Marquetry Demo #1: Marquetry Tutorial - VERY rough

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Blog entry by TheCaver posted 03-11-2009 04:52 AM 15684 reads 16 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Marquetry Demo series no next part

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….
What you will need

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

16 comments so far

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4151 days

#1 posted 03-11-2009 03:39 PM

Thanks! The closest I’ve gotten to marquetry so far is trying to do some test cuts of veneer with the Cricut , which weren’t that successful. I hear they have a deeper blade now, and if I can get my hands on that and wax the blade and the carrier, and then use your suggestions for manual technique to finish the cut, this might just work.

I’d love to also see the rest of the process, especially since I’d guess the finishing techniques would help in regular wood construction where sometimes there are gaps in lighter wood that need finishing.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Ampeater's profile


440 posts in 3773 days

#2 posted 03-11-2009 05:32 PM

Very interesting. I am in the process of making a hall table that will have a veneered top and maybe I will put any inlay on it after much practice.

-- "A goal without a plan is a wish."

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 3787 days

#3 posted 03-12-2009 08:25 AM

Thanks for taking the time to write this blog.

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 3456 days

#4 posted 03-15-2009 09:58 AM

Very straight forward blog. Thanks a lot. Have been leery of doing an inlay, you make it seem simple…...Take your time…..Sharp knife…..One pice at atime…...Will have to try this out. Thanks again.

-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View dustygirl's profile


862 posts in 3754 days

#5 posted 03-15-2009 04:26 PM

This was a very interesting blog.Thanks for sharing it.

-- Dustygirl..Hastings,Ontario.. How much wood can 1 gal chuck if 1 gal can't cut wood?

View stanley2's profile


344 posts in 3821 days

#6 posted 03-15-2009 05:08 PM

Thanks for the blog – I see there is a bit of right and wrong in using the knife – thanks for the tip

-- Phil in British Columbia

View willwall's profile


22 posts in 3738 days

#7 posted 03-17-2009 03:31 PM

Thanks !! It’s my next step.

Don’t hesitate to do more.

-- Enjoy life !!

View Karson's profile


35125 posts in 4426 days

#8 posted 03-19-2009 02:09 AM

Great Tutorial. Thanks for the show.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4186 days

#9 posted 03-23-2009 08:14 PM

this is wonderful.
Thank you!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

#10 posted 04-06-2009 06:12 PM

Great hints.
You seem to be an expert in marquetry.
I also like to do these kind of job, but using solid wood and not veneers, in order to “sculpt” the juxtaposed pieces. It’s mostly like intarsia rather than marquetry.
Some of them were posted on Lumberjocks.
I’ll try to make some new project using your clever tips in marquetry.
If I can get it, I’ll show you.
Thank you for sharing.


View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 3865 days

#11 posted 04-06-2009 07:31 PM

No, not even close to expert but, you don’t see a lot of embellishment anymore, and this is my way of showing people that on a casual level, it’s not too hard to attempt. We can’t let things like this or shopmade banding, etc disappear because they are too hard when in fact they are within our grasp. Maybe not at an expert level, but enough to impart more creativity into out pieces.

Thank you for your comments, I look forward to your marquetry.

-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View Trailer_man's profile


9 posts in 3393 days

#12 posted 04-07-2009 01:48 AM

17 minutes of your time is helping thousands of people’s woodworking hobby a joy. I will be printing this out in color and giving it a try soon. Thanks for your time.

View gurnie's profile


342 posts in 3061 days

#13 posted 10-28-2010 09:18 PM

thanks very much! I plan to use this information sometime soon!

-- Please visit my Etsy site, or You can also follow me on my artfire blog:

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1106 posts in 2999 days

#14 posted 11-03-2010 06:27 AM

Thank you for taking the time to show how you do this.
I find it fascinating

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View filizuzun's profile


2 posts in 2278 days

#15 posted 03-26-2012 01:29 PM

A look at the most commonly used veneers used in marquetry, their colors and grain patterns, and ideas for the types of things they can represent in your art.


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