Went Boulleing Today (again)

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Blog entry by stefang posted 02-12-2013 05:49 PM 2947 reads 1 time favorited 41 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have ordered some veneers, both burls and some regulars. I also ordered a nice little veneer saw which I learned how to sharpen from Joewoodworker site HERE and for which I am grateful for mention of this site to Shipwright and others (can’t remember who now).

While awaiting delivery of my veneer, I thought it might be fun to try some boulle work just to get a feel for it. I might wind up doing some other marquetry method, but as you might know, I like to experiment a little. So I cut some veneers at 3/64” thick to make a couple of stacks to cut in my scrollsaw, one 6 pieces thick and the other one which isn’t cut yet with 10 pieces. Then I glued on part of a pattern to cut.

As many of you know, the Boulle method is basically a stack of veneer of different colors. A design is cut out and the cutout pieces are then reinserted in the holes, but using pieces from the other colors. Interchangeable is the keyword. You then wind up with many exact copies of the same pattern, but all with different colors.

For my first attempt I used only 3 veneers that were about 1/16” thick. This didn’t work too well as I found it very difficult to keep control of my #2 blade in the turns. That is why I tried a somewhat thicker stack this time to get better cutting control. This succeeded pretty well. The pattern is just clipped from a larger patten, so it won’t make any sense. Just think of it as two slugs having a cuddle.

Pretty good this time. I was able to follow all the pattern lines and details quite well, though still a tendency for the blade to wander a little. I used only one color veneer as I wanted to preserve my stash of the good stuff. The background wood is the same, but with sawdust darkening it.

The gaps seem small to me around the randomly reinserted pieces I cut. There is a small discernible gap, but I expect that these would be reduced or maybe even eliminated with gluing.There aren’t any sharp corners on this pattern, but I will have them on my next stack for experiment #3 with 10 pieces. I hope the thicker stack will add even more control.

The first photo is shot with my dirty fingers just to give you an idea of the size of what I did. The 2nd one gives a better idea of the gaps. I’m not sure if these gaps are about normal or a lot wider than normal marquetry work, as I don’t have enough experience to know.

I do like that many copies can be made with one cutting. That makes it a lot easier to make Christmas and birthday gifts for people who don’t know one another or who at least live a long way apart. Of course I can make copies with other marquetry methods as well.

I posted this to show that you don’t need to do a big project and spend a lot of time and money to learn something new.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

41 comments so far

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2854 days

#1 posted 02-12-2013 05:59 PM

Mike your accuracy amazes me, so much so that I’ve rigged up
a magnifier and lamp to try and see the finer details that you are
working to. I’m finding print to be a very jagged line. It has also
look at my project with a different view as one I’m cut I’m also going
to be reducing the scale so the finer detail that I can obtain the more
accurate it can become.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#2 posted 02-12-2013 06:22 PM

Thanks Jamie. I use a magnifying glass with a light to cut with too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3301 days

#3 posted 02-12-2013 06:32 PM

this is really great mike, im glad the cutting went much better, i knew it would, your going to really enjoy this the more you explore and even get into sand shading. you will become a great worker of veneers…enjoy, and lets dont put off the dragon cutting to long, i dont know if i can handle the stress…lol….or maybe you will just say im going to play it safe and not cut it…lol..

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

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#4 posted 02-12-2013 06:36 PM

Thanks Grizz. I took your advice and succeeded. Got any more good tips? I haven’t got any sand yet. And I will be cutting it Grizz, don’t you worry. Just like a good story, there has to be some suspense and an exciting ending. I can’t wait!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2840 days

#5 posted 02-12-2013 07:15 PM

Looking good.
Marquetry is one of those off shoots of scrolling that I’ve had a mind to try my hand at for some time.
I’ll get to it one day.
Until then, I am constantly inspired when I see the fine detail that others are doing with it.


View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#6 posted 02-12-2013 07:37 PM

I don’t know about you william, but these things always tend to be a lot easier than imagined, at least at the beginner level. This is a special field of woodworking with a whole lot to learn, but even beginners can make some nice projects while they gain more knowledge and experience with it. I’ve wanted to take it up for some time now, but hesitated due to all the new things I had to learn about just at a time when I was beginning to feel fairly confident in other woodworking areas. But half the fun is learning something new, so I am taking the leap! I just hope I don’t die of old age before I can make something nice!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2796 days

#7 posted 02-12-2013 08:33 PM

Looking good Mike.
The nice thing about Boulle style is that perfect fits are guaranteed. The drawback is the kerfs. Yours are OK but will improve with finer blades. There are also lots of tricks for making them disappear. You know some already.

