Let's Try Production Marquetry

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Project by shipwright posted 10-19-2012 09:38 PM 3487 views 5 times favorited 36 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s all well and good to make beautiful arty tables and boxes that take tens or hundreds of hours to build but selling that sort of thing requires either hard work or a very low hourly rate if you are an unknown. .............. .......... Sounds like a challenge to me. ..................Time to see if I can urn some money with marquetry.

I did some checking around and found a funeral director that thought marquetry might fly on urns and after looking at what he had in stock and their retail prices I thought I’d take a run at making some. Assuming his markup is about double, give or take, it made for an interesting bit of sport.

This is exactly what classic (or “piece by piece”) style marquetry is all about so I chose simple a motif that I particularly like and cut it in three colors plus background, eight at a time on the chevalet. Then I made a quick prototype urn more to get his input than to evaluate time as this is a very easy box to mass produce.

This post shows the finished prototype. It’s not as spiffy as the rest will be in a number of ways but I am confident I can turn eight out in about 24 hours….... and that should work.

First photo shows about 12 hrs of work, eight pieces of marquetry cut, assembled and sand shaded. The roses appear brown because I laminated a walnut veneer behind the bloodwood to get the same thickness as my other colors of veneer. You are looking at the back, hence you are seeing the walnut.

Next two show the quick strong little mitered box. No clamping required with hot hide glue.

Last two show the finished (with a few flaws) urn with a fast French polish finish. I may or may not stay with the FP finish, but I’m leaning toward it.

Off to Az. next week (for six months) with a box full of veneers to make lots more marquetry skins for this size urn. They will keep me out of the bars and be easy to transport back with me.

Thanks for looking in

Questions, comments and critiques (like ” Hi Paul, There are some little chips at the top of the face panel) are always welcome.


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

36 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117234 posts in 3724 days

#1 posted 10-19-2012 09:46 PM

Way to go Paul your always ahead of the curve. Nice work very nice.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3450 days

#2 posted 10-19-2012 09:52 PM

hey paul these look fantastic, oh by the way i see some burn marks on the plywood…LOL…:)

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10265 posts in 4199 days

#3 posted 10-19-2012 09:58 PM

Looks like you have a very good plan laid out…


I’m sure yours will sell Big Time…

Very pretty!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View DocSavage45's profile


8699 posts in 2989 days

#4 posted 10-19-2012 10:17 PM

Got to urn the trip…LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View mauibob's profile


236 posts in 3214 days

#5 posted 10-19-2012 10:19 PM

Nice job, Paul. The shading came out great. BTW, looks like you added some banding on the edges—were the rabbets made on the table saw or with a router?

Thanks again for the speedy shipment!! ;-)

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21306 posts in 3252 days

#6 posted 10-19-2012 10:59 PM

Very nicely decorated urns!.

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

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10905 posts in 3575 days

#7 posted 10-19-2012 11:35 PM

Way to go, Paul.
Shoot me an email when you get settled. Got a line on some wonderful material for you.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4071 days

#8 posted 10-19-2012 11:47 PM

Now there is a market people are dying to get into and you will never run out of clients. Beautiful work as always.

View Boxguy's profile


2740 posts in 2414 days

#9 posted 10-20-2012 12:11 AM

Paul, your marquetry is beautiful and should sell. Religious themes do well here. Smaller, non-chain, rural, and non-christian mortuaries, or mortuaries that specialize in a particular sub-set of population or religion are a better market for small production and are often looking for particular themes or images for urns. Your abilities and craftsmanship should be a good match for them.

My experience was that if a mortuary is part of a chain, they buy everything from one supplier and won’t buy from you unless you sell to the chain and want to make them by the hundreds. In my area a 100% markup is about right for the urn business and seems standard for the trade. They commonly sell for $200 to $600 and strongly resemble imported humidors.

Local mortuaries here also prefer a plastic liner for the ashes. The liner is black and sort of like an oblong garbage pail with a locking lid, but using it can tie you into some dimensions. I found local mortuaries and crematoriums were glad to furnish me with one of their liners for free so I could get accurate dimensions and actually try it out to see if it would fit. I didn’t want it to rattle around inside the urn and make people curious.

You might also want to add a very small hole to account for atmospheric pressure changes if the box really seals tightly. Over a long period of years you might also have to contend with some acidic qualities to ashes. I tried to design a product that should last for 100 years so I used the liner and corner splines.

I didn’t see a shot of the bottom, so I can’t say for sure…but you want to be able to get into the urn if you want to scatter the ashes. At the same time, you want to keep prying and curious children out if it sits on the mantle for years. My solution was to use torx screws and offer the customer an inexpensive torx screwdriver if they want to open it relatively soon. I also wrote simple directions on the bottom wood telling how to open it.

It is a good and lucrative market, but I turned everything I was doing in urns over to a friend. Some recent personal experiences led me to be uninterested in anything directly related to death. It is a factor to consider. That is all that comes to mind at the moment. If I can help in any way, you have only to ask.

-- Big Al in IN

View Druid's profile


1866 posts in 2942 days

#10 posted 10-20-2012 12:15 AM

Beautiful example of a tastefully produced piece. Did you find any specs on what the minimum capacity of the Urn must be?

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2837 days

#11 posted 10-20-2012 01:10 AM

Those are beautiful and 3 in 24 hours is impressive to me. Best of luck with this venture.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View peteg's profile


4387 posts in 2970 days

#12 posted 10-20-2012 02:20 AM

Very tasteful & delicate work Paul, up to your usual standard of course, they should sell well.
Love the smell of that hide glue, reminds me of woodwork classes when I was at Primary school sixty years ago.
Enjoy your ‘winter escape” to AZ :)

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View tomd's profile


2167 posts in 3917 days

#13 posted 10-20-2012 02:24 AM

Don’t know anything about urns but the marquetry is terrific.

-- Tom D

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3225 days

#14 posted 10-20-2012 02:58 AM

I think it’ll work just fine . . . . . good luck, Paul/

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View rustynails's profile


778 posts in 2676 days

#15 posted 10-20-2012 03:11 AM

Nice work Paul!

Have a safe trip and keep us in the loop on the next design.


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