Let me make a disclaimer here. Some people requested a procedural series on this and I threw this together in 17 minutes! There are mistakes and this thing is ROUGH at best, but it will give you an idea on how to get started…Think of it as an outline, not an exhaustive tutorial…..Off we go….
You’ll need these items….Veneer, a craft knife with a new xacto blade (don’t use cheap off brands, the good ones are less frustrating and they don’t cost that much more), blue tape, glue, paper for your design, a cutting mat, and some sort of roller or large dowel, the one shown cost me about $2. You do NOT need anything fancy here except a good blade….
I normally use Illustrator and print my designs, but a pencil works just as well if you can draw (clearly, I should stick to Illustrator, but this is just a demo…)
Tape your design to the base piece of veneer. This is the ‘field’ that the design will be inlaid into.
Use the xacto knife to cut the PAPER from the design, making sure to cut your inner lines first. You can see in the image below that the veneer is just scored, NOT cut all the way through….Only use enough pressure to remove the paper and leave a fine line.
Remove the tape and the remaining paper and you are ready to begin cutting out pieces of your field. I use a candle and stab my knife into it frequently when cutting marquetry as I find it cuts much cleaner and easier (like rubbing wax on the bottom of a smoothing plane)
You can’t see my lines, but they are there! My point with this image is to ALWAYS keep the knife perpendicular to the surface. Using an xacto will already cut a bevel, you do not need to exaggerate it! Pay close attention when cutting curves as you tend to tilt the knife in those areas.
Where points meet, I like to stab them to define the corner rather than slice them. Just poke straight down on both sides….And always pull the knife AWAY from corners and thin areas otherwise you will tear chunks out of the veneer.
Use LIGHT cuts and go over the same area 3 times or so to free the piece. DO NOT try to cut out the piece in one stroke…..The most common source of error and breakage is too much pressure on the knife.
Here, you see my first piece of the leaf removed and you can see the fine lines left from the other pieces.
Now, you will notice that the knife left a slight bevel when it cut, the bevel will face the waste side of the design, or the side which will get glued to your substrate. Place the field with the bevel down over the veneer which will become your leaf components. IE, the bevel should be widest on the face that is down, you’ll see why in a second. Use the field like a window to choose how the leaf should look and tape the pieces together as shown.
Now, this is the only time you will hold the knife at an angle! Tilt the knife slightly to match your bevel angle (it need not be perfect) and lightly score the leaf veneer. Stab your corners and remove the tape.
Remember, ALWAYS PULL away from thin areas such as this leaf tip and thin areas. No need to wax when scoring….only when cutting….
Now cut out your leaf half just like before….use about 3 strokes, a light touch, a perpendicular knife angle, and wax.
The moment of truth! You should now have slight bevels on both pieces due to the way the xacto blade cuts and you will apply glue to the edges and drop in the leaf half bevel down into the bevel of the field. Smear some glue on the back and use a roller or dowel to smash it in there. You can apply blue tape to the show side if you desire before rolling out….if you need to….or you have lots of little pieces….Now it will look like crap at this point….but as long as you don’t have HUGE gaps, fear not….after sanding and pressing the panel, you will be shocked at how different the final piece will look….just plow ahead!
For this demo, I used some nasty dark veneer that was VERY dry and crumbly and my leaf tips broke off….I did not fix it for this demo, no need….But if you do this, don’t be afraid to piece it back together or stick little crumbs in there to fill the tip area….after sanding and such, you won’t be able to tell….
After a couple minutes drying time, you can cut the other half of the leaf out.
Line up your grain for the next piece, tape it bevel side down again, and score the last piece.
Remove the tape, cut the other leaf half, glue the edges, and insert it/roll it out!
Remember, my dark veneer was CRUMBLY and the tips were wasted….No matter, its just a 17 minute demo! It took 4 times longer to type all this text than to do the leaf…..And I won’t do the stem, you get the idea by now….
Now I usually tape fully over the design on the show side, smear the back with glue, roll it out and let it dry. Once dry, I sand it lightly with 150 grit just to knock off severe ridges….Don’t be concerned with getting the back flat….Once you press it onto your substrate you don’t want any thin spots….Save the major sanding for the show side…..
Well, I hope this helped someone….its VERY rough but should cover most of the process…..
If anyone needs or wants me to press this veneer to substrate and finish it out, I can do that if it will help. I could also show how to wet sand and fill the cracks along with rubbing a finish out with pumice and rottenstone….Just let me know….
And if you attempt this and get some veneer into your project, I’d love to see the results….as you can see, its very easy and is a great way to get some more expression into your projects.
-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan