cut on an angle means that the holes can be drilled in the waste section of both pieces. To do this, make certain the backround part is on the top, in the infill piece is on the bottom. Drill the hole on a slightly less angle than the saw cuts. This eliminates the task of filling the holes.

A common blade for marquerty is a number 2/0, but finer blades, all the way down to 6/0 are also available. The drill bit used for the 2/0 blade is a number 68. This is slightly larger than a needle, so as you can imagine it is difficult to fit the blade through the hole. It helps to countersing the back side of the holes, and even draw a circle around it on the back side. Fitting such a fine blade through these tiny holes are almost impossible for many people, without these extra steps.

When forming the packets, or layers to be cut, try to orient the grain of the parts to emphasize the design. Sand shading the parts can add to the 3D effect obtained. Sand shading is done by inserting the veneer parts into hot sand, causing the pieces to get scorched. The longer they are dipped in the sand, the darker the shading. This requires a hot plate, some fine sand, tweezers with which to hold the parts, and scraps to practice on.

A thermometer is helpful as it makes it easier to duplicate work done at different times. The shading only requires the piece be dipped into the hot sand for a few seconds. Testing is necessary to get good results. As shown below, the heating source need not be an fancy one. The sand is playground sand from a local home center.

  Cook Top  Sand Shading 

Very complicated designs are possible with practice, and are only limited to the person doing the work, also known as a marquetarian. The piece below isn't a very fancy one but it is a sample of marquetry.

  Sample Marquetry   Glued up Marquetry Sample

One of the beauties of this type of woodworking is it doesn't take much in the way of equipment or materials. It is a very relaxing and artistic form of expression.


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DeWalt 788 Variable-Speed Scroll Saw
Heavy-Duty 20'' Variable-Speed Scroll Saw Double parallel-link arm design dramatically reduces vibration and noise, for extremely accurate cuts. Exclusive tool-free blade holders allow blade changes in seconds. On-off switch, electronic variable speed, flexible dust blower and blade-tensioning lever are all located on the front upper arm for added convenience. Arm design moves the tool's pivot points from the back of the saw to the front, shortening the arm movement for smoother, quieter operation. Arm lifts so blade can be easily threaded through the material for inside cuts. Unique arm design keeps the blade perpendicular to the work, dramatically reducing over- or under- cutting. Oversized, cast-iron table provides excellent material support and bevels 45° left and right. SPECIFICATIONS: Amp Rating (120V AC) 1.3 Stroke Length 3/4'' Strokes Per Min. 400-1,750 spm Depth of Cut 2'' Tool Weight 56.0 lbs. 

DeWalt 788 Variable-Speed Scroll Saw

DeWalt 788 Variable-Speed Scroll Saw


Delta SS350LS 16'' Variable Speed Scroll Saw
Model SS350LS Delta Industrial Model SS350LS 16" Variable Speed Scroll Saw includes a 2 amp., 120V induction motor, upper and lower Quickset II blade chucks, blade, leg set and instruction manual. 

Delta SS350LS 16'' Variable Speed Scroll Saw

Delta SS350LS 16


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