First Attempt at Marquetry-Dining Table

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Project by Simeond posted 06-12-2012 04:09 AM 3290 views 14 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This table was a challege from the start. The customer basically said “Here’s my budget, the rest is up to you…” Ideal customer, for sure. But all the more daunting, because you want to produce quality, but the bug to get creative and try new things is overwhelming!!! :-) When all was said and done, I had more “arches” than I had planned and I had to make the marquetry top twice….

Its 42” (w) x90” (l) x30” (h). Quarter-sawn black walnut and tiger maple.

There turned out to be one major design challenge and 1 major construction challenge…

The construction challenge was on the glue-up to attach the veneer marquetry to a 1” MDF substrate. I’ve done large glue-ups before and I have a bunch of well curved cauls for just this purpose:

But when the top came out of the press, it had rippled along every verticle grain line (picture below).

Talk about a low moment. I had spend the better part of 10 hours cutting the marquetry. I had used a double-bevel method, but not with the scroll saw (I personally don’t know how to feed a 4’x8’ sheet of veneer thru a saw). So I bevel-cut the maple “negative space” and then cut the walnut with the opposite bevel. COMPLETELY RUINED!!!

So, that was the kick in the pants I needed to build the vacuum press I’ve been wanting…. (picture below).

Boy, am I glad I had to remake the thing. The first marquetry was fine, but I was going to have to do a fair amount of spot-filling gaps. The second one, I didn’t need to fill a spot. And the top came out as flat as could be. My vacuum press is my new best friend…

Now, the design challenge:

Originally, I just want the single “arche” spanning the trestles. However, because of the slight give to the arch after it was laminated (see photo below), I feared that the legs could get “kicked out.” So, I laminated up the corresponding arch with thru tenons and pins to ensure this couldn’t happen. Nothing like a problem to drive a design solution!

Okay, enough rambling. Honest critique/advice is always appreciated (really – the last time I posted, a read said he “hated” the piece, and then gave some great reasons why – I LIVE for that kind of feedback).

-- "...a band of small discoveries, strung like pearls on a thread of curiosity, lending richness to our work...." - James Krenov.......

15 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


8166 posts in 2999 days

#1 posted 06-12-2012 04:46 AM

I think you did well and overcame some real adversity. The result is really nice.

If I may suggest, If the marquetry is large relatively and relatively simple, it may be easier to do with a router.
I started out on my marquetry journey with a router inlay set. Have a look at this post and this blog. I hope this gives you ideas.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View BenI's profile


333 posts in 2380 days

#2 posted 06-12-2012 04:53 AM

Very beautiful table! We’ve all felt that crushing blow when something doesn’t go as planned but you worked it out and it turned out great!

-- Ben from IL

View Rahm_of_the_Woods's profile


37 posts in 2989 days

#3 posted 06-12-2012 05:13 AM

Wow the opposing arch idea is truly innovative for table making. I initially assumed it was for decoration only, but I see now the true purpose!

Well made!

-- Imagination opens the gates of the universe. –William Patten

View SugarbeatCo's profile


142 posts in 2469 days

#4 posted 06-12-2012 05:50 AM

well done sir

-- Always one more tool away from being an excellent woodworker...

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 3666 days

#5 posted 06-12-2012 06:54 AM

This is a gorgeous table! I love the curves, floating top and combination / contrast of colors.
My only concern is the areas of relatively short grain support in the curved legs. With this much time and effort in the table it may have been worth bending the curves or curving them in the same aspect as the center arches. Just my two cents. Even if a leg cracked, it would be a simple and unnoticeable repair.
All in all, an outstanding piece of craftsmanship.
OH, BTW, That is an impressive work space you have there.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Ken90712's profile


17594 posts in 3390 days

#6 posted 06-12-2012 07:59 AM

Amazing work all the way around on this!!! Love the lines and the wood and your marquetry is spot on! Congrats to you!!!!!!

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

View mafe's profile


11741 posts in 3291 days

#7 posted 06-12-2012 08:02 AM

Beautiful table you have made.
And what a story, but you did get back on the horse and made it.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Nate Meadows's profile

Nate Meadows

1132 posts in 2408 days

#8 posted 06-12-2012 01:30 PM


I agree with Paul, aka Shipwright, using a router might be easier for a project this size. I too started out using a router. Though Silas Kopf does talk about how to make large panel in his book if you are interested. He is truly a master and will either inspire you or make you want to go sit in the corner and cry…he is that good:).