One thing I do in my packets is to use a piece of cheap 1/8” mahogany plywood (the stuff we call door skins from it’s use on cheap interior doors) on each side to add substance and give the packet stiffness. This might be a help.

One thing you have to watch carefully with Boulle style is that when you do a more complex motif you need to be careful to spread the kerf spaces around evenly. If you start from one side and work across, keeping the gaps nice and tight, you will find that not only is the last gap on the other side quite unacceptably large but the pieces don’t actually fit very well.

This is a fun journey for me to watch as I’m just a few yards ahead of you on the path. To quote Yogi Berra (I think that’s who it was) “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

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

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#8 posted 02-12-2013 08:48 PM

Thanks Paul. I will try that. I have some 1/8” ply for that. I doubt I can get door skins here. You are definitely not a few yards ahead of me in marquetry. Light years would be a better description and the same applies to our respective woodworking skills. That doesn’t worry me, as I will learn a lot more from you than you from me! I am guessing you mean I should center the insert piece to leave an even gap all the way around?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2840 days

#9 posted 02-12-2013 09:35 PM

I agree with you but it is a little more complicated than that. It’s just like my wood turning journy right now. At first it seems so hard, but as we learn, it becomes easy soon enough. Before you know it, you can do the skill without thought and start adding your own twists to it.
That how it is with scrolling for me. I started out just doing the simplest projects. Now I have done projects that others claim to be masterful work. It seems like only yesterday (over four years actually) that I turned on a scroll saw for the first time.
Currently, I have been branching out into other aspects of wood working, like turning. I always come back to scrolling though and hope to, one day, try my hand at marquetry as well.
For me though, like with my scrolling, it is all a great journey. I lose track sometimes though and forget just how long I’ve been doing it. I started updating my blog last night and wee hours this morning. I’m creating a page with categorized links to various projects. In doing so, it struck me as amazing. I did not realize until I happened across my very first blog post that I posted my first project online in early 2009.


View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2796 days

#10 posted 02-12-2013 09:59 PM

Yes Mike, center the pieces. It isn’t much more than a minor annoyance that only you will see if the project is small with few pieces and few kerfs, but when the motif is more complex and has twenty kerfs from one side to the other….... well let’s just say that 20 X 1/64” = a third of an inch !!

Light years and marquetry years are exactly the same length, time wise, and I’m only two ahead of you (and you know how fast they go by at our age.) With your talent, stubbornness and desire you will fly with this.

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

View Brit's profile


7376 posts in 2840 days

#11 posted 02-12-2013 11:52 PM

Mike you have a talent for this fine work. I really hope you stick with it because I can see some beautiful projects on the horizon.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Mathew Nedeljko's profile

Mathew Nedeljko

715 posts in 3828 days

#12 posted 02-13-2013 02:01 AM

Mike I have been following your marquetry blogs with interest, thanks for taking the time to share your learning journey with us.

I echo the advice that Paul is giving you…make up your packets with the 1/8” plywood front and back, and get yourself some finer blades – 2/0 or 3/0 to minimize the kerf width and give you more control… I would also try slowing your scrollsaw down as far as it can go.

If you really decide to pursue working with veneers further, I would suggest you look into building yourself a chevalet or at a dedicated marquetry saw like this one by John Eifler.

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

View kiefer's profile


5619 posts in 2665 days

#13 posted 02-13-2013 03:19 AM

You got the bug and looks like you also got the eye and talent for this tedious discipline .
It’s fun to watch you a go at it and developing you skills .
I am still waiting for the finish of the dragon !!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Kiefer

View justoneofme's profile


639 posts in 2478 days

#14 posted 02-13-2013 04:41 AM

You’ve been ‘testing the water’ with great accuracy Mike! This little experiment proves you’re more than ready to play the Marquetry scene with veneers!! I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and the varied techniques used in the art of Marquetry … and have to definitely agree on the use the fine jewelry blades to reduce the kerf. As far as speed is concerned, you’ll most likely find that comfort zone between yourself and your scroll-saw!!

But what you’ve already accomplished looks perfect … and the fun you are obviously having … priceless!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10097 posts in 4050 days

#15 posted 02-13-2013 05:05 AM

Very nice work…

What are you going to do with them now?

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

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