The One That (Almost) Got Away

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Project by mauibob posted 10-08-2011 07:55 PM 2554 views 3 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This piece was created for a marquetry contest. The topic was “The Koi Pond”, a somewhat unusual one.

When considering entering the contest, I thought what could be better than to go straight to the source for some ideas for a design. So, I scoured the Internet for Japanese Koi, and quickly realized that the country that brought us Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidora also had some mighty big Koi!

Well, here is my marquetry interpretation of a Japanese woodblock print (artist unknown) featuring, you guessed it, a monster-sized Koi being fought by two Japanese samurai. This is really the one that got away – not your average garden center variety!

My design used double bevel techniques throughout, and a selection of woods including quilted big leaf maple, American holly, Chechen rosewood, Macassar ebony, fiddleback mahogany, poplar, purpleheart, padauk, sapele and Hawaiian koa. I added a touch of pyrography for the samurai faces and patinated copper gilding for the Koi’s scales. The entire piece is banded in Hawaiian koa.

For the gilding, I used an oil-based size, restricting the gilded area to the Koi’s back. Copper foil was applied to the desired area, and the scales were simulated using a wash of potash sulfurated (liver of sulfur) applied with a fine brush. The chemical reaction of copper with the chemical reagent produced some beautiful patination effects. I haven’t seen gilding used with marquetry before, but this seemed to work out quite well and produced some really interesting effects in different lights.

The finished, gilded marquetry piece was first protected with a clear spray shellac, and then treated with two additional coats of high gloss wipe-on polyurethane. A paste wax finish completed the piece.

Well, to paraphrase from a famous movie – “You want Koi? You can’t handle Koi!” At least these two samurai are having a dickens of a time!

(I took shots of the piece in different lighting to show the effects of the copper gilding.)

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

12 comments so far

View zindel's profile


257 posts in 4105 days

#1 posted 10-08-2011 08:15 PM

Wow that is really amazing! quite the amount of work went into this one well done!!

-- If you can't fix it with a hammer, You've got an electrical problem.

View shipwright's profile


8816 posts in 4253 days

#2 posted 10-08-2011 08:58 PM

Amazing Bob, you have a real flare for the Japanese style not to mention your obvious cutting and veneer choice skills. I am so happy to see you experimenting with new materials and techniques. The patina on the copper looks very good. Maybe I’ll try that one.

Excellent work as always Bob.


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

View mauibob's profile


258 posts in 4522 days

#3 posted 10-08-2011 11:04 PM

Thanks, Paul. I also love sushi, so maybe there are some Japanese genes in the old pool :-) I had to think out the gilding a bit, since it could only be done once the whole piece was finished and sanded to its final smoothness. I thought of making a mask out of mylar for the area to be gilded, but I tried that out on a scrap piece and found that removing the mask was not as easy as it looked. If you’re not careful, you’ll get small bits of copper flaking off and sticking where you don’t want it. Once stuck, it’s all over. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to apply the size with a tiny brush to the area you want, and since you use so little, you don’t have to worry about thinks spreading to the wrong area. I want to try some other chemicals and metals next. I’ve messed around with pure silver and gold, and I’m looking at that combo for my next project.

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4322 days

#4 posted 10-09-2011 12:17 AM

Bob, that is a beautiful piece and you did a wonderful job on it.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View s_grifter's profile


186 posts in 3923 days

#5 posted 10-09-2011 12:50 AM

Another very cool piece.

View larryw's profile


335 posts in 4117 days

#6 posted 10-09-2011 01:16 AM

wow!, another beautiful work of art Bob.

-- "everything is beautiful, but not everyone sees it" ~confucius-551-449 b.c.~

View shipwright's profile


8816 posts in 4253 days

#7 posted 10-09-2011 03:11 PM

You did it well Bob. I did some gold on “Facets” and understand the problems you mention.

-- 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 5285 days

#8 posted 10-10-2011 01:53 AM

Bob, another very interesting and artistic piece. I really like that gilding, and you are right, I don’t know of anyone that has used this technique in marquetry.

How did this piece do in the competition?

Can’t wait to see your next project. Thanks again for sharing.

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

View mauibob's profile


258 posts in 4522 days

#9 posted 10-10-2011 03:18 AM

Thanks, Matt. We’ll find out on the competition early in November—I’ll keep you posted. It was initiated by the American Marquetry Society.

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View LittlePaw's profile


1572 posts in 4533 days

#10 posted 10-10-2011 05:26 AM

Wow, that is quite a piece of art, Bob. If you told me that it came from an old Japanese scroll, I would have believed it! I hope you had some good sushi and sashimi afterwards!

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

View mauibob's profile


258 posts in 4522 days

#11 posted 10-10-2011 03:32 PM

Hey Little Paw, I’m wondering if that samurai with the sword is thinking “sashimi”! I’ve got to believe that carp is on the low rung of the sashimi scale :-)

-- Bob, Potomac, MD

View scueplain's profile


42 posts in 3896 days

#12 posted 10-12-2011 06:39 AM

interesting ,clever design.. Thank you

-- Dave,Portland OR

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