Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga #3: Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga

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Blog entry by justoneofme posted 03-14-2013 07:45 PM 2489 reads 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga Part 3 of Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga series Part 4: Merlot Anyone?! - The Marquetry Wine Box Saga »

Before I confuse the issue of sand-shading any further … I’m going to delve into the problem of veneer shrinkage due to excessive heat applied during the process. This one’s for you Mike!

If you notice that very last piece of veneer (sand-shaded) set into place … and the gap between it and the cardboard template … first off, the photo is enlarged for better visibility so that gap you see isn’t actually all that wide in real life!! However … a gap does exist, which is why I prefer to work the pattern and sand-shade as I go.

Working from this picture, the next step would be to remove the following cardboard section within the decorative motif, place the windowed area over a selected portion of the Poplar veneer … and scribe (with a pen styled Exacto knife blade) along the edge of that last inserted piece of veneer … as well as the wood edges of the background Rosewood. This is where you want as perfect a line to follow for cutting where wood meets wood. Then mark in pencil any other areas within that window where the cut line is not as important to follow … in other words, pencil in against the cardboard edge of the design, to complete the portion of Poplar needing to be cut. Once that piece has been sand-shaded in the appropriate areas and inserted into the windowed area, proceed to remove the next piece of cardboard and repeat the process until the entire motif has been worked.

If this particular method is followed, there will be no need to ‘enlarge any portion of veneer beforehand to allow for shrinkage’ ... I’m thinking that was your concern Mike, and I’m sorry for that confusion because I skipped over this process rather quickly, ending with this finished motif. I hope that explanation made it clearer!!

The next stage of my design deals with this beautiful gal! Setting the template in place over the Rosewood, I quickly started marking (x’s) along areas of the design where I would have to be concerned about that issue of where wood meets wood. And once again (as was done with the motif, to save finger power) I used the scroll saw to cut all the sections of the design. ... then pieced it all together again with bits of masking tape.

It seems like a lot of extra work, but really took very little time at all, and my slightly arthritic fingers are much happier!!

Faces can be very difficult to achieve in Marquetry … especially when they are as small as this one is! I really did hesitate … and contemplate a much simpler design to use, but what the heck. I love a challenge!!

Normally, I would use Holly veneer for the face, but because the Rosewood veneer for the background is much thicker (slightly over 1/32”) than the Holly (1/64” thick) ... I’ve decided to keep to the relative thickness of the background veneer, and am using white Maple for the face and body parts involved. That last thing I want to do when all is said and done … is scrape my little heart out to the level of Holly!!

And so the window (where the entire face has been cut out of the template) is placed over the Maple veneer. I want the clearest possible area for her face … and can easily slide the window over the Maple until I visualize a grain-free patch. Exactly what I was looking for!

Now … I purposely kept one photocopy of this intricate design aside … to be used right now. I need the thinness of this paper. The inside perimeter of the window has been very lightly penciled in only to show me where to place the face that’s been cut away from the photocopy.

Using that penciled line, I tape that entire area over, then position the photocopy face taped firmly in place. The fine tip of the Exacto blade will cut through each line of this photocopy face.

Once I’ve removed the photocopy, it’s time to enhance those finely scribed lines with shoe polish! Yep … you heard right! Just don’t get any polish on raw veneer as it won’t come out later!! The tape is adequate protection while rubbing a tiny bit of polish on the end of a Q-tip into the cut lines. The paint thinner … used extremely sparingly! … removes excess, allowing those thin lines to show.

Here we go! Time to start cutting and sand-shading. My method of working faces like this one in Marquetry, is to use every piece of the face to complete the finished results.

Magnification is great … isn’t it?!! These following photos have been taken from my side of the magnifying glass set up for this kind of fine cutting … and will in some cases, show directional cuts to make life easier!

The brow has been cut out, but held in place using tape. Don’t be afraid to use masking tape!! The area being cut shows how I’ve approached the accent line above the eye first, then followed along the upper eye line. I backed the blade out then cut to the lower eye line following the right side of the iris … backed out again all the way to the start and cut along the lower eye line. Sorry … I wasn’t thinking about taking photos of this particular procedure, but managed to remember while cutting the other eye out, as the following photos will show.

Why am I being so particular? Because I want to use that little tiny piece of Maple veneer. Every tiny piece of facial features need to come out intact … the reason for cutting strategy being applied here!

Here’s the other eye being cut, with the brow section removed for an easier approach … carefully preserving the iris.

Do you know how hard it is to hold a tiny piece of veneer over hot silica sand while trying to take a photo???! That’s the upper portion of lip being shaded. Now you’re starting to understand how each and every little cut section from the face will be used! Care has to be taken not to over sand-shade. BUT … I forgot to mention that two pieces of Maple veneer were padded before the cutting began, thus giving me a spare to work with should something happen!

You can see how much the veneer shrinks … but filling from behind will act as accent line in her lip.

There is another method of sand-shading I didn’t mention … leaving it until now to explain, because of all the ways to sand-shade … this one is the trickiest! It’s for the purpose of shading the tiniest of tiny pieces, and must be watched over like a hawk or a few seconds longer and POOF! It’s gone!! With pinchers ready, the tiny piece is dropped onto a shallow bed of hot sand … and watched, ready to pluck it from the heat when it’s time has come. This nostril section is about the size of 2 or 3 grains of silica sand!

I decided to sand-shade both facial features at the same time. You will notice, while piecing these shaded parts in place I’ve used masking tape with the sticky side up underneath.

