Having mentioned in a previous post that I’d started a new hobby of marquetry this year, I was excited to find out this week that one of my competition entries for the Great Yorkshire Show had won a prize. I really am addicted, now!
The Leeds Marquetry Group encouraged all of this year’s (2022) beginners to submit some of our pieces to the GYS, so for the last few months I’ve been tinkering away with several projects and trying to expand my range of skills.
I turned up at the woodworking tent of the show hoping to have a nose around and see what everyone else had been working on this year, and was amazed to discover that I’d won first prize in the beginners’ category of “applied” marquetry:
I’m still sure there must have been some mistake! But what I really loved was that all four of the initial-lettered people were there to see their coasters. I hadn’t shown any of the coasters to Rob, Eileen (mum) or Brian (dad) during the time that I was making them, so there were nice surprises all round.
I created the design by first printing out the letters in a giant font size and then drawing square borders around them. Then I used Saral transfer paper to copy the design onto the wood veneer sheets.
Try, try, try again
This was my first ever attempt at hand-cutting wood veneer. When I cut out the K and the background I was fairly happy with the outcome…
…but then noticed that I’d cut the letter too close to the edges of the background veneer (above), so had to start again.
…only to decide that I’d like to make a whole family set of initial letter coasters – at which point I realised that I didn’t have enough of those two veneers above (cherry and birch??) to make a matching set. So I had to start again again.
Favourite wood so far…
I went up to LMG’s wood store, and discovered a lovely veneer. Fiddleback sycamore. Apparently it’s called that because it’s used on the backs of violins and other similar musical instruments. It is a very very attractive wood:
For a good contrast with the sycamore, I chose a much darker and more grainy-looking wood. I think it’s sapele wood.
Making things (more difficult)
To make life difficult for myself, I decided to try to keep the outer section of the sycamore veneer in one piece. But I also wanted to learn how to apply a border strip (‘stringing’?) around the main design as well, so I mitred some thin sections of the sapele wood and somehow got them to fit between the pieces of the sycamore veneer.
That was actually the second most difficult part of the whole project. I must have wasted about 10 strips of wood trying to get them to the correct width and length and fitting nicely together and properly mitred.
By the time I started on the letter R coaster I was a bit more confident with my cutting skills:
…but was horrified by the gaps between the veneers when I held them up to the window:
Fortunately my new friends at LMG assured me that when I actually glued the veneers together and stuck them to the coaster itself, the gaps wouldn’t be as noticeable. Partly because the glue fills in the gaps anyway, but also because the wet glue causes the wood to soften and change shape a bit. The tutors also kindly reminded me that nobody else in the world was going to hold one of my marquetry pieces up to the light to inspect it. Duh.
As part of my marquetry adventure I also discovered a new phenomenon: my pieces always look better from the back than they do from the front!