Monthly Archives: March 2015

Just a quickie

I moved the Mallow flower picture along to the next phase today, which mostly involved a short burst of frenzied work and then a lot of nothing while the glue dries.  I love the sound of glue drying, it’s my favorite shop sound.

IMG_0235

Assembled mallow flower picture, just needing a couple of tiny repairs, and mastic.

Here is where we left off, the glue face of the picture facing up.  At this point I have it glued face down to the assembly board.  I patched a couple of spots where the banding was wonky, then I mixed up some “mastic”, which is Walnut sanding dust, black tempra powdered paint, hot hide glue and hot water.  Then I spackled the back of the picture, to fill any saw kerfs and gaps.  The Wenge on the border was also super thin, so I filled the height difference.

This looks like butt, right?

This looks like butt, right?

I block sanded the mastic to make sure it was flat and smooth after it dried.  I also cut a piece of Cherry veneer for the back of the panel.  I’m still undecided about whether this is a sample for the shop wall, or the start of a small cabinet.  To keep my options open I’m veneering both sides of a 1/4″ MDF panel.

Cherry backer veneer -- this is what you'll see on the inside of the door, if in fact this ever becomes a door.

Cherry backer veneer — this is what you’ll see on the inside of the door, if in fact this ever becomes a door.

The glue up is always a little frantic.  I NEARLY GLUED IT FACE DOWN.  Whoops, that would have sucked.  Instead it’s just extra glue on the show face to scrape off.  That’s it, glue is drying and I’ve started another project, sans marquetry.  How that project came to be will be a funny, or maybe telling, story.

 

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Knifing in Details and Making Borders

I snuck out to the shop for a bit today and filled in the rest of the details on my little marquetry picture.  There are problem spots, but I’m not going to sweat it.  I think the overall effect will be nice, and I’m not going to make myself crazy over it. (I’m trying to convince myself here, not you!).

So, two goals.  Fill in the missing pieces, and add a border.

The missing pieces was maybe three steps.  First sorting through a big pile of “extra” parts.  Six layers of veneer, plus two backer boards, I’m only using one piece out of each layer, so there are 5 pieces in miscellaneous veneer left.  This is the main reason for wanting to learn piece-by-piece, less waste.  More sawing though.  Once I’d found each part I had to sand shade, and then came the hard part.

I’d lost several tiny parts, so I had to re-make them.  There were also some details in the picture that I couldn’t say out because I was sure I’d lose them.  So I cut all of this out of scrap bits.  For example, this area had uncut details, pretty boring visually.

This area was supossed to have green buds that had a hint of white flower petal showing through as they were starting to open.  Too small to saw out (for ME to saw out), so I sawed out the buds, then knifed the green and white bud parts to make what I wanted.

This area was supossed to have green buds that had a hint of white flower petal showing through as they were starting to open. Too small to saw out (for ME to saw out), so I sawed out the buds, then knifed the green and white bud parts to make what I wanted.

After cutting out some pie-wedges from the green and filling in with white, and doing a little sand shading, it looks a lot more interesting visually.

This area is done, details added to the buds.

This area is done, details added to the buds.

The other thing I wanted to do was try adding a border.  I recently bought a pair of DVDs on Marquetry and Veneering by Paul Schurch.  I wanted to see how his approach to marquetry worked, and I wanted to see if I could pick up any general veneer tricks.  On his approach to marquetry, it’s very similar to what Patrick Edwards teaches, but I don’t like Paul’s approach as well.  There was a lot of good info in the videos, and the technique for the border comes right from there.

First I made a “filletti tool”, which is a fancy name for a strip of wood with a spacer on it.  With this an a straightedge and a veneer saw you can cut any width of banding.  Slide the veneer against the spacer block, the veneer goes under the spacer and against the body of the tool.  Slide a straightedge against the tool and remove it.  Now cut the strip that protrudes.

Fillette Tool, just a strip of plywood with a 1.8" and 1/4" spacer on opposite sides.

Fillette Tool, just a strip of plywood with a 1.8″ and 1/4″ spacer on opposite sides.

Slide the veneer under the tool's spacer, then put the straightedge against the tool, and remove the filletti tool.

Slide the veneer under the tool’s spacer, then put the straightedge against the tool, and remove the filletti tool.

Next saw off the strip of veneer that is sticking out.