Okay … I’m happy with what I see, and miraculously managed not to destroy any tiny pieces along the way! Now I can easily remove the main facial structure from those tiny pieces by carefully pealing back the tape … and the facial features remain stuck in place on the tape. It’s time to sand shade the main face.

Sorry folks! I have to break this off for now, but hopefully will return to show the finished face … and beyond before too much longer. Unfortunately I haven’t had much time this week inside my workshop, so I’m chomping at the bit to get at it again!!

Hope you’re enjoying the ‘show and tell’. I love all those wonderful comments!!, and am enjoying getting to meet new buddies along the way too!

Until next time … have fun in your own workshops!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

14 comments so far

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4254 days

#1 posted 03-14-2013 08:36 PM

This is getting even MORE interesting Elaine! You took care of the shrinkage problem just the way I thought you would, so your previous explanations were quite good, but you just omitted that one tiny detail. In any case, I now know for sure the correct way to solve this problem. Now, about the Holly. Couldn’t you have just glued a piece of veneer 1/64” thick to the Holly to bring it to the correct level?

I have to admit that the shading, while seemingly easy in theory seems more like voodoo art than a craft after seeing those microscopic pieces being barbecued. It all looks so large in the photos but when I saw that the face wasn’t much bigger than your two finger tips and deducing from that how small the tiny details must be, I can see that sand shading is not to be taken lightly! Yes, a little pun.

I’m very grateful that you are explaining not just the WHAT’S but also the WHY’S Elaine. That makes this a genuine learning experience, and proof that your Marquetry boot camp is preparing us well for the battle ahead. The enemy? Ourselves of course!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 3776 days

#2 posted 03-14-2013 08:40 PM

Elaine I’m enjoying every bit it is an amazing process
Your hands would toughen up if you did sand shading a lot


-- 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 Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3938 days

#3 posted 03-14-2013 10:07 PM

This is very interesting! I’m very impressed with your skill and knowledge.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2927 days

#4 posted 03-14-2013 10:33 PM

Geeze, after looking at the pic of sand shading that teeny tiny piece of the lip… I can SEE whay you drink :-)

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View justoneofme's profile


841 posts in 3400 days

#5 posted 03-14-2013 11:18 PM

Funny guy joein10asee!, but you’re right in a way. After a very long … successful day in the workshop, I like to reward myself. Of course that works the opposite as well, wanting to sooth away a frustrating workshop day. Either way, Merlot works for me! Good thing my days in the shop are few and far between, eh?!! :)

Jamie and Erwin ... so glad you are enjoying this blog!

Mike ... I liked your pun … but really don’t think sand-shading will be as hard as boot camp is!
I did think about doubling up on the Holly veneer (boy but you really are on top of things!) ... However, I would have used white glue to join those two layers, and it doesn’t like to be sand-shaded! It gets all smokey … and with those tiny pieces, they would have promptly delaminated with the heat … If not disintegrated first! Sand-shading one layer of veneer is definitely more stable!! I haven’t experimented with other glues because I know my white glue dries clear. I have used 2 thicknesses of Holly in some cases where shading is not an issue … and that works … but I’m happier using one layer and finding other exotics of the same level to work with throughout a design. I love the look of the Brazilian Rosewood background chosen, so just decided to play it safe. Tiny pieces are enough to deal with!!

-- Elaine in Duncan

View shipwright's profile


8621 posts in 3718 days

#6 posted 03-14-2013 11:56 PM

Looking good Elaine.

Jamie, I sand shade quite a bit and my hands haven’t toughened up much…......... unless you count the scar tissue.

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

View Mathew Nedeljko's profile

Mathew Nedeljko

715 posts in 4750 days

#7 posted 03-15-2013 04:31 AM

Elaine I am following along and enjoying every minute of it. I think you really do have some magic in those fingers of yours. Those are some tiny pieces!

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

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3590 posts in 4632 days

#8 posted 03-15-2013 05:03 AM


I can’t even imagine working with such tiny pieces. I would need a microscope, (as well as better eye/hand coordination)! This will be one amazing piece of art when finished.


-- “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

#9 posted 03-15-2013 05:33 AM

Wowww! It’s magic.

I think I understand the process but I am very sure I don’t.
I am equally sure it will take some serious experience to achieve what you are doing.

Thanks for explaining the process in such detail.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4254 days

#10 posted 03-16-2013 03:41 PM

Thanks for explanation on the holly Elaine. That will save me from once again outwitting myself. Now I just have to find a fireproof glue that won’t burn or melt. Anybody got NASA’s phone number? It always amazes me how much knowledge it takes not just to do things right, but also to avoid doing things wrong. You seem to have a good grip on both. BTW, I have a nice little holly tree next to my garden shed. Does anyone know if it would be smart (or stupid) to cut off a thin branch now and then to make stringing?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View justoneofme's profile


841 posts in 3400 days

#11 posted 03-16-2013 05:10 PM

Hey Mike … go for it! Although making your own holly strips might take months worth of curing, drying, etc. beforehand. My Holly veneer is very expensive. At one point I actually asked where more veneer could be purchased … and was told I’d have to BUY a tree!!! So … guard yours with your life!
You don’t have to worry about fireproof glue … just invest in Paul’s handy-dandy drum sander!! Sure wish I had one :)

-- Elaine in Duncan

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4844 days

#12 posted 03-18-2013 05:42 AM

Elaine, Nice work I will be following you here to see and learn.

View shipwright's profile


8621 posts in 3718 days

#13 posted 03-18-2013 02:52 PM

Oops …It’s in the next segment .

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

View Ken90712's profile


17910 posts in 4108 days

#14 posted 03-27-2013 08:39 AM

What a great job and such amazing details. This Blog is so good its like a class in its self. Thx

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

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