OK, The French Veneer (at last) #2: Beginnings

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 10-02-2014 01:07 AM 2775 reads 3 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: A tribute to my mentors Part 2 of OK, The French Veneer (at last) series Part 3: Reality Check »

I put a lot of thought into what the first project would be for my fine sawn veneer before I decided on this particular idea. I would have to say there was also a lot of “putting it off” involved but once the project had been chosen the next question was where to start.

I wanted the piece to have interest in both decoration and in function (hence the cantilevered drawers) so before anything else I had to make sure the mechanics were sound. Here are a few shots of the hinge components being made up.

All I wanted to check was that I could make the tolerances between the 1/2” hole and the Queen Ebony shaft close enough to turn freely but not have any play. This was as far as I had to get to see that so I ticked that box and moved on.

Maybe the main reason I moved on to the marquetry before making up a test drawer was that I had a chevalet demo to do at a local fine arts show and I needed a subject. I decided to do some cutting for this project, but what to cut? I didn’t know what colors I wanted despite having made up sample boards like this one of my new stock.

Then I had an idea that I should make up some “palette” packets from which I could cut a lot of samples at one time. As these pieces weren’t intended for actual use in the box, I could cut them with the distractions of the demo and not worry about ruining anything. These are the “practice pieces” I referred to in the last blog.

I made up a palette of reds, one of white / yellows, and one of greens.

At the show, I cut a couple of the flowers and some of the leaves. That allowed me to generate a lot of options and look at them on a black ground to get a better idea of what veneers I wanted to make up dedicated packets from for the actual pieces.

This gave me a better idea of what colors I wanted but the little pieces kept moving around on me so I decided to cut the first of three sets of three ebony backgrounds and look at the pieces trapped in their actual positions in the actual ground.

Cutting the background in piece by piece is a very important step and I was very careful to follow the lines as best I could. The background encloses everything else and it won’t move. If you leave to much material, the pieces won’t fit. If you take too much away, they will be loose. Loose is the side to err on however (if err you must) as black mastic will hide your sins. :-)

This set of backgrounds will be for the three drawers that have these two flowers. Two will have the daisy on the right and one on the left so one piece is in the packet glue side down and two are glue side up.

First, I cut out the little black “islands” that were too small to be connected to the main ebony ground by bridges. I’ll explain bridges later.

As each area is cut free from the packet it is taped in to help the packet to retain its strength.

Here the packet is cut apart showing the three backgrounds and the scrap, still nailed together.

If you look at the pieces below you can see that the background is very fragile. It would be impossibly fragile except for the bridges. They are the little bars of background left in to join the different areas of ground. After the ground is securely glued to the assembly board, they are cut away to allow the inlay pieces to be fitted.

In this picture you can see that in the top piece there are some pieces that could not be fitted with the bridges in place. The flower is fitted because no bridges were needed there. The leaves and trellis are sitting on top of the bridges at this point as the grounds are not yet glued up.

I should say that what I have done here is not a method of attack that I would recommend in general. I just needed to experiment with several aspects of the project because I basically ….. well …. don’t know what I’m doing. When Patrice does this, it is all organized and smooth running ......... but then I think he and Patrick know pretty much exactly what they are building before they start building it. :-)

Well if you aren’t sufficiently confused by now, I am so I’ll call it a day.

Thanks for looking in.


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

16 comments so far

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4070 days

#1 posted 10-02-2014 01:14 AM

I guess the veneer your using makes a big difference right? Great job.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10265 posts in 4198 days

#2 posted 10-02-2014 01:26 AM

Very interesting…

That look like it need a tremendous amount of planning…

Awesome job…

Thank you.

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

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3449 days

#3 posted 10-02-2014 02:15 AM

my oh my, this is a fantastic project paul….

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

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2813 days

#4 posted 10-02-2014 02:25 AM

That is looking very complicated but beautiful .
I can not imagine doing this but watching you it looks straight forward aiming for the finish line with a plan that is well designed .
Also nice of you to give your time to share you craft and skill ,we need more of that .


-- Kiefer

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2685 days

#5 posted 10-02-2014 02:41 AM

Thanks for sharing Paul, it’s nice to see the journey.

-- I never finish anyth

View BENTWOOD's profile


373 posts in 1928 days

#6 posted 10-02-2014 03:06 AM

Thank you for taking us on this journey with you. I can’t begin to understand it all but its looking beautiful.


View Sodabowski's profile


2375 posts in 2979 days

#7 posted 10-02-2014 06:45 AM

Loving every bit of it! :)

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Dutchy's profile


3083 posts in 2314 days

#8 posted 10-02-2014 07:06 AM

A great blog. Thank you for sharring.


View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1051 posts in 2458 days

#9 posted 10-02-2014 08:16 AM

This is so helpful to see what needs to be done step by step. Many thanks for sharing.

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

View stefang's profile


15947 posts in 3480 days

#10 posted 10-02-2014 09:41 AM

Great blog Paul. It’s a privilege to be a able to watch the progress of such a beautiful and complex marquetry project.

There are plenty of learning points here, for me at least. One thing in particular that I find immediately useful is the way you organized your veneers with the sample board. I really must do that with mine before I start my next project.

I also found your cutting methods interesting where you tape the larger pieces back in. I am still trying to get my head around where best to place bridges, but your examples here are a great help.

It looks to me that you are not concerned with the grain orientation on these plain veneers, are you are orienting them for strength, such as keeping the point parts in line with the grain to prevent breakage? It appears that way from what I can see, but it would be nice to know.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5322 posts in 4028 days

#11 posted 10-02-2014 11:50 AM

Oh my.
That is just amazing.

It seems like you are having fun while doing this. I like that.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View shipwright's profile


8086 posts in 2944 days

#12 posted 10-02-2014 03:03 PM

Thanks all.

Bob, actually the thick, very hard veneers present some challenges but there are positive differences as well.

Mike, when you have a lot of parts, organization becomes really important, especially when you have similar pieces. Most of these pieces were cut from a “whole” pattern as you would in Boulle or Painting in Wood rather than from individual pieces like the real ones will be so I didn’t pay much attention to grain orientation. When the actual pieces are cut they will be oriented for strength, appearance, or both.

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

View Patricelejeune's profile


378 posts in 2066 days

#13 posted 10-02-2014 06:26 PM

Good work Paul, we are waiting to see the rest.

-- Patrice lejeune

View tinnman65's profile


1362 posts in 3560 days

#14 posted 10-02-2014 09:21 PM

I love your blogs, they are always very interesting. I look forward to see whats next.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Mathew Nedeljko's profile

Mathew Nedeljko

715 posts in 3976 days

#15 posted 10-04-2014 09:38 PM

Paul, I’m late to the party again, but looks like you are off and running and making great progress. I’m sure this will turn out great! Definitely a worthy project for your precious material and a fitting homage to Patrick. Thanks for taking pictures and documenting your journey with us.

-- Aim high. Ride easy. Trust God. Neale Donald Walsch

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