A veneering extravaganza!

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Blog entry by John Fry posted 04-15-2008 05:11 AM 9883 reads 29 times favorited 29 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This intricate project is a veneered, inlaid, banded, and beaded set consisting of a coffee table and two end tables. The visible woods are curly maple, boire, Peruvian walnut, anigre, figured anigre, and wenge.

The secondary woods are mahogany and poplar.

This elevated shot shows the anigre veneered drawer bottom, and the detail in the top. The end tables are 23” tall and the tops are just under 26” X 26”. All three tables are finished with five coats of an oil/varnish blend.

Here is the pair of end tables together. This photo is to prove that I really did build two. Each table has over 500 pieces of wood.

And of course, the matching coffee table. Yes! These tables are wild, artsy to the extreme, and they are definitely NOT for those who dislike multiple wood pieces of furniture. May they at least enjoy the construction process.

I started by prepping and resawing all the necessary maple and boire veneers, this is a bunch of stickered and clamped boire.

All the patterned veneers for the raised panels were sliced from glued up solid blocks of boire and curly maple.

Just like the larger shop sawn veneers, these were sliced and sanded to 1/16”. I cut several extra, just in case.

The MDF substrates for the raised panels in all the aprons were beveled at 12 degrees and the beveled edges were veneered with commercial figured anigre veneers, that I had in stock.

I glued the patterned veneers to the panels using yellow glue and a fixture to hold the veneer centered on the face of the panel while it was clamped. Then I made another template as a router guide that the panel slid into firmly, and I routed the 1/8” grooves to hold the miniature 1/8” bullnosed cockbeading. After mitering these tiny moldings by hand, I glued them into their grooves.

The framework for the panels is “cross-banded” boire and a rounded over 5/16” bead of wenge. I made this by edge gluing large sheets of the boire to the substrate and then sliced the strips across the grain of the boire veneer. Then the strips of wenge were made by first using a roundover bit on both edges of a piece of solid wenge at the router table, and then ripping off the 5/16” strips. They were then glued to the veneered boire strips. Finally, on the table saw, I cut a 1/16” rabbet on the wenge so the roundover portion actually overlapped the delicate edge of the commercial veneer on the panel’s edge.

I set up stop blocks on my 45 degree miter sled and cut all the apron panel frame pieces. I used a band clamp to set the glued framework and then placed additional clamps to insure good contact all around.

The anigre leg stock was purchased as 8/4 lumber and my attempt to resaw this stock down to the desired 4/4 thickness on my bandsaw resulted in two, very dull, $200.00 carbide resaw blades in one 20” long cut! This is what they call high silica content. Wow! I wound up using my nasty looking 18T flat top ripping blade and got through it OK.

I beveled all the leg parts (using the same blade) and taped them for the glue up.

I glued the edges, rolled them up, and used band clamps and cauls for good pressure.

These legs will get four sided tapers, so I did as much milling as possible before doing the tapers. Here you see the cove being cut on the router table, the dadoes for the moldings on the bottom and just above the cove, have all been cut. All the mortises for the aprons have been completed at this time also.

The bottoms of all 12 legs have been plugged with anigre blocks, the outer two faces of all the legs have been routed in the upper portion for the inlaid mini raised panels.

The drawer fronts were made just like the apron panels except the veneers were laid up on sold mahogany. The halfblind dovetails are inlaid with Peruvian walnut, and the sides are white poplar. I veneered the drawer bottoms with figured anigre.

Next, I built a sled to taper the legs on the big planer with the Byrd Shelix head. To accommodate both lengths of legs and a four sided taper, I made it to be able to add blocks to change the taper angle, and a screw clamp so it would be held against stop blocks.

After the tapers were cut, I made this router template to cut the recesses for the angled herringbone boire inlays. These had to be cut on all four surfaces of all twelve legs.

To make the herringbone inlays, I edge glued strips of boire cut at about 45 degree angles. They were tapered and trimmed to fit, on the tables saw.

All twelve legs are inlaid and ready for the mini-panels to be glued into the upper recesses. Every recessed border will be finished off with 1/4”, by 1/4 round, wenge molding.

The mini panels that get glued into the upper leg blocks were made exactly like the larger panels. They have beveled edges and are veneered with anigre, they had one solid center piece of boire, and it is bordered by a tiny, 1/16� bullnosed cockbead, set in a 1/16� groove. Here the finished panels are being glued into the recesses.

After making all the quarter round wenge molding, I mitered everything to fit on the table saw using clamps and stop blocks. The 45 degree cuts on the upper moldings were pretty easy, but because of the tapered legs, the moldings for the bottom inlays were a much different set of angles.

I used a bunch of mini spring clamps to glue the moldings in place.

The coffee table aprons were end glued together and then these three panel assemblies, as well as all the single panel aprons, were glued to a � � Baltic birch plywood backer board. Mortises were then cut in the ends with a router for the mortise and loose tenon construction.

The top has a ½” wide wenge-maple-wenge banding. I made this by milling a flat piece of wenge at the ½” thickness and then ripped a 1/8” kerf in both edges. I glued a 1/8” thick slice of maple veneer in both kerfs.

Then I sliced off the banding at 1/16” thick and sanded smooth.

