Marquetry Serving Tray #4: Small design change, Construction of the frame, and cutting out letters

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Blog entry by jmartel posted 06-04-2014 05:44 AM 2563 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Cutting the Border and inlaying it all Part 4 of Marquetry Serving Tray series Part 5: More construction on the tray frame »

Last night, I set on the task of cutting out all the letters. I ended up just printing out the photo and using that as a guide for cutting them, which worked well enough.

Only problem was that I split some of the letters. I’m going to be re-doing the M, A, S, W, T, and I still need to cut the B (it was obscured by the flag in the photo). This is one major drawback of using the X-acto knife method for cutting veneer. It has a tendency to pull too much on the veneer when cutting cross-grain and will split it if you have a small width.

Here’s a rough mockup on how it will look:

Tonight, I decided to start making the frame for the tray. The idea was to take use of the daylight hours to work on the frame and save the veneer work for at night. I live in a townhouse in a densely populated area, so I try to keep all power tool use to before 8pm.

While on the way home from work, I decided to scrap my initial idea on how to make the frame. I figured this would look better in a pseudo Greene & Greene style frame, so as soon as I got home from work, I had to start doing some research.

Came up with a rough idea on how I wanted it to look based off of some photos found online, and started cutting. I used a nice piece of Sapele which I planed down to 3/4”. Then, I ripped two 2” wide pieces and two 3” wide pieces from the stock. After that, I needed to lay out the cloud lifts and finger joints.

Keep in mind that I have never done anything in the Greene & Greene style before, and was basing my proportions/measurements solely off of photos. I ended up with two 1/2” lifts on the ends of the tray, with 1/2” radius corners and 1-1/2” spacing between lifts. To trace the radius, I used a tip that I had heard many years ago and found an automotive socket that was roughly the radius I wanted to use, and used that as a drawing guide. From there, it was off to the bandsaw to cut it out. Once I got the cloud lifts cut, I had to decide on the spacing for the box joints. Since I was working with 2” wide stock for the joints, I decided on upper and lower fingers of 5/8”, and a center finger of 3/4”. The length was determined to be the thickness of the stock (3/4”) plus 1/4” protruding from the ends, for a total finger length of 1”. Cut them out at the bandsaw, and did the final fitting with a chisel.

This was the result:

3 of the 4 joints were nice and tight, but the 4th is a bit loose. Nothing major, just a bit more than I had originally wanted. I may try to glue in a few strips of veneer to close it up, but I’m not entirely sure yet.

I still need to shape the fingers, cut the holes for the handles, and rout out the dado to accept the plywood bottom. It’s starting to come together, though.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

6 comments so far

View changeoffocus's profile


467 posts in 2131 days

#1 posted 06-04-2014 11:45 AM

Now I’m following with great interest, thanks for posting this.

View 489tad's profile


3653 posts in 3526 days

#2 posted 06-04-2014 12:03 PM

JMart, that is going to look great. Will you be adding ebony to the design? Have you ever ebonized cherry? I tried with bad results. I’d would use dye the next time. Keep us posted.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View jmartel's profile


8572 posts in 2664 days

#3 posted 06-04-2014 01:37 PM

I hadn’t decided. I was going to swing by Rockler to see if they had any small pieces. Otherwise I was going to try and ebonize walnut.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View stefang's profile (online now)


16754 posts in 3848 days

#4 posted 06-04-2014 02:20 PM

Looks very good. About the splitting part. I wonder if you glued paper onto the face side before cutting, like is done for packet cutting on the Chevalet, would help to prevent splitting. Using gummed veneer tape should also work (the non-perforated kind). On the other hand can’t those splits be glued back together? They should match perfectly.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View jmartel's profile


8572 posts in 2664 days

#5 posted 06-04-2014 02:55 PM

Mike, My plan was to attempt to re-cut the letters. As I still have to trace around the letters so I can inlay them, it will put more pressure on them. It’s always an option. Cutting out letters won’t take very long, so it’s no big deal. I’ll work more on it this evening.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View shipwright's profile


8381 posts in 3312 days

#6 posted 06-04-2014 03:43 PM

Those are excellent letters for knife cutting. I would second Mike’s comment about trying paper or veneer tape on the face side to keep the veneer together. For now, you could stick them together with veneer tape, trim it to the letters, and (of course) remove it with water after installation. It would reinforce them for the tracing.
On the other hand, if you are cutting them this well with ease …........
Looking very good so far.
Thanks for the update.

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

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