Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga #2: Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga

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Blog entry by justoneofme posted 03-13-2013 07:28 PM 2464 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga Part 2 of Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga series Part 3: Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga »

Hi Everyone ... I’m back at it again with my latest Marquetry project … ready to blog a small section for you to chew upon! This is where I left off, leaving you all in suspense ….

..... because now I’m going to delve into the mysterious, but not very complicated wonders of sand-shading!

This is my set-up for sand-shading. There’s a hotplate, which I block up for some air space between that and the board everything sits upon. The round cake pan holds silica sand ... and silica sand is easily obtainable at pet stores! That is the granular stuff that is liberally sprinkled on the floors of bird cages … and just may come in a box label ‘Bird Gravel’. It is NOT in powdered form, and please avoid powered silica (used in the making of glass) as the dust from that could lodge in your lungs and cause you future grief!!!

My layer of sand in the cake pan is approximately 1” thick … set to medium high heat and left there throughout its use. When I’m finished sand-shading I just pull the plug on my hotplate. Once you start playing around, you’ll find out what temperature works best for you. When that happens, you too will want to leave that ‘perfect’ setting alone! My hotplate comes with an on/off switch which remains left in the ‘on’ position. I don’t know how many times I used to fret far from home base, wondering if I turned that darned thing off before leaving. Of course I always turned it off … but far better now, I make a conscious effort to watch myself pull that plug … it’s harder than merely flicking a switch. I’d rather tell myself loud and clear to pull the plug … do it … and then stop worring about burning down my workshop!! But now (of course) I worry in wonderment over actually having pulled that plug!! It’s an age thing I think … my mind wanders and skitters off in all directions! Ah … back to sand-shading …... where was I? Oh yes … I also have a cake rack set between the burner and pan. Believe it or not, if used constantly … the bottom of that pan will eventually burn out! The cake rack seems to have solved that little issue.

Unless you feel the urge to continually burn your finger tips by using a small pair of tweezers to hold the veneer piece over this hot sand … I strongly suggest investing in long handled pinchers (dear old Dad-the-Locksmith gave me this one you see in the picture!) and a long handled spoon.

Now, with the silica sand well heated, we’re ready to do some sand-shading!

It’s as simple as that!! You decide just where you want to scorch the veneer … because basically that’s what you are doing. The controlled burn has to be just enough to go through the veneer so its effect won’t be removed later on during the process of scraping and sanding your completed work smooth before applying a finish.

There are several motions used to sand-shade veneer: In this picture I’m just scorching the edge. In doing that, I just hold the veneer against the bottom of the pan and move it along the edge where desired.

If you want to scorch beyond the edge ….. you just fan the veneer back and forth through the hot sand until you arrive to the desired effect. Be careful though … it doesn’t take long!

If you want just a mild shading in a central location ….. you scoop the hot sand onto the spoon and in a series of fairly quick motion … pour the sand from the spoon onto that area, and just a quickly and smoothly … tilt the veneer until the sand falls back into the pan. Repeat that process until you’re satisfied with what you see.

If trying to scorch an inside curve ….. you can either scoop the sand onto the spoon and run the inside edge over that pile … or scoop the sand into a pile in the pan to do the same thing.

And of course you are going to practice first … right?!!

I prefer to work the design and sand-shade at the same time because along with sand-shading, comes shrinkage. Intense heat has that effect on veneers! Going back to the first photo in this blog, you’ll notice I’ve patched the background Rosewood together with the template for the decorative motif.

I quickly came to the conclusion that my finger power isn’t what it used to be!, and hand-cutting through my cardboard template isn’t as much fun anymore … so I’ve used the scroll saw, then taped the multiple pieces of the motif back together again … placing that into the background. Why? ... because at various points throughout the process of working the motif, the edges will butt up against the background edges (wood meets wood), and there is where you want to cut most exactly for a good fit.

