A Little Cabinetree #3: Scroll Saw Marquetry.

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 11-23-2010 01:29 AM 5189 reads 3 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: The Box and the Branches Part 3 of A Little Cabinetree series Part 4: Leaves to Dye For (From) »

Supporting a box in a tree was one of the original design ideas but a look at the “plans ” shows that another design intent was to celebrate the season (It was Fall when I was doing this, Winter hit here last week) with inlays some way involving colored leaves.

The first idea involved a branch ,with a three dimensional twig leading into it, covered with brightly colored maple leaves. It would have looked something like this, except that the branch and leaves would have been inlaid instead of laying on top like this. This was just a mock up.

About this time I started to feel like our western Maple, of which this piece is almost entirely made, was getting less than the respect it rightfully deserved. Here I was planning to use the stereotypical red and yellow “fall maple leaves” that really are Eastern varieties and don’t resemble our native maple leaves at all. Our maple leaves are very different. For one thing they aren’t called “big leaf maples” for nothing. Leaves a foot across are not uncommon. Secondly their fall colors are yellow and rusty brown, not as impressive as their eastern cousins perhaps but stunningly beautiful in their own way. I decided that this cabinet would have a cause and that cause would be to bring the Western Big Leaf Maple the respect it deserves. I went out to take photos of the leaves beside my shop.

Armed with the photograph of my maple leaves, my new DeWalt scroll saw and a general understanding of the principles of scroll saw (double bevel) marquetry, I set out to win the world over to the beauty of the Western Maple. And as I had no available veneer stock that remotely resembled the colors I would need, I decided that I would make them all out of maple and find a way to dye them to represent the leaves in the photo. I’ve never heard of this being done before but it’s a big world, I’m sure I’m not the first. The only reference I could find on the internet to dyed veneers being used in marquetry was about soaking very thin veneers overnight to saturate them and then using them as if they were a wood that color. I didn’t like that idea much. As you can see below I did add a few bits of walnut veneer in places to represent the curled up brown edges. It turns out I didn’t even have to do that much.

The next photo shows three leaves cut to fit together. Their outer margins are still uncut because they will be double bevel cut along with the background piece next. I should make a couple of observations about this process here. First of all, I gained a whole new respect for the scroll saw wizards here on LJ’s. This is not as easy as it looks! And secondly if you are a rank beginner like me trying to cut pieces like this, choose a subject like – oh say big leaf maple leaves, that can adapt their shape a little when you go over a line without looking really wrong. In this type of cutting there is of course no “waste side” that you can make mistakes in. You are using a piece on each side of the cut.

This shot shows the whole top cut together. Not really a lot of definition between pieces yet is there? The ends of the leaf at the top will bend down and appear on the back of the box. Notice that the grain in the background runs from the center to each edge. The four triangles that make up the top are the ends of the veneer panels that will form the sides, back and front. The grain will match on all these corners when the box is assembled. This process is well covered in the Oops! tutorial.

This leaf is a remnant of the original sketch. It is the “falling leaf” that will be featured on the front of the cabinet. It has been “Westernized”. If you look back at the “plans” you’ll notice that the original was much pointier like the Eastern leaves. Ours are a lot rounder with deep cuts between the lobes.

I couldn’t leave you today without a little taste of color.

Thanks for watching and for all the great support and comments. They are very much appreciated.

Tomorrow: How to watercolor with aniline dyes and get away with it.

Thanks again!


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

16 comments so far

View dakremer's profile


2756 posts in 4100 days

#1 posted 11-23-2010 01:53 AM

thanks for the blog, shipwright! I love your woodworking! I was actually just going to your profile to find that “oops” blog again. i’m still determined to turn that (or atleast something like it, as long as its ok with you) into a humidor of some sorts for my brother. this is a great blog too! Must take forever to do something like this – lots of planning!

-- Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!!!!

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 4584 days

#2 posted 11-23-2010 01:54 AM

You are light years ahead of my skill level, but it’s sure cool of you to post this stuff.
Maybe some day…..

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3807 days

#3 posted 11-23-2010 02:27 AM

Of course it’s OK with me, I’m flattered.

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

View Broglea's profile


693 posts in 4100 days

#4 posted 11-23-2010 03:52 AM

I’m picking up this blog a little late. I’ll go back and read the first entries later. I love the concept. I thought Oops was great and I’m so glad you’ve decided to allow us to watch this gem come to life. I’m learning a bunch watching your progress.

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4027 days

#5 posted 11-23-2010 04:18 AM

I am really glad you are doing this and posting it and giving us novices a chance to see how its done. Thanks.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View YoungestSon's profile


93 posts in 4065 days

#6 posted 11-23-2010 04:58 AM

I have been intrigued with what some people do with the aniline dyes. I will be following what you do with them with a lot of interest. The one leaf you show is very, very good.

-- Don - Rochester, NY

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1130 posts in 3983 days

#7 posted 11-23-2010 05:02 AM

I said it before and will say it, cool and amazing!

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View dpwalker's profile


273 posts in 3840 days

#8 posted 11-23-2010 05:15 AM

This is beautiful work. Thanks for sharing it.

-- You have not really lived until you do something for someone who can never repay you.

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4883 days

#9 posted 11-23-2010 08:08 AM

SO cool.

-- Happy woodworking!

View tdv's profile


1203 posts in 4079 days

#10 posted 11-23-2010 10:41 AM

This is looking great Paul. I’m very interested in learning about this technique can’t wait ‘til tomorrow.Thanks

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 4045 days

#11 posted 11-23-2010 11:10 AM

Just beautiful. You really have caught the essence of the leaf, Paul. I have always had problems with dyes and I look forward to seeing how you deal with them.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Schwieb's profile


1915 posts in 4470 days

#12 posted 11-23-2010 01:46 PM

Paul, This is a great story/blog. You are so talented and creative. I appreciate your taking us from the sketch and through the design and construction process to the outcome. I will hope to learn more about using dyes.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4085 days

#13 posted 11-23-2010 02:45 PM

What an incredible idea, and execution…. very Cool!

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

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52 posts in 3810 days

#14 posted 11-23-2010 03:22 PM


-- wishIstillhadaclydesdaleinmyfrontyard

View Rob200's profile


326 posts in 4178 days

#15 posted 11-23-2010 08:59 PM

I just love to go to your sit and look at your work

-- Robert Laddusaw and no I am not smarter then a fifth grader ( and no I canot spell so if it is a problem don't read it ))

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