I do hope that some of you will take up the challenge and improve this technique as I think it has some real potential to develop into an interesting tool for enhancing many different works. With that in mind I will try to illustrate a couple of the pitfalls inherent in the process. I discovered them in the usual way.
The front (doors) of the cabinet was my “guinea pig” for testing the marquetry / dye technique prior to trying the more difficult top so both of the problems that are illustrated were encountered there. The encouraging thing is that having discovered them there and with an understanding of what must have caused them, they did not re-occur in the top.
The first involves a dramatic change in size and shape of the inlay piece when allowed to dry overnight in my heated finishing room. This photo shows the inlay as it looked after dying and drying to return it to flat. Notice that it still fits perfectly.
After spraying it with oil based polyurethane to seal the dye I left it in the finishing room overnight. When I returned to the shop the next morning it had changed considerably. The tips of the leaf (top in this photo) were actually too long. In this photo they have already been filed back, probably about 1/32”. That’s a lot in a place like this. Also the width of the leaf had shrunk as you can see here a good 1/16”. I attributed this to the multiple grain orientations and the fact that only one side of the piece was sealed. I’m not really sure what happened but the plan was not to allow that much time, in a warm dry room at least, between sealing and gluing to the substrate.
My solution was to add a little walnut “shadow” under the spine of the leaf. Making a new panel was out as the grain matches were already done with this one and making another leaf would have had several of it’s own challenges. Re-cutting the marquetry was a little scary but when you’re scared to death it sometimes makes you extra sharp.
I was feeling pretty good about myself after dodging that bullet and went ahead and vacuum bagged the veneer to the door piece. When it came out of the bag I realized that a few parts of the inlay were about .020” high. Not wanting to lose the dye at this point I tried a few coats of brush applied clear polyurethane grain filler to see if I could build it up. This photo shows the offending area and the uneven layers of filler between the two lobes.
I did the math and decided that it would take about 20 coats to fill the discrepancy. Knowing from experimentation that after about 8 coats that “water clear” quality of this finish starts to slip into “milky not so clear”, I decided that it was time to learn the repair for this condition. First step was to scrape the offending high spots down to flush.
If I were to try to re-dye now the dye would bleed into the field veneer. I know this from experimenting, the glue line does not stop it. So the solution I decided to try was to carefully seal the field with an artist’s brush and some wipe-on poly and let it dry completely. The more viscose poly won’t bleed into the inlay like the water based dye would the other way.
With the poly dry I was able to re-dye the leaf with no significant problems.
When all is said and done no one will be the wiser (except LumberJocks who read my blog). The lesson learned here was to be very careful about two things. The first is to resist the urge to err on the tight side when setting the scroll saw angle for the marquetry and, as distasteful as it may be to a boat builder, actually err on the loose side. This allows the inlay to be pressed all the way down to the substrate when in the press. If it’s a little tight and the glue causes any swelling, it will stick up. The second is to pay more attention to making sure everything is sanded (the stationary drum sander is great at this) to a perfectly uniform thickness. When I first did this repair I was thinking to myself that maybe this was a a better way to dye the parts, after glue-up and leveling. The jury is still out on that. I’d have to try it and I haven’t yet, but it will come with it’s own challenges. It would overcome some of the ones I had to deal with.
I’m looking forward to seeing some more “watercolor dye technique” projects show up on the projects page, so give it a try. All you have to lose is your sanity.
Questions, comments and critiques welcome.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/