ChessBoard - 1st time veneer (maybe last)

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Project by USCJeff posted 07-25-2011 02:06 AM 2007 views 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I really loved how this one came out as I can’t even begin to tell you how many problems had to be corrected. I’ve never used veneer on a large scale (little inlay here and there). Materials were the walnut and maple contrasting veneer squares, an mdf substrate, and a couple large walnut burl veneer sheets for the bottom.

Issues: I made the veneer (other than the burl bottom) and wasted a lot with planing mistakes. Several pieces split and had to be redone. I took the clamps and cauls off a bit early I think. I didn’t use veneer tape which would’ve helped. I had a lot of moguls from the warped veneer. After an overnight clamp, it worked as intended. A veneer saw would help as well. Xacto knives are only so good.

The finish is natural danish oil (Watco) with a wax topcoat buffed to a higher gloss.

Now, I guess it’s time to turn the 32 pieces w/o a duplicator. Should be fun!

I usually inlay a 3” x 2” maple oval and brand it with my ID. I have a template I use so it’s easy. I’m hoping the veneer burl on the back won’t chip out when the router does it’s thing. Any thoughts there? The template will cover the edges of course, so there will be support in that regard.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

13 comments so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4243 days

#1 posted 07-25-2011 02:19 AM

Despite the troubles, Jeff, the result is great. I’ve played with veneer a bit, and I can tell you I don’t think I’d ever attempt a chess board. Nice job!

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

View amagineer's profile


1415 posts in 2622 days

#2 posted 07-25-2011 02:29 AM

Jeff, you did a nice job. I just saw a video on the Carter website about cutting veneers with their bandsaw guides. The cutting results were outstanding. Cutting veneer pieces out of 6” walnut and maple without any variance in the thickness from one side of the cut to the other. I am saving up to get one for my bandsaw.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4093 days

#3 posted 07-25-2011 03:14 AM

Thanks ama, I use a 14” Rikon Deluxe bandsaw. It can get pretty thin strip if using the right blade and tension. Surfacing the cut face is where I struggled. Several blew up in a planer. They were double taped to a board to carry it in the planer. I’m not practiced enough to do this with a hand plane. A block plane and #4 are really the only ones I’ve used for any amount of time. Those aren’t ideal for veneer.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 2577 days

#4 posted 07-25-2011 03:47 AM

You did a great job.

Never be afraid of using more tape than you expect, and if you’re using raw wood, (like I tend to), remember that blue painter’s tape can be a huge asset in backing your cuts before you make them. Typically your knife will want to follow the grain of the wood, and cutting via the taped side can help hold the grain in place and help with making the cut. Also tape down your veneers to your cutting surface, use a guide, and whenever you cut two adjoining pieces, whenever possible, overlap the pieces, and make the same cut on both at once. This helps to align the two pieces of veneer nearly perfectly, accommodating for any small wiggles while making your cuts.

Veneer work is A LOT of fun, and lets you get some really expensive wood look with a minimal investment. The challenge never goes away, I find, and you can always work to improve…

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3035 days

#5 posted 07-25-2011 07:36 AM

Nice job Jeff! Veneer work seems a little scary, but I’ll be diving in soon as well. Now let’s practice what you’re going to say to your wife: “Honey, I need a drum sander…”

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View Chris Wright's profile

Chris Wright

540 posts in 3506 days

#6 posted 07-25-2011 01:27 PM

Looks great, I’ve been thinking of doing a chess board with veneer as well. If you want an idea on how to turn the pieces, take a look at my set I turned ( As for the router inlay, when you get your template clamped into place, take either an X-Acto or gouge and cut through to veneer before you put the router to it. Cutting the fibers before hand will go a long way to preventing tearing.

-- "At its best, life is completely unpredictable." - Christopher Walken

View sedcokid's profile


2733 posts in 3623 days

#7 posted 07-25-2011 02:03 PM

I have some veneer and have never played with it to afraid of having problems I guess. but yours turned out beautiful!’

Thanks for sharing

-- Chuck Emery, Michigan,

View mauibob's profile


236 posts in 3092 days

#8 posted 07-25-2011 06:08 PM

Nice job, Jeff. Don’t let this be your last!! It really gets much easier as you continue to do more projects.

A couple of tips that have worked well for me:
1. David Marks has a great video on cutting veneer and tuning up your bandsaw to do this accurately and consistently. Check out (You mentioned that you were planing the pieces—I find it much easier to cut them on the bandsaw to thickness and sand using a drum or hand sander.)

2. Like Chris pointed out, cutting the fibers before hand will help a lot in putting your maple oval brand into the back veneer—put the oval down with double sided tape, and lightly score around the design with a sharp Xacto or surgical blade. Continue to score (each time just a bit harder) until you’ve severed the fibers—in fact, what I typically do is go right down to the substrate. If you don’t do this, you have a strong chance of having the router bit rip out chunks of your veneer—for example, the glue down may not be entirely perfect and tiny portions may lift and chip out.

Have fun!

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2823 days

#9 posted 07-25-2011 06:40 PM

Nice job for a first time. Veneer work is a whole distinct area of woodworking in itself and as such has it’s own skill set and it’s own learning curve. You’ve made the important step, to jump in and go for it and you’ve had a successful result.
Use what you’ve learned and keep learning. There are so many possibilities with veneer that aren’t available any other way. The better you get the more the options open up.

Please don’t quit.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4093 days

#10 posted 07-26-2011 06:18 AM

Thanks all. Bob, I actually caught a David Marks episode on making a similar board. I followed a combination of his method and an Fine Woodworking article. There’s two schools I’ve seen in these. Either use 64 squares or glue up strips and cross cut them to create the checkered effect. I did the latter. One thing I noticed in doing so is that the grain flows as every row is from the same strip.

BobFish, I was shocked how much tape I went through. It seemed like I had to tape more than 50% of the surface area only to pull it off and redo on another step a few times. The tape helped with cutting the veneer as well. Reduced the cracking and the knife wandering.

Life, I’d love to have a drum sander. They’ve come down so much in the last few years that it’s much more doable with what I spend on the hobby. I (like most, I’d bet) have ruined some great projects because I hate the sanding and finishing process. Shortcuts just don’t work. A baby drum would go a long way. I’m torn between it and a jointer upgrade. Most benchtops can do a decent job, jointers are proving an exception.

For the record, I turned 8 pawns today. I should say I turned about 11 or 12 total, 8 of which matched. Can’t justify a duplicater that cost more than my benchtop lathe. A whole lot of stopping and going to the calipers is required. Patience isn’t my strong suit (hence the sanding and finishing issues).

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View USCJeff's profile


1063 posts in 4093 days

#11 posted 07-26-2011 06:19 AM

Dead link Chris. Was able to find it among your posts though. Thanks.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View Ken90712's profile


17563 posts in 3214 days

#12 posted 07-28-2011 11:56 AM

Great work Jeff you nailed it!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View mauibob's profile


236 posts in 3092 days

#13 posted 09-06-2011 02:31 AM

Hey Jeff,
Get that drum sander over the jointer upgrade. When it comes to dimensioning small strips for edge banding, cleaning up a marquetry or inlay piece, or otherwise dimensioning (or making multiple copies of) any thin item, a drum sander is just too hard to beat. My wife got me one for Christmas last year, and it has become the second most used item in the shop. I use a lot of highly figured woods for my marquetry pieces, and the jointer would just tear them up. The drum sander really makes it a joy, and I continue to find more and more uses for it.

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

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