At the end of the last segment I said that I would do this one on the thing that we who do marquetry, with modern veneers at least, fear most…. sanding through to reveal the substrate. I can show you a picture of what it looks like but there’s no way I can tell you what it feels like. Here’s what I discovered while very carefully leveling the central medallion of this table with fine sandpaper. I looked at it and said something like ”Oh gee whiz, that’s really too bad”….. or maybe it was ”OH %^&$%%^# !!!”, I don’t remember.
I mentioned modern veneer. The thing is that back in the 17th century, veneer was sawn and was 1/16” or better thick. Now it’s peeled and can be as thin as 1/54”. Although 1/32” is still common, more and more 1/42” is showing up and thinner is on the way. That’s all fine for sheet veneering in big pieces that don’t require any leveling and just need a fine sanding before finishing but when you are trying to do complex marquetry with hundreds of tiny pieces it gets very dicey.
To start with even if you have some thick veneers, the whole thing will have to be taken down to the level of the thinnest. The slightest unevenness of substrate, tiny wood chip under the marquetry or glue buildup can result in what seems to be garbage bin material. Obviously the modern marquetuer would be well advised to learn some damage control skills early on.
Here’s how I handled this one. It really helped knowing that I had three back-up motifs. It gave me license to hack away in ways that I may otherwise have been unwilling to try. First I cut pieces of pattern that would cover the areas that were sanded through. There are three ways to handle this.
The first is to replace whole pieces, the best if possible. That’s what I’m doing here with the leaves.
The second is to replace parts and hide the joints by aligning grain and cutting on a grain line like the flute.
The third, if you can’t do either seamlessly is to create a new piece that separates the piece you have to replace. I couldn’t seamlessly replace the burl background here so I added a new leaf that isolated the repair area in the birdseye.
Removing the pieces to be replaced is easy because if you moisten and heat hide glue at once it re-liquefies and the piece can be lifted out.
Next the pattern bits were attached and oriented on special purpose packets and cut out.
Then the new pieces were glued into the holes where the old ones had been removed. Notice how the bit of birdseye burl that needed to be replaced is now an “island” and doesn’t touch any other background.
In the final leveling I left the new pieces ever so slightly proud of the thinnest of the salvaged marquetry to be sure I didn’t sand through again and compound the problem.
Next I took the time to complement myself for being so clever and then got back to work. That would be when I noticed another area that needed some attention. The pieces weren’t quite level yet and needed just a little more sanding . Then I’d be done…..except the “little more sanding” did this:
About this time I realized that the whole piece was likely only a few thou thick so I made the same repairs here and covered the whole piece with two coats of epoxy before anything else could disappear. The epoxy also leveled out the tiny discrepancies I had left in the thinnest areas and now you’d never know.
Here are a few more pics that show the second repair. The first shows the area excavated.
The next shows the pieces glued in. Some are paper re-inforced on the back and what you are seeing is the paper.
And the last one shows the repair complete.
I’ll finish off with the same shot as I did in the last segment, the epoxy coated and protected finished top.
I guess the moral here is ”If life gives you thin veneers, make ….patches.”
As a side note, I did the mortises and tenons for the leg / apron joints today and got to see the table standing on her legs for the first time…. and if you liked the top, you’ll love the legs. I’m just a grinnin’ here.
Thanks for dropping by. Next time I’ll get back to the build process and give you your first glimpse of those legs …. or at least part of them.
As always Comments, critiques and especially questions are always welcome.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/