Marquetry Box Full of Experiments

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Project by shipwright posted 09-11-2011 08:25 PM 5573 views 17 times favorited 51 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is not my application to join the fancy box club. It represents a series of experiments conducted to prepare the way for that application at some later date. As with all experiments, some went well and some not so well but all were valuable learning experiences.

This is an MDF based box, veneered inside and out with hot hide glue using vacuum bag, hammer veneering and clamps with cauls in the various areas as required.
The veneers are:
Lid and insets on sides, back…... Carpathian Elm Burl
Stringing….............................. Paduk
Body of box….......................... Black Mottle Makore
Inside of box…........................ Walnut
Inside lid and bottom…............. Big Leaf Maple
Inside detail….......................... Purpleheart, Zebrano
Dyed marquetry….................... Big Leaf Maple

The hinge is Purpleheart and Holly, the trays are Arbutus with Purpleheart handles and the base and lid trim are Wenge.

The experiments were
1) To see how far I could force a burl veneer to conform to a non flat surface.
2) To see if I could apply my watercolor dye process to tiny pieces of thin veneer.
3) To see if it was feasible to hammer veneer round corners.
4) To see if my wooden hinge would work on a thicker, heavier box.

What I learned:
1) Burl veneer can be remarkable malleable.
2) Burl veneers aren’t a good background for dyed marquetry.
3) You can hammer veneer corners.
4) The hinge works famously but should have been full length.
5) MDF is not a good base for gluing / stripping / re-gluing with hot glue. Hardwood would have worked better.

For the most part I’m quite happy with it although it has many flaws if you get close and examine it. Any day you learn something is a good day.

Thanks for looking.

Comments, critiques and questions are always welcome.

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

51 comments so far

View tinnman65's profile


1412 posts in 4387 days

#1 posted 09-11-2011 08:37 PM

Wow! Very nice Paul. I’m sure you will be a welcome member to the fancy box club. I always enjoy your post’s Keep them coming!

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6873 posts in 4953 days

#2 posted 09-11-2011 08:46 PM

Great job, Paul!

Beautiful box, full of intricate techniques.

Not bad for a Canucks’ fan. LOL


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View David Drummond's profile

David Drummond

98 posts in 3638 days

#3 posted 09-11-2011 08:46 PM

That looks awesome… I’m glad that you have opened up your eyes to new techniques. I try to always keep an open mind to design as well. Job well done!

“Wisdom begins in wonder” Socrates

-- "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do... Explore, Dream, Discover” Mark Twain

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4282 days

#4 posted 09-11-2011 09:00 PM

I think you did an excellent job and it might just be that you could get the box making bug.
Such a nice combination of woods really makes it stand out.

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4549 days

#5 posted 09-11-2011 09:31 PM

Whoa !
Don’t look now Paul, but your master craftsmanship is showing !
Holy Smokes !

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3927 days

#6 posted 09-11-2011 09:34 PM

Boy, when you experiment with complexity, you don’t do it in half measure! Lots of really good stuff going on here. I think your entry into the fancy box club is pretty well assured. Nice work, indeed.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2843 posts in 4565 days

#7 posted 09-11-2011 09:48 PM

Beautiful Box Paul!!! Do you have any close ups of the Flowers?

-- Dennis Zongker

View SPalm's profile


5337 posts in 4855 days

#8 posted 09-11-2011 10:08 PM

Yikes! Lots of good stuff here. I am impressed.

So, the entire substrate is MDF? You sanded sanded curves into the MDF top and then got that burl to wrap around it? Amazing.

Man, it seems like you are sure having some fun.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Trev_Batstone's profile


317 posts in 3466 days

#9 posted 09-11-2011 10:24 PM

This is unbelievably beautiful, Paul. Great handywork and a lovely job.. must have taken a good many hours, but well worthi it. I really like the top as well.. beautiful. Congratulations on a fine project and thanks for sharing. It gives me something to think about for a future project. Keep up the good work!


View shipwright's profile (online now)


8651 posts in 3771 days

#10 posted 09-11-2011 10:34 PM

Thank you all for the kind comments.

Roger, Might as well get it all done in one shot. I’m not getting any younger. :-)

Steve, All MDF, shaped and then veneered….and Yes, I’m having a ball.

Dennis, The marquetry and dying are fine, I’m happy. The problem is that the burl veneer expands unevenly when glued up and requires sanding that I can’t do over the dye. The Paduk string (band) is sanded thin because I decided to add it taped to the marquetry to avoid the soggy MDF problem when lifting cutouts with warm water and the iron. Hope you get what I mean. I learned a lot here.

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

View littlecope's profile


3115 posts in 4475 days

#11 posted 09-11-2011 10:45 PM

I can’t hardly wait until you give it a serious try Paul… :)
Well Done on a lovely box my Friend… Whoever runs that “Fancy Box Club” would be daft not to give you immediate admittance!!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View LittlePaw's profile


1572 posts in 4052 days

#12 posted 09-11-2011 11:16 PM

It is absolutely amazing how much I learned from your post, Paul. I’ve wondered bout MDF for box core, thanx to you now, I won’t have to find out the hard way. Also I’ve trying to come up with a fancy box design for a Mahjong set. The plastic case that came with the set many years ago has seen better days. We don’t play it much – about twice a year – but I’ve been wanting to make a better case for it. Thanx for the ideas, Paul. That is an heirloom box for sure!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View majeagle1's profile


1429 posts in 4470 days

#13 posted 09-11-2011 11:18 PM

Absolutely beautiful Paul…... I agree with the rest, if these are your “experiments”.... WOW, can’t imagine the complexity and beauty of one of your “serious” projects !!! Yes indeed, a full entry into the “Fancy Box Club” !

I love the shape of the box and the smooth easy outside lines and then the complex designs/shapes going on in the inside of the box. Very well done ! Your roses are just beautiful, love ‘em !

-- Gene, Majestic Eagle Woodworks,,

View peteg's profile


4436 posts in 3796 days

#14 posted 09-11-2011 11:22 PM

Wowiee Paul, Your top drawer skills on display with this one, just fabulous to looook at, fantastic job my friend.
:: )))

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 3525 days

#15 posted 09-11-2011 11:51 PM

Very cool!

As far as backgrounds go, typically, a clearer veneer is better because otherwise the background competes with whatever’s on it (unless it’s a VERY simple design).

MDF I don’t care for, but plywood is awesome, and doesn’t have the warpage of hardwoods.

AMAZING work though, and shows what I have yet to aspire to. :)

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