Supporting a box in a tree was one of the original design ideas but a look at the “plans ” shows that another design intent was to celebrate the season (It was Fall when I was doing this, Winter hit here last week) with inlays some way involving colored leaves.
The first idea involved a branch ,with a three dimensional twig leading into it, covered with brightly colored maple leaves. It would have looked something like this, except that the branch and leaves would have been inlaid instead of laying on top like this. This was just a mock up.
About this time I started to feel like our western Maple, of which this piece is almost entirely made, was getting less than the respect it rightfully deserved. Here I was planning to use the stereotypical red and yellow “fall maple leaves” that really are Eastern varieties and don’t resemble our native maple leaves at all. Our maple leaves are very different. For one thing they aren’t called “big leaf maples” for nothing. Leaves a foot across are not uncommon. Secondly their fall colors are yellow and rusty brown, not as impressive as their eastern cousins perhaps but stunningly beautiful in their own way. I decided that this cabinet would have a cause and that cause would be to bring the Western Big Leaf Maple the respect it deserves. I went out to take photos of the leaves beside my shop.
Armed with the photograph of my maple leaves, my new DeWalt scroll saw and a general understanding of the principles of scroll saw (double bevel) marquetry, I set out to win the world over to the beauty of the Western Maple. And as I had no available veneer stock that remotely resembled the colors I would need, I decided that I would make them all out of maple and find a way to dye them to represent the leaves in the photo. I’ve never heard of this being done before but it’s a big world, I’m sure I’m not the first. The only reference I could find on the internet to dyed veneers being used in marquetry was about soaking very thin veneers overnight to saturate them and then using them as if they were a wood that color. I didn’t like that idea much. As you can see below I did add a few bits of walnut veneer in places to represent the curled up brown edges. It turns out I didn’t even have to do that much.
The next photo shows three leaves cut to fit together. Their outer margins are still uncut because they will be double bevel cut along with the background piece next. I should make a couple of observations about this process here. First of all, I gained a whole new respect for the scroll saw wizards here on LJ’s. This is not as easy as it looks! And secondly if you are a rank beginner like me trying to cut pieces like this, choose a subject like – oh say big leaf maple leaves, that can adapt their shape a little when you go over a line without looking really wrong. In this type of cutting there is of course no “waste side” that you can make mistakes in. You are using a piece on each side of the cut.
This shot shows the whole top cut together. Not really a lot of definition between pieces yet is there? The ends of the leaf at the top will bend down and appear on the back of the box. Notice that the grain in the background runs from the center to each edge. The four triangles that make up the top are the ends of the veneer panels that will form the sides, back and front. The grain will match on all these corners when the box is assembled. This process is well covered in the Oops! tutorial.
This leaf is a remnant of the original sketch. It is the “falling leaf” that will be featured on the front of the cabinet. It has been “Westernized”. If you look back at the “plans” you’ll notice that the original was much pointier like the Eastern leaves. Ours are a lot rounder with deep cuts between the lobes.
I couldn’t leave you today without a little taste of color.
Thanks for watching and for all the great support and comments. They are very much appreciated.
Tomorrow: How to watercolor with aniline dyes and get away with it.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fiberglass trees. http://prmdesigns.com/