Here is the result, a perfect 1/8" of veneer sticking out.

Here is the result, a perfect 1/8″ of veneer sticking out.

I made enough 1/8″ banding for two strips around the picture from a tiny piece of Wenge.  I made a strip of crossgrain Padauk banding too.

Banding ready

Banding ready

Banding with Wenge, then cross-grain Padauk, then Wenge, then diagonally oriented Cherry.So far, everything is being done from the glue face.  I sawed using a reversed pattern.  Assembled it onto shelf paper using the same orientation as sawing, then applied a border.  I used blue tape for this step of the assembly.

Glue face with the banding applied

Glue face with the banding applied

Once the banding was taped to the picture I glued the whole stinking mess down to my kraft-paper-covered pattern board.  Patrick and Patrice at the ASFM would probably yell at me for all of the extra steps with shelf paper and blue tape, but I’m not ready to take the training wheels off yet.

Tomorrow I’ll fill the gaps with mastic and glue this down to an MDF backer in the correct orientation.  I’m on the fence if I’ll leave it at that, or build a small cabinet around it.  In the meantime I’m listening to the sounds of glue drying and trying to figure out what to make next.

 

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Progress on the picture

I’ve made some progress on the marquetry picture I’m working on.  Sunday I sawed out the remainder of the picture and began assembling it.

My shop motivation has been really low lately — but my family and work commitments have been at an all time high, so that probably shouldn’t surprise me.  But it does.  Go figure.

If you have forced yourself to parse some of my earlier gibble you may recall that I had a hard time learning to saw with the “coarse” 32tpi blade in the marquetry chevalet.  A friend equated it to a high powered sport bike with a fast throttle.  That’s pretty much it, and the consequences of a fast wrist twist are about the same.  You’ll blow right through whatever is in front of you in the blink of an eye.  It takes a very gentle touch, especially on tight turns.

First set of elements sawn out of the packet.  I since decided to swap the central colors, using the red for the rays and the brown for the stigma.

First set of elements sawn out of the packet. I since decided to swap the central colors, using the red for the rays and the brown for the stigma.

My sawing is far from perfect, but I’m able to erase the layout line with the kerf most of the time.  With the “piece-by-piece” method – which I both dread and eagerly anticipate to in equal parts.  Piece-by-piece involves cutting out the background, then cutting each piece separately — as opposed to the Boulle or stack cutting method I’m using.  The advantage is less waste and you can make multiple finished parts at once.  The challenge is that the sawing needs to be dead accurate or the parts won’t fit.

But that is a digression.

One problem I’ve had in the past is the as parts are removed from the stack of veneers it gets loose and hard to manage.  I use tape to reinforce it as I go, but I tried something new this time.  I got a tin of veneer nails from Patrick Edwards and pinned the stack of veneers.  This was a great help.

French Veneer Nails.

French Veneer Nails.

About three hours of sawing gave me a giant stack of veneer parts.  I started assembling them using shelf paper as an intermediate step.  I figured I would need to sand shade this to make it look right, and the first assembly bore that out.  It looks bland and loses a lot of the details in the leaves without shading.

The flower looks flat, and the leaves just look like a big green blob.  Time to fire up a skillet of sand.

The flower looks flat, and the leaves just look like a big green blob. Time to fire up a skillet of sand.

After an hour or so of carefully burning my little bits of veneer, and wetting them to “re-hydrate” and flatten them, I re-assembled the same parts.  I think this makes a giant improvement.

Same parts with sand shading completed

Same parts with sand shading completed

It’s hard to judge the right amount of scorching while I’m doing it.  The sand leaves a white dust on the veneer, and it isn’t until you see it assembled that it’s clear that you’ve done it right (or not).  It’s just practice and experience though, I know I’ll get a better sense for it before long.  It’s also surprising how quickly different veneers react to the heat.  The white petals (Holly maybe?) go really fast, the green dyed veneer for the leaves takes much longer.  And I’ve realized that faster is better.  The first hot plate I used didn’t get hot enough, it would take 20 or 30 second per piece.  That also caused a huge amount of warping, bubbling of the paper reinforcement and charing of the glue.  I’m at 5 to 10 seconds to get most pieces done, that’s much better.  I think I should actually be a bit hotter still.

Getting closer.  I need to find the rest of the pieces, and make replacements for the ones that are lost.

