OK, The French Veneer (at last) #15: Top Sand Shading and Assembly

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 02-15-2015 05:40 AM 4263 reads 2 times favorited 42 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 14: The promised pretty pictures Part 15 of OK, The French Veneer (at last) series Part 16: Glue-Up and Details »

Warning: Lots of photos!

Here’s my setup for sand shading one piece at a time. The marquetry has been preliminarily assembled on sticky shelf paper, a sheet of thin acrylic covers most of it, and the sand is hot.

I remove one piece, shade it in a spoon of hot sand, and return it. Then I repeat a thousand times (give or take). I am still developing this way of doing things but it is working very well and I have complete control of how the picture grows as I am shading.

Here’s an example. The curled edges here look flat so I shaded the outer edges a bit and now (second photo) it looks better. I ended up shading almost every piece and all of them seemed to add to the three dimensional effect.

This is the end of day one, about 4 1/2 hours.

A detail at that stage

Day two

Day three

And day four, around twenty hours total shading time.

One of the advantages of this technique in painting in wood style is that the unavoidable kerf spaces can be managed. In the first photo I’ve moved all the pieces tightly together against one edge. If the marquetry were glued up this way it would look awful.

But the shelf paper has a soft adhesive that allows me to slide the pieces around. Here I have arranged the kerfs to be evenly spaced. These kerfs are 1/100” and can be either disguised with matching mastic or (as will be the case here) emphasized with a black mastic, adding to the shadow effect and creating a “trap line” to isolate the elements of the marquetry.

Once the shading Is to my liking and the spacing has been adjusted I apply a layer of cheap masking tape. I really like the cheap stuff because I can see through it. That helps when you are trying to brush it down to contact the thinner pieces, in my case the ebony. The nail brush does a nice (if not perfect) job of this.

All taped up, the whole thing is turned good side up and the shelf liner is removed carefully. I find that sliding the acrylic along as I peel the shelf liner helps control the pieces that want to lift.

Now I have placed my prepared assembly board (French kraft paper) on top of the marquetry. I coated it with hot hide glue and inverted it onto the marquetry. Sorry no time for photos in the process. After turning it back over I once again used the brush to press the thinner pieces down onto the glue…...

And after a light pressing, carefully peeled the tape.

Here all the tape is off and it looks ready to fill and apply to the substrate but there is still the matter of different thicknesses. Even though I am using veneers that are marketed as 1.5 mm and 1/16”, which should be quite even there is a good discrepancy between the thickest (poplar) and the thinnest (ebony).

I set up this enclosure and carefully sanded it to near flush with my Ceros. The enclosure proved a good idea as I blew out about fifteen tiny pieces and found all but one or two which were easy to re-make.

With the sanding and repairs complete I get my first idea of how the shading will look when sanded and finished on the good side. I couldn’t resist a splash of alcohol to see the real colors.

I sort of can’t believe I did this.

Here are a couple of shading videos I made for anyone who has survived all of this lengthy explanation.

Thanks for looking in


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

42 comments so far

View bobasaurus's profile


3711 posts in 4191 days

#1 posted 02-15-2015 05:47 AM

Holy crap, that is remarkable. You have become a master of marquetry. I wish I had some of that ability, all my marquetry attempts end up flawed and bland.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Dutchy's profile


3993 posts in 3175 days

#2 posted 02-15-2015 08:10 AM

YOU did it. What a wonderful piece of ART. Thanks for sharing.


View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4341 days

#3 posted 02-15-2015 09:49 AM

As for the results Paul, wow! doesn’t quite cover it, but that’s my first reaction. I can’t think this could be better in any way. I really appreciate your blog and video on this as there is much to learn here. One thing, I remember reading in Lincoln’s book that he didn’t just sand, because to get the back even, he would have to sand to the thinnest veneer used, making the whole marquetry thin and therefore defeating the advantage of the thick veneers, so he advocated filling the thin veneers up to the meeting point after leveling the thicker veneers. Is that what you did, or do you have different solution?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4889 days

#4 posted 02-15-2015 11:35 AM

Fantastic Paul.
That must be a wonderful feeling when you realize that you did it.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Schwieb's profile


1915 posts in 4468 days

#5 posted 02-15-2015 11:40 AM

Just amazing Paul. Painting in wood describes it well. I’m in awe.

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

View MontanaBob's profile


874 posts in 3691 days

#6 posted 02-15-2015 12:19 PM

Outstanding…. Thanks for taking us along for the ride….

View Sodabowski's profile


2394 posts in 3840 days

#7 posted 02-15-2015 12:26 PM

I woke up to find the shading videos on Youtube this morning, beats the daily coffee :) Yes Paul, YOU did that amazing art piece!

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View Roger's profile


21051 posts in 3811 days

#8 posted 02-15-2015 01:15 PM

I will ditto what all said above, and just add, WowZa Paul to it all.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12300 posts in 4435 days

#9 posted 02-15-2015 01:31 PM

My Gawd, that’s pretty!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View shipwright's profile


8678 posts in 3805 days

#10 posted 02-15-2015 01:44 PM

Thanks everyone, your comments are much appreciated.

Mike, good question. I really don’t like a buildup of filler under my marquetry. It can force small corners up and cause them to get sanded off when the top is done. It can also create low spots in the good side because it becomes plastic again when the panel is pressed to the substrate.

In my mind any marquetry is only as thick as your thinnest veneer to start with. What I am doing is levelling the back closely enough to allow me to scrape my mastic off well and not leave any in the little corners. The poplar is still a little thicker so I will be sanding a little off of it on the good side to show a less burnt surface.

The ebony is thinner but still close to 1/16”, so I’m not worried about sanding the front.

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

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4310 days

#11 posted 02-15-2015 03:32 PM

well this was so delightful, i loved watching the whole process, to me this is really more of a complex art than painting, the pieces are handled many times and to get it to its final stage is just so engaging, i really love this, and what is so funny is in showing this to my wife who does needlework, she says so why would anyone want to do this, so i turned this on her, i asked why would anyone want to do needle work, it was a fun conversation, this is just beautiful paul, i dont think i could sell this unless there was a lot of money involved…lots of it…piles and piles of it…lol.. thank you so much for sharing this with us, i look forward to the finished piece.

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

View kiefer's profile


5812 posts in 3674 days

#12 posted 02-15-2015 03:38 PM

Adding beauty by the spoon full .
No wonder this is taking this long !
Painstaking but interesting process of how the beauty is developing piece by piece .


-- Kiefer

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4310 days

#13 posted 02-15-2015 03:48 PM

one more thing here..i bet you never thought you would be doing this years back when you were building boats, if you were to add this to your boat building you never would have finished your boats and they would be so very expensive that they would have made you a millionaire much quicker…fantastic paul, beautiful….

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

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4584 days

#14 posted 02-15-2015 03:51 PM

I’m awestruck,this is amazing an outstanding work of art.Fantastic work Paul.


View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4310 days

#15 posted 02-15-2015 04:00 PM

one question here paul, so what does your wife say of your artful side, what are her feelings on this piece you have created…do you have any golfing friends who are interested in marquetry, i think you should have a marquetry plaque on your golf bag…yea ive got a lot to say on this this morning.

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

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