Turning Marquetry

Here are some more details and a few photos on the recent class I took on marquetry on wood turnings.  Putting veneer on a flat surface has certain challenges but a curved surface has a few more.  For me the class was even more of a challenge because I’ve never turned wood on a lathe before and as I posted previously I had a few reservations about that.

The first thing we did in class was to learn how to use the lathe.  First thing to learn is to round a square block and then cut some beads into it.  The stick in the photo is just a practice piece.  It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and I never felt unsafe.

Practice Pieces

Next thing to make was a bowl.  The procedure is simple once it’s explained to you.  First you round a block of wood.  Then cut a tenon that will fit into the chuck, turn the piece over and shape the whole thing.  Well, that is the over simplified version but it is easy and with a little coaching I got it done.  The only thing I didn’t do was sharpen the tools – that is a whole skill set of it’s own and the class was primarily about marquetry and not wood turning.




Marquetry for the Tree

The first marquetry piece was an inlay in a plate.  A plate is really just a very shallow bowl.  The marquetry is done first and then cut to a rough circle and glued to a thin piece of wood.  The plate is then turned.  Then through some lathe magic a shallow depression is cut into the bottom of the plate just deep enough for the marquetry sandwich to fit into.  The circle for the marquetry is refined on the lathe and then the depression circle in the plate is slowly expanded until the marquetry just fits in.  Then it is glue and clamps.






Finished Plate

My plate still needs some final sanding and a bit of finish.

The next piece is a goblet to show how to apply marquetry to a curved surface.  It turns out that veneer is more flexible that you’d think and if you choose the radius of the curve carefully you can get a piece to bend all the way around without breaking.

I don’t have too many pictures of this process.  I tend to get so focused on my work that I forget to take pictures of the process.

The process is simple – start making a goblet by rounding a piece of wood, cut a tenon on one end and hollow out the bowl of the goblet.  To save us some time in the class our instructor had done all these steps ahead of time so the first thing I did was to cut the marquetry into a long strip that was longer than the circumference of the goblet.  Then the goblet went on the lathe and a inset was cut the same depth and width as the thickness and width of the marquetry.  This was very fiddly work and I had to learn a light and steady touch on the tools.

Once the inset and marquetry strip were ready it was time for the glue up.  Normally with marquetry the glue up is simple – spread glue, slap the veneer down and shove in the vacuum press.  That works great if it’s a flat surface but won’t work as well around the outside of a curved surface.  The solution is in this picture.

Glue up for the goblet marquetry

That green thing is a ‘theraband.’  The kind of thing you’d get from your physical therapist (like I got to do exercises for my frozen shoulder).  Basically it is just a large wide rubber band.  The procedure is to put glue on about 80% of the curve, place the marquetry, and wrap it up with the band.  The band provides enough pressure to hold the glue and after about 30 minutes the band can be removed.  Then it is time to carefully trim the ends so they fit and glue those down so they are flat and the seam doesn’t show.

My goblet isn’t complete because I ran out of time to cut the stem.  I don’t own a lathe but a friend has said he’d let me use his lathe and help me do the final turning.

I’ll post a picture of the completed piece when that is done.

Unfinished goblet with marquetry band

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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