Back to you:). I love your table. It is simple yet elegant! I am very impressed with your ability to adapt and overcome! Continue the great work and keep sharing!

Very Respectfully,


-- "With a little bit of faith, and some imagination, you can build anything!" Nate

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2815 days

#9 posted 06-12-2012 01:33 PM

thats a stunning table .a good story ,it turned out grand
. thanks shipwright for the links was just starting to look for a vacuum press

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Simeond's profile


83 posts in 2605 days

#10 posted 06-13-2012 06:54 AM

Thanks all for the comments and suggestions. A few things:

1) Shipwright: I checked out your post and blog (first of all, gorgeous work!). I guess I’m not sure how this is a better method. Your method seems to require perfect formation of MDF guides which then allow the router to do guiltless work. Is that right? This would seem to me to require both scroll/jig cutting, then meticulous sanding. I don’t know how time-involved that is, but I found that slow and careful exacto-knife cutting produced the result I wanted. The SECOND time I did this top, it took about 4 hours for both the field and the inset piece. The key, the second time, was pre-taping the entire area that was going to be cut before drawing the cut-lines. The biggest problem in knife-cutting the veneer was the knife getting side-tracked by the grain, which the taping resolved. If I’m missing something about your process PLEASE elaborate, as I’m pretty keen on doing more marquetry and would love to learn…

2) Nate – Silas makes me want to cry. And then, when I stop balling, to dive it! Thanks for the link!

3) BTKS: Regarding the work space…. I’ll post on this more, but in addition to working on my own personal furniture/woodworking commissions, I am creating a community woodworking space. The idea is you can purchase a monthly membership (like a fitness club) and acces the tools/space; as well as offering a line of classes (not all taught by me) for beginners to expert (i.e. how to build and use your own hand plane etc….). So the space still needs a LOT of work, but is intended to use by multiple projects at once. I’ll post more pictures as it comes together… In the meantime, you can check out the website of our endeavor:

Again, thanks all for the comments – and more constructive feedback it always appreciated!

-- "...a band of small discoveries, strung like pearls on a thread of curiosity, lending richness to our work...." - James Krenov.......

View shipwright's profile


8166 posts in 2999 days

#11 posted 06-13-2012 03:01 PM


First thanks, secondly it was just a suggestion based on the fact that your design was
1) an easy cut that would not need to be “perfect” in that it is a wandering line that contacts only the background. (not a many piece picture)
2) overly large for the scroll saw.

The pattern can be easily and quickly cut with a hand jig saw and then the router bushing set makes it a perfect fit automatically as the same pattern is used for both parts. If you choose to make the pattern the piece that covers the background, then you can’t mess up the background. If you do make a major mistake following the pattern on the inlay, at least it is the smaller piece and you can do it again but that really is unlikely as the pattern is easy to follow.

Different people do things different ways. I wouldn’t presume to say this is a better way, just another that you may want to look into. If you are getting into marquetry, you will leave these methods behind quickly.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 3090 days

#12 posted 06-13-2012 06:24 PM

I positively HATE it!


Because you made it and I didn’t! :)

Now, seriously, that is one HECK of a first try. Wanna lend me that press?


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View SnowFrog's profile


102 posts in 2748 days

#13 posted 06-14-2012 03:43 PM

That is positively great. I love the arches.

-- One can dream, about a passion not yet fully fulfilled!

View Simeond's profile


83 posts in 2605 days

#14 posted 06-15-2012 08:09 PM

Paul (aka BigTiny): Feel free to come to Cleveland from Winnepeg to use the vacuum press any time you’d like! I was actually pretty easy to put together. I purchased the Venturi II system from The parts for the system ran about $200, but the bag was like $250 (for a thick 4’x8’ one). It took about 2 hours to put together.

-- "...a band of small discoveries, strung like pearls on a thread of curiosity, lending richness to our work...." - James Krenov.......

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21736 posts in 3307 days

#15 posted 04-10-2013 11:54 AM

Simeond, that is a great table and thanks for story on the process . We all learn from things like that. Being able to respond with the repair method and the reinforcement of the vacuum press is what makes a great wood worker. You have taught us all.!
Thanks, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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