Serving Tray

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Project by PetVet posted 11-20-2008 04:13 PM 2757 views 1 time favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Serving Tray
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I wanted to try my hand at marquetry and this is my first attempt. I am not pleased with the outcome, and would appreciate some constructive criticism to help me along.

1. The fans on the corners don’t seem to be the right size? Too big or too small?
2. The center cries out for something, maybe an oval fan or a shell?
3. The book matched veneer’s seams show, especially the end grain. I overlapped these and cut them together, but still the seams show. Should I have tried to cut them on an angle like in double bevel marquetry?
4. The inlay looks lost sitting next to the frame, I think next time I will put veneer outside of this. Any other suggestions?

I coped the mahogany frame on the table saw. This worked fairly well, although it sure takes a while. The veneer is mounted on 1/4” plywood. I used birch veneer on the bottom and birds eye maple on the top. I will not use birds eye maple again, as the eyes are a bear to cut through. Live and learn. I finished it with the salad bowl finish followed by mineral oil/bee’s wax.

Here is my temporary solution to improve it’s looks:

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

15 comments so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3875 days

#1 posted 11-20-2008 04:26 PM

This is beautiful. Like most of us, you are your own worst critic. Marquetry is really difficult, which is why so few people do it! Did you sand-burn the fans?

-- -- --

View PetVet's profile


329 posts in 3488 days

#2 posted 11-20-2008 04:31 PM

I did do the sand shading, and found that to be an art in itself. To get them to shade evenly, without burning the edges was harder than I thought it would be.

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3963 days

#3 posted 11-20-2008 04:49 PM

It’s a very nice piece for a first attempt. I’m not a marqueter but have heard that many use stick shellac to fill and then French polish to get a great depth of finish. I don’tknow if that will help. I don’t have a problem with the fans. They look about right to me. As to something in the middle, I tend to agree with you. Although I’m not sure as to what. I do know that what you have in the bottom photo is pretty funny.( I refer to the beastie you have perched on it.)

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3714 days

#4 posted 11-20-2008 05:01 PM

I agree with everything peter said. If this is you first attempt I think you did well..If I may suggest you do some of the ‘built up’ types of pictures starting with those that are rated as beginers. Judy Gale Roberts has many and you can buy her books or individual plans. I don’t recall the web site but if you google her I’m certain it will pop up. I have a plan (also by above mentioned) that was a freebee from for a chickadee that looks to be preaty staight forward. If you can’t get it for free, pm me an e-mail adress and I’ll email you a copy. good luck.. (you can see from “my photo” we have a common intrest)

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View jleiwig's profile


47 posts in 3771 days

#5 posted 11-20-2008 05:24 PM

It’s very nice for a first attempt. Much better than anything I did.

I have a couple of suggestions:

1. A compass rose would look perfect in the middle, and would limit the seams to a greater degree.
2. The frame looks too wide for such delicate fans. I would either think about enlarging the fans or decreasing the edge frame width.

Other than that it looks great and I would use it in my own home.

-- I intend to live forever, or die trying..........Justin, Ohio

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3714 days

#6 posted 11-20-2008 05:34 PM

I think the tray looks great…

Regarding your seams- I read once that to get jointed seams, someone put all his seams together and sandwiched them between two 1 1/2 inch boards, then run them all thru the jointer. Another lines all the veneer seams up and lays a straightedge down, then cuts them all at one time with a veneer saw. I’ve never tried either, but I think the latter is what I would try first. I could control the pressure of the cut to minimize tearout or chipout, and reference square on the other side for my bookmatch.
Good luck, let us know how it goes…


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View CharlieM1958's profile


16274 posts in 4219 days

#7 posted 11-20-2008 05:55 PM

My constructivr criticism: You are being way too much of a perfectionist. :-)

This is a great first attempt… you will only get better through repitition.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View savannah505's profile


