Playing with Parchment

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 04-09-2013 12:53 AM 2261 reads 3 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A few months ago my buddy Gene (vipond33) posted a superb desk featuring parchment and ebony. He had some parchment scraps left over and he sent them on to me, thinking I might be able to use them for something. .... Thanks Gene!

He gave me some general instructions for it’s use and left me to experiment. The thing that caught my interest was that he mentioned that it’s good to pay attention to the darkness or lightness of the substrate as it can be somewhat transparent. I immediately thought of trying to get a fuzzy “soft touch card” kind of effect with parchment over marquetry.

This was my first experiment. I dyed a piece of plywood in a rainbow blend and applied the parchment over it with fish glue, the recommended adhesive and something which I actually had in hand.

Encouraged by the initial results I set about trying to increase the transparency. To do this I sanded it to a more uniform thickness and then applied some shellac. This was the result.

I was happy enough with my progress and short enough on material to cut to cut chase and try it over some marquetry. Some of you may have seen the project I posted with the orca on a curly maple ground. I actually cut four of them together in a Boulle style packet. This one on plain maple was dyed, sanded a little and then covered with my parchment. Then it was sanded as above and coated with shellac.
I like the effect. It reminds me of when I used to dive in plankton season.

Next up was to make a quick little box to mount it on. It’s nothing special and will serve to hold some small bits and pieces in the shop somewhere. I did however get a little more experimenting done. The bottom of the box is wrapped with a single strip of parchment and trapped at the back with a little spline. The dye on the bottom is under the parchment and on the edges of the lid, I dyed over the parchment to see the different effect.

The back of the lid was just too narrow to hold the parchment so it is missing there. Please don’t think of this as a finished project. It’s just a quick and dirty little box for the sole purpose of learning about parchment.

Any day you learn something new is a good day. I may never use parchment again but if I do, I’ll have a trick or two up my sleeve…. Thanks to Gene.

Hope you’ve found this interesting, I know I had a ball with it.


-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

23 comments so far

View SisQMark's profile


384 posts in 2624 days

#1 posted 04-09-2013 01:12 AM

What a terrific way to accentuate your craft. Awesome job Paul !

-- Don't waste today, it is yesterdays tomorrow!~SisQMark

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2714 days

#2 posted 04-09-2013 01:17 AM

Always fun to experiment with new techniques. Good to see you haven’t forgotten your signature hinge! The underside of that lid looks just like looking down into shallow seawater!

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

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18286 posts in 3700 days

#3 posted 04-09-2013 01:40 AM

interesting technique. Is the parchment made of extremely thin leather?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 2522 days

#4 posted 04-09-2013 01:58 AM

I had no idea I’d be so jealous to see this. I thought when I sent it that you might use it like we normally do, plain and softly glowing. Shoulda known better.
Our only experiment here was to unintentionally press it long term with a flat sawn red oak panel & cauls. Because of the tannic acid hard up against a wet surface (duh), it blotched and ruined the panel with brown stains (and visible grain).
Then on reflection at this huge and expensive error, we also thought this might be interesting to pursue deliberately. Much like you have pursued the marvelous flaw of irregular transparency inherent in this material.
The Orca is frozen in ice, the dyeing divine.

-- gene@toronto.ontario.canada : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2499 days

#5 posted 04-09-2013 02:08 AM

Damn, even your experiments are awesome… are really pissing me off… :-)))

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3042 days

#6 posted 04-09-2013 02:17 AM

This is absolutely beautiful!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3328 days

#7 posted 04-09-2013 02:42 AM

beautiful paul, more reminders of home..

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

View DocSavage45's profile


8589 posts in 2867 days

#8 posted 04-09-2013 03:05 AM

Quick, dirty, old and electric! Could be an old antique!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Natalie 's profile


367 posts in 1991 days

#9 posted 04-09-2013 03:17 AM

I’m not understanding what parchment is. Anyone want to clue me in.

-- Natalie - My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I don't like to go there alone.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20594 posts in 3130 days

#10 posted 04-09-2013 03:27 AM

Outta sight, Paul!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2691 days

#11 posted 04-09-2013 03:29 AM

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10118 posts in 4076 days

#12 posted 04-09-2013 04:20 AM

Interesting technique…


Thank you.

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

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1040 posts in 2337 days

#13 posted 04-09-2013 07:41 AM

Very interesting technique. The second picture reminded me of one of Turner’s watercolours. All you needed to complete the illusion was a square rigger under the parchment!

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3358 days

#14 posted 04-09-2013 09:19 AM

I think you’re experiment turned out really well Paul. The underwater scene actually looks underwater! A really nice effect and totally unique as far as I know. Just the word parchment evokes a vision of some ancient artifact. You might just have originated a new art form with a connection to the past!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View helluvawreck's profile


31378 posts in 2891 days

#15 posted 04-09-2013 02:18 PM

Another beautiful piece, Paul. Congratulations.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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