Getting closer. I need to find the rest of the pieces, and make replacements for the ones that are lost.

So I’ve probably got two more hours of work to get this assembled on the shelf paper.  I lost a few parts, and will need to make patches.  Then I’ll get this glued to the assembly board and think about adding a border and making this into a finished panel I can use in a small cabinet.  Or I’ll have a veneer fire in the driveway, you never know.

 

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I came, I sawed

I’m going to do another marquetry picture.  For practice.  Again.

I really (really) want to do a “real” project, but I need to get some more practice time in first.

The design for this came from a flower coloring book.  I traced it a couple of times, tweaking a few little details to get it to something I liked (and believed I could saw well enough).  It’s going to be a larger panel than I’ve done before, 8.5″ x 11″.  I picked out a very pale white veneer (probably Maple) for the petals, Bubinga for the colored rays, and a dyed red veneer for the anther.  I was careful to select the show faces when laminating on the reinforcing paper, and I dutifully made a reversed drawing for the pattern.  I’ll either saw it out or set it afire this weekend.

Design for the next marquetry panel.  The original drawing is on the right, my tracing is on the left.

Design for the next marquetry panel. The original drawing is on the right, my tracing is on the left.

But I really need to do a real project.  I don’t know if I’m at a loss of ideas, or if I have too many ideas.  Knowing me, it’s probably both.  Here are the ideas that have been going on in my head lately:

A reprise of the coffee cup cabinet, but with a marquetry panel on the door instead of a bookmatched panel.  That was a fun project, and it came out nicely.  I actually through about doing this particular flower design for the door of it.  I may still, the design isn’t quite big enough, but I can add banding and what-not to make the finished panel bigger.  What-not is a particular speciality of mine apparently.  (and you have to say “sepciality” with a British accent, spee-see-hal-ity).

Along the same lines, I have an idea to make a cabinet to store DVDs.  I have a great marquetry design in mind that I downloaded from the UK marquetry society.  My thinking is that this would be a frame-and-panel carcase.  The frame would be Cherry or Walnut, and the panels would be some sort of figured Maple, with the marquetry design on the front.

Marquetry design for another project

Marquetry design for another project

Astute readers will probably recognize the main rose bud in the picture from a recent practice panel.

My last practice panel

My last practice panel

So those two cabinets are fairly obvious projects, but I also have at least six other projects in mind.  A dutch tool chest (with a marquetry design on the inside of the lid), the Blacker House Serving Table I drew plans of recently, a cool tool tote that I bought plans for, another utility cabinet for the shop for my table saw accessories, a Wharton Esherick (ish) stool, a pair of casement windows, and let’s not forget about the bookcase for my wife.

The casement window is a funny story.  My shop has El-Cheapo (TM) aluminum sliding windows.  Last week a bee was buzzing around, and I went to swat it and blew the glass out.  Too much coffee I guess.  So I could replace it with a big-box-store plastic slider, or I could figure out how to make nice windows for my house by practicing on the shop.  You already know where my brain goes.

By the way, the bookcase is a funny situation too.  I realized, luckily just before buying a lot of very expensive 6/4 wide Q/S White Oak, that because of the turn from the hallway into the guest bedroom I couldn’t actually get the bookcase where I wanted to put it.  So a redesign is necessary.

I have to say it.  I also just want to go buy wood.  The local wood store has some nice clear vertical grain Douglas Fir, 4/4 x 12″ wide (tool chest!), as well as narrower 8/4 and 10/4.  And piles of Sapele.  Both of those could be nice to make windows…but do I really want to spend $300 on wood to make a window? (Yes!)  Oh, and I recently watched a couple of episodes of The Woodwright’s Shop where Roy made a neat standing desk from construction lumber.  I spend all day at a desk, and I don’t really like standing up in any case, but I still want to build that.

Maybe I’ll just go buy a load of wood tomorrow.  I’ll get enough for all of these projects.  Cherry, Fir, White Oak, Sapele.  Maybe a couple of Monterey Pine slabs to play with.  Then I have options.  No room to work, and my wife probably won’t speak to me, but I’ll have options.

Veneer for the new marquetry panel is in the press being laminated to newsprint to reinforce it.

Veneer for the new marquetry panel is in the press being laminated to newsprint to reinforce it.

 

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