Larry Ciesla Woodworking

mission bed

This footboard is part of an "Arts and Crafts" style bed made from mostly quartersawn oak.  The photo above was taken after pressing the veneered panels with the marquetry pictures.  Below is a closer look at the two right most veneer panels before they were glued and pressed to the 1/4 MDF substrate:


If you look closely you will notice that both pictures are "mirror images" of the finished panels in the first photo.  When making a veneer picture, the technique I use is to build the picture from the "glue face" so the picture you are building is actually a reflection of the final image.  This can make letters and numbers a bit tricky.

I learned marquetry from Paul Schurch who teaches at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.  Paul also has two dvds that are excellent instructional guides.  This project was an opportunity to teach my son marquetry and this was his first marquetry project.  

Since marquetry is the process of creating a picture out of wood, the natural first step is to create the pictures or line drawings that are essential for the process.  Lacking any real artistic talent, I often turn to photographs.  With a little patience and a bit of skill with photoediting software, it is possible to take nearly any photograph and turn it into a drawing suitable for a marquetry project.

Original photo Line drawing Finished Panel

The process of going from the line drawing to the finished panel is very well described in Paul Schurch's video which I highly recommend for anyone interested in learning how to do this.  Below are some photographs of some of the steps involved in this process.

The marquetry panel begins with the line drawing glued to a sheet of cardboard cut slightly larger than the desired dimensions of the finished panel.  This photograph is actually a few steps further into the process and shows a finished packet ready for the scroll saw.  The packet consists of the top cardboard and bottom cardboard held together like a book with veneer arranged underneath.

These two photos show the process of aligning small pieces of veneer directly underneath the picture and oriented in the correct way.  Pictures are formed by taking advantage of veneers with different colors and also by carefully orienting the grain direction of each sheet of veneer.
Here a micro pin nailer is used to insert a few pin nails through the packet to secure and unitize the packet for scroll sawing.

Each individual element is carefully cut out with the scroll saw and each element along with each identically cut piece of wood is carefully stacked.  Great care must be taken to ensure that every scrap of wood is kept until we are sure it is no longer needed.

The background is then removed from the packet.
The process of assembling the picture begins with reconnecting both sides of the background with a foreground element from the picture.  In this case the large branch served to connect both sides together.
Lots of blue tape is used during this process.  Here the "show side" of the picture is completely covered with blue tape.
With the "show side" covered with blue tape it is now possible to select each picture element and carefully stick it in place in the picture.  When this step is completed, this entire face is completely covered with blue tape.  The sheet is then turned over and the blue tape from the show side removed and replaced with veneer tape.  The sheet is turned over again and the blue tape removed from the glue side (you have to see Paul's video!)  

Here the panels are placed in the vacuum press which is covered with a heating blanket and left to dry under vacuum over night.

The next day the panels are removed from the press and stood to dry for a few hours.

A sanding block is used to begin the process of removing the veneer tape from the panel.  This is a very important step because the veneers that make up the picture are not all of the exact same thickness.  So sanding accomplishes two things - removing much of the veneer tape and leveling the surface.
The final step is to throuroughly soak the face of the picture with water to let the remaining veneer tape become saturated.  A very sharp putty knife is carefully used to scrape any remaining tape from the picture.
Here is my son and his wife the first time she got to see the panels installed in the nearly completed footboard.