1813 posts in 3587 days

#8 posted 11-20-2008 07:20 PM

I agree with many of the comments already made. You did great for the first time around and you chose difficult wood to work with (birdseye). On birdseye, burl, koa, or other woods that are such a problem, DO NOT attempt to get a finished fit in the jointer!!!! You can put them together inbetween 2 boards, with about 1/16th of an inch protruding and then sand them by hand to get a much tighter fit. I used to have boards made up for this, but I would epoxy 1/8 inch flat steel or brass to the edges so that I didn’t sand away the wood edges of my guide boards, and they will last a long time. Of course make sure your boards are very straight, 3/4 inch ply is good for this because it won’t warp on you like solid stock can. When taping your veneer together, graft a new arm and hand on your chest, as it really helps to have a 3rd hand so that you can put a lot of pressure on your pieces when putting edges together, and then tape them. Use real veneer tape and not blue tape, as I find blue tape can stretch slightly. I think this is actually due to the adhesive which is giving and not the paper of the tape itself. Veneer tape will have less problem with this. If you will go to my projects, you can see the headboard I did in teak and maple, the photo is not that good, (back in the old days when I didn’t worry about pictures much) but you might see fairly well. When you sand your edges together, glue sand paper on at least 1/4 inch wood stock like maple or harder, for less bending in the wood, and this will help it stay flat and straight, you don’t want your sanding stick bending at all. You can get fancy and make a permanent sanding stick with handle shape like pad sander if you wish, makes it easier to hold. I think your center is crying out for a fan shaped circle, but I love your corners, they look just fine and are the right size if you had a center piece circle. I haven’t tried sand burning yet, so your one up on me there. Best of luck and will check back on this to see what you think. – Dan

-- Dan Wiggins

View woodyone's profile


231 posts in 3592 days

#9 posted 11-20-2008 08:56 PM

Wow, personally i have never tried marquetry, so i do not have much experience on this subject. But if i made something like that first try or not, i would be very happy.

Great job.

-- Woody, UK

View pashley's profile


1043 posts in 3718 days

#10 posted 11-20-2008 10:27 PM

I’ve GOT to learn marquetry! Nice work, man!

-- Have a blessed day!

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3724 days

#11 posted 11-21-2008 12:55 AM

Rich, this is beautiful, especially for a first attempt. I’ve not tried marquertry, but this looks great.

Thanks for posting it.

-- Martin, Kansas

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3989 days

#12 posted 11-21-2008 06:23 AM

Overall it looks very nice.

When I bookmatch veneer I clamp both pieces between two pieces of wood and use a router with a flush trim bit to clean up the edges. Perfect flush fit every time.

Click for details
Click for details
Click for details

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View PetVet's profile


329 posts in 3488 days

#13 posted 11-21-2008 05:42 PM

Wow, what a great group LJ is! This is exactly what I was hoping for, constructive criticism and suggestions on improving my technique. I want to thank all of you for sharing your ideas and tricks of the trade.

I may try and make an oval fan and inlay it in the center.

I saw one technique one of the members uses on his quilt pattern marquetry tables that looked interesting. After the glue up he scribbles with a pencil over the top of the table. Then he mixes sawdust and thinned glue into a slurry that he works into the table top. He then sands until the pencil marks are gone so that he knows he has sanded through the glue on the surface. Pretty interesting, although I would still think the glue that soaked into the wood would effect how it takes a finish. Sure didn’t hurt his tables though.

Thanks again for all the help!

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

View PebbleCreek's profile


63 posts in 3484 days

#14 posted 11-21-2008 08:20 PM

I think the suggestions above are great, by the 4th or 5th tray you should have this to an art. :)

It would also help if you bought a better scroll saw, yours looks like some sort of Victorian era death trap.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6856 posts in 3980 days

#15 posted 01-15-2009 01:10 AM

Hi Rich;

I think you did a fine job for a first attempt! I think giving up on Birds Eye Maple is a big mistake. It’s such a beautiful wood, and once you have played with veneer for a while, it’s not bad to work with.

Birds Eye Maple Table Top

Birds Eye Maple Table

I think you did a fine job for a first attempt! I think giving up on Birds Eye Maple is a big mistake. It’s such a beautiful wood, and once you have played with veneer for a while, it’s not bad to work with.

Several ways to cut it ensure you wont have problems with the seams being quite so visible. When I cut it with a scalpel, I often use blue painters tape on the cut line. If it is a particularly difficult wood, like burls, I use blue tape on both sides of the veneer. The knife has less of a tendency to follow the grain, when taped. Also, make very light cuts to get started. This too, will keep the knife from following the grain. I often cut stacks of veneers on the table saw, sandwiched between plywood.

There are a number of other details I use to make my veneer projects successful. They are fully described on my website:

I think you did a fine job, and these little “problems” are part of the learning curve you’ll soon be past.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

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