Today was a pretty good day in class. I’m still really disappointed in how my pieces came out, and the morning started with assembling the last of my coasters (they may be frisbees, in point of fact). But it was good practice, and Patrick had lots of interesting stories and great advice on how to do marquetry.
The first was around how to organize your work. For this simple set of six coasters, about 4″ in diameter, there were 162 parts total. I had slightly more than that because I broke a few. I lost a few too, so maybe it was a wash. His advice was pragmatic. First, handle each piece as few times as possible. As you take a plug out of the packet, immediately throw away the backer, grease paper and any layers that aren’t part of the actual project. Then arrange the parts in an exploded view in the correct relationship to each other as they will go into the final assembly. In the case of the coasters we positioned the parts face side down, so it’s a mirror image of the goal, and the inverse of how they came out of the packet.
This layout is essential for assembling the project onto the kraft paper. You smear a bit of hide glue onto the area, and you have maybe 4 or 5 minutes max before the glue cools/dries too much for assembly. After that you need to add little bits of glue as you go, and it’s gets progressively more messy. There aren’t many things more fun that trying to handle little delicate bits of veneer with sticky fingers. Root canals, maybe.
Another useful trick is making a pattern to either repair veneer or in this case, to replace a missing part. Remember the missing parts? A couple were little dots about 1/8″ in diameter, those I just cut from a scrap with a tiny gouge. One piece had broken off the background and gone on walkabout. I’ll probably find in glued to the bottom of my sneakers tomorrow.
The repair technique is to use a bit of thermal printer paper, like from an office adding machine. Hold it over the cavity and rub it with a burnisher. It will pick up the outline of the opening. Now trace around the outline on the paper to define the cut line, glue it onto a piece of veneer (in this case I used the outside scrap from my pack) and cut it out.
Once I cut the plug from my pack I picked out the veneer color I needed and glued it into the hole in the coaster. This has a bit of paper on it as all of the colored veneers for this project were first laminated with newsprint to help keep them together. Since this is the back of the project it doesn’t matter, but I probably should have reversed my pattern (or glued it to the other side of the packet) to avoid this.
From three or four feet away (assuming you have bad eyesight) the
frisbees coasters don’t look horrible. It’s like that old saw – looking good from afar, but far from good looking.
Same drill as yesterday, mix and apply the mastic, working it into the saw kerfs, then scrape off any excess. After it cured for an hour we scuff sanded with 80 grit to remove any lumps and cut the discs free.
This afternoon Patrice demonstrated French Polishing, although of course they don’t call it that in France where he’s from. It’s just called “polishing with a pad”. That’s a process for another day.
Patrick also did an excellent lecture on a technique that is a variation of Boulle marquetry called “painting in wood”. The key to painting in wood is that instead of each layer in the packet being a different veneer, a layer may have two or three colors pieced together, with the grain aligned to suit the picture. This makes more efficient use of materials than standard Boulle. The alternative, piece-by-piece, requires hyper-accurate cutting as each piece is cut independently from the others.
So, what’s the final verdict?
First, next time I take a class I’m leaving my sell phone in the trunk so I can’t possibly get calls from work.
The class provided lots of seat time learning how to saw marquetry packets on a Chevalet. I knew that going in. It also provided in-depth instruction in mixing and using hot hide glue, applying french polish and designing marquetry projects, from the drawings through assembling the packet and keeping track of the parts.
I think the self portrait I did actually came out nice, we laminated that onto a piece of plywood yesterday and removed the kraft paper today. I’ll put some finish on them when I get home, I’m happy with that one. The other two projects with the crazy curly-Qs I’m officially calling for a do-over.
I’m going to build a Chevalet when I get home and re-do the coasters. Maybe the square project too, but at least the coasters because everyone needs a nice set of marquetry coasters, right?