Notice the gap between the Poplar veneer used for the motif, and the cardboard template? … now imagine waiting until you’ve cut out the entire motif, then tackled the sand-shading. You would have lots of gaps to deal with! Some veneers shrink much more than others … Poplar seems to be one of those shrinking violets!!

There … now you can actually see something! Remember there are 4 sides to this box! The rest of the decorative motif pieces have been sand-shaded at the same time, and will be eventually pieced together … and placed into the other 3 panels.

I’m going to leave you stewing as there are pressing matters to attend. But when I return, you’ll see more sand-shading and the window approach to working this design. Thanks for peeking in and checking up on me!! All questions and comment are indeed welcome :)

Until next time, I’m sure there will be a moment to ponder the technique of sand-shading over a lovely glass of Merlot!!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

10 comments so far

View shipwright's profile


8621 posts in 3718 days

#1 posted 03-13-2013 07:49 PM

Good blog Elaine.
Not such a good day for sand shading here in Green Valley. It’s approaching 90 degrees.
I do love to huddle over the hot sand on the cold winter days though.
Your shading looks great.

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

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3938 days

#2 posted 03-13-2013 07:54 PM

Great blog and well written and seems simple enough till you try! I can see other possibilities for this method. Thanks for posting.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4223 days

#3 posted 03-13-2013 07:59 PM

thanks elaine, this is a really clear blog on this method of sand shading, let me ask you this, i have a nice burning pen, has that ever been used for this know the pyrography set up…just wondering…thanks for the great tutorial…grizz P.S. it does have a temp dial on it so i can control the heat on it.

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4254 days

#4 posted 03-13-2013 08:43 PM

Hi Elaine, glad to see that you are back at it. I am guessing that since the pattern doesn’t fit the sand shaded pieces, that you have to cut the matching piece a bit longer to get a good fit. A new intricacy I didn’t know about. I’m very grateful for having learned about this before I try sand shading out. Thanks for being so thorough with these important details. Your project is coming along very nicely. Please don’t drink too much Merlot. We need you back soon to continue with your very entertaining and instructive blog.

Grizz I tried a shading experiment with my wood burner and also with my soldering iron. Very poor uneven results with both!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Patricelejeune's profile


386 posts in 2840 days

#5 posted 03-13-2013 08:49 PM

Good shading. I wish I had some to do lately, it’s be frisk.
Your hotplate seems to be a very good on to.

Keep up posting!

-- Patrice lejeune

View kenn's profile


813 posts in 4640 days

#6 posted 03-13-2013 09:52 PM

Love it, I hope to try sand shading if I get enough other stuff caught up. Thanks for sharing.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3590 posts in 4632 days

#7 posted 03-14-2013 03:53 AM


Very informative! You’re a good teacher. Some day I hope to make use of this information. We’re anxious to learn more . . . and view the finished project.


-- “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 lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3854 days

#8 posted 03-14-2013 06:14 AM

My wife asked what I was reading and answered “merlot”; she got exited for she loves merlot.
As I was reading thoughts of shrinkage and gaps came to mind.

It’s funny you mentioned about wondering about turning the hotplate off. I have the same problem remembering if I closed the garage door. most of the time I make a U turn to check.

Thanks for explaining the whole process in details.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View justoneofme's profile


841 posts in 3400 days

#9 posted 03-14-2013 05:24 PM

Thank you ALL for these lovely comments! I’m about to start into Part 3, and will try to explain that ‘shrinkage’ problem a bit better stefang!
Sorry Grizzman … I only used a wood-burner many years ago for inscribing my name on completed Marquetry pieces … until I discovered how much easier it is to use an indelible pen! I know they have different heads for various purposes … one being a flat head for shading, but am not sure how well that works. It doesn’t sound like Mike was too impressed! Best to experiment on some scrap veneers, because only you will realize its value for your needs.

-- Elaine in Duncan

View Ken90712's profile


17910 posts in 4109 days

#10 posted 03-27-2013 08:40 AM

Nice work, I love the sand shading I saw a video with the Woodwhisper and thought how fun this would be.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

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