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Page 3 of Learn with the Redbridge Marquetry Group

Well, here we are at last, the practical pages that we hope will help you to construct your first marquetry picture. We will assume that you have assembled the materials, tools and veneers as described on the previous pages and are now ready to begin. Now, as we are going to be using the window method for making our picture let me take this opportunity to explain the advantages of the window method and the reasons that most marquetarians have adopted its use almost universally these days. The main reasons are accuracy and control.

The accuracy comes from the fact that you cut out and remove a piece from your “waster” veneer (the waster veneer is usually a fairly cheap and plentiful veneer that is slightly oversized for your finished picture, and it acts as the “blank canvas” upon which you place the outline drawing of your picture and it acts as the building frame from where you construct your picture. If you select it right you could make use of the waster veneer as the sky or foreground of your picture, but quite often the whole of the waster gets cut away and replaced with your various picture veneers, hence its name of waster veneer) and by putting this now "vacant hole" in your waster on top of the veneer you wish to use in that part of your picture, you can orientate your waster and picture veneers in conjunction with each other until you find the ideal section of the "picture veneer" that will be most suitable for that part of your picture, then with the two veneers, the waster on top of the "picture veneer", you cut your picture veneer’s "potential insert" by following the edges of the hole (or window) you previously cut out of your waster using your scalpel.

When you've cut you "potential insert" from your "picture veneer" check out it's accuracy by fitting it in the vacant window of your waster, if it fits nicely without any need for trimming or adjustments you can now glue it in place. This method of cutting your veneer "inserts" is as accurate as the precision with which you can follow the edges of the window “cut out”. With a little practice you can make your joins so tight that when you hold the assembled joins up to a light source you won’t see any light creeping through. This accuracy is the principle use for adopting the window method.

The other advantage I mentioned is the incredible control you have with using the window method. The first and foremost “control” is, as I mentioned above, the advantages you will experience when matching your picture veneer selection to the requirements of the needs of your picture.

An explanation of this is that after cutting your window in the waster veneer you can orientate the window made in the waster over the "picture veneer" until you find the ideal part of the "picture veneer" that will give you the effect you desire. The window method also allows you to change or alter any part of your picture you don’t feel happy with until you achieve your perfect marquetry goal.

Now we have described the advantages of the window method we shall continue with its practical application in the art of marquetry.

Your first step is to sort out your picture or design from which you are going to make your marquetry picture. For this demonstration I have selected a simple little winter’s scene I found on some computer clip art. This scene is ideal as it doesn’t contain too many variations of tonal ranges and can be assembled from a selection of veneers that have comfortable cutting qualities. Our next step is to determine the size that we want the finished picture to be, for this one I have decided on approx 15 x 10cms (that’s about 6 x 4 inches) so what I now do is set up the dimensions on my printer dialogue box on my computer and then print the correctly sized picture out that will now become my template from which I will be making my marquetry picture.
With my design sorted I place a sheet of tracing paper over the design and trace the outlines on to the tracing paper sheet.

Original design fig 1

Now I select a suitable sheet of veneer to use as my waster, for this I am using “Sycamore” which is a light coloured easy cutting veneer. I cut a blank slightly larger than my design, this will be approx 20 x 15cms (8 x 6 inches) this will give me plenty of spare ‘land’ around my design, although you don’t need to be as generous as this if you prefer not to have such a large waster. The next step is to align the tracing over the waster veneer so that the design fits roughly in the middle of the veneer and then we need to tape the top edge of the tracing paper to the top edge of the waster veneer and then once that “hinge” is secure I normally make a small alignment mark on the lower edge of the tracing paper and the waster veneer so that I can be sure that everything lines up when I need it

Line tracing fig 2

(a useful tip here is to make a small cross with your pencil that goes over the bottom edge of the tracing paper and onto the veneer so that when you want to re-align the tracing with the design you previously transferred on to the veneer you just adjust the tracing paper and veneer until you’ve reformed the cross and then you will have perfect alignment).

The next thing I need to do is transfer my design from the tracing on to the waster veneer, this I do by placing a sheet of carbon paper (black, not the blue one because it stains the wood) between the tracing and the waster then I copy the design through on to the sycamore waster by tracing once again over my original line drawing.

One important point I haven’t made yet is that as the design is a snow scene, and as I’m using sycamore which is a light coloured veneer for my waster veneer, then I can make use of the waster veneer to depict the snow in the foreground of my picture. Because of this fact I’ve orientated my waster so that the grain pattern flows left to right rather than top to bottom, this use of the grain flow helps shape the picture.

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