I taped and edge, glued all the 1/16” thick shop sawn veneers together for the tops.

I used mahogany backer veneers on the undersides of the tops. This end table top is right out of the vacuum press.

The table tops were bordered and profiled with Peruvian walnut. Then I milled the profiles for all the moldings and the inlaid beading out of Peruvian walnut, and then fit, mitered, and glued them into place.

Here are a couple of detail shots. This one is of the table top’s mitered corners. The outer veneer between the Peruvian walnut border and the wenge banding is shop sawn, figured anigre that I cut from a beautiful piece of 4/4 stock. I did my best to bookmatch as many of the corners a possible.

And finally, this one shows the corner block and leg in detail.

With over 1500 pieces of wood, this veneering project is one of my all time favorites. It was very intense and I literally put on the shelf for a few days at a time to keep my sanity. I found myself going out and pulling weeds to keep me from throwing it against the wall. :-)

Thanks for looking!

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

29 comments so far

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 4743 days

#1 posted 04-15-2008 05:25 AM

Exquisite! Very nice work. I am impressed with your veneering talent.


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4961 days

#2 posted 04-15-2008 05:27 AM

That is fantastic! A great job on a great project. Thanks for the how you did it blog.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View lclashley's profile


244 posts in 5087 days

#3 posted 04-15-2008 05:27 AM

VERY impressive. Thanks for the blog, it was quite imformative.

View Topapilot's profile


172 posts in 4813 days

#4 posted 04-15-2008 05:38 AM

Another excellent summary.

I have a question. You said five coats of an oil-varnish blend was used as a finish. I understood that the oil helps to pop the grain, and the varnish encapsulates any remaining oil so that it will “dry” and you can apply additional coats of finish. I also understood that having oil in the additional coats didn’t bring anything to the party as the wood is sealed by the first coat. What are your thoughts on all that, and can you tell us more about how you finish your work?

Robb – who didn’t wipe off the excess of the oil/varnish first coat and now has sticky draw handles under a heat lamp.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4788 days

#5 posted 04-15-2008 06:19 AM

This is awesome John. Thanks for taking the time to document this in your Blog.

-- Scott - Chico California

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3596 posts in 4685 days

#6 posted 04-15-2008 06:30 AM


This blog is so incredibly informative, too. It is so complete that I found it a really great vicarious experience, and “did” the work right with you. (However, I have nothing to show for it.) I could only dream about such skill, creativity, and patience!

-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View John Fry's profile

John Fry

74 posts in 4673 days

#7 posted 04-15-2008 07:18 AM

Topapilot asked:......... “I understood that the oil helps to pop the grain, and the varnish encapsulates any remaining oil so that it will “dry” and you can apply additional coats of finish. I also understood that having oil in the additional coats didn’t bring anything to the party as the wood is sealed by the first coat. What are your thoughts on all that, and can you tell us more about how you finish your work?”

You are basically right Robb. But the oil may still be penetrating on the second coat where the first coat sucked in more than you applied. PLUS, after the first and second coats I sand lightly with 320 grit to insure a very smooth surface and maybe I opened up the surface for more oil penetration on the subsequent coats. It is true though, that once the varnish has sealed the surface, the oil is just getting wiped off. From this point on, the varnish builds additional coats, and that also builds the sheen if that is desired. If you’re thinking why not just use a straight varnish (of your choice) from this point on, that would mean another finishing product on hand, and I just think it’s easier to keep using the same single product.


Thanks for the kind words everybody.

-- John, Chisel and Bit Custom Crafted Furniture,

View davidtheboxmaker's profile


373 posts in 4778 days

#8 posted 04-15-2008 10:19 AM

This is a fantastic blog – thanks very much for sharing it with us. Your workmanship is of the very highest standard – well done.

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4772 days

#9 posted 04-15-2008 11:16 AM

absolutely stunning. I will study these pictures many times.

-- making sawdust....

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4795 days

#10 posted 04-15-2008 11:51 AM


This is a well-documented construction post. The amount of effort and craftmanship that went into producing these pieces is not fully appreciated until the complexities of the individual processes are shown. This is a very nice post and I appreciate the time and effort it took to put this one together. You clearly delineated the individual processes and your photographic skills are excellent as well.

Thanks for posting a most interesting veneering blog.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View toyguy's profile


1745 posts in 4810 days

#11 posted 04-15-2008 12:01 PM

You sir have too much time on your hands.

Great construction blog. Great project….... great craftsmanship.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 5060 days

#12 posted 04-15-2008 01:49 PM

Thanks for validating the finish process I just used on my tray table bottoms.
I knew it worked but accepted it on faith.

IMHO production runs make projects like this doable. Making them one off would be a waste of time.

Great blog.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View RusticElements's profile


167 posts in 4698 days

#13 posted 04-15-2008 01:59 PM

Wow! This post is an encyclopedia in it’s self. It’s going in my favorites list for future reference!

-- Michael R. Harvey - Brewster, NY - - -

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4858 days

#14 posted 04-15-2008 02:32 PM

Magnificent piece!!!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 4994 days

#15 posted 04-15-2008 02:34 PM

That’s it, I quit woodworking! <g>

Just and execellent presentation and the detailed explanation via picltures remainds me of how little I know about the contruction of fine furniture.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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