Marquetry Lesson

So, you want to try your hand at creating a marquetry image. Great, by following the simple step-by-step instructions below, you will be well on your way!!

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Marquetry Lesson

Material Sources

The first consideration with any project, beyond concept, is the materials you will need to see it through. The most important factor in the tools and materials you will use is quality. Throughout this instruction, for your convenience, I have included links to some possible sources for tools, products and materials to help you meet your goal of creating a quality marquetry image.

Perhaps one of the most important sources for a woodworker of any sort is Rockler. For this reason I have added a page dedicated to helping you search the Rockler online catalog, use the links to shop online or simply order a free catalog mailed to your home.

CLICK HERE to get you started with Rockler.


First, design a pattern to use. For your first project start with a simple pattern, such as the rose example pictured here. Your pattern should be a single line drawing similar to a coloring book image. There are software programs on the market that will make a single line pattern for you from photos, drawing, etc. You may wish to purchase one of these programs such as "Connected Lines" offered through their web-site at:


Next, select the wood veneers you wish to use for your marquetry image. A good source to purchase veneers is from Rockler. The veneers you purchase will vary in thickness slightly, but are generally the thickness of a dime. For some veneers that you may want very specific grain pattern or figure, your best bet would be to visit a veneer distributors warehouse and personally select your prize veneer.


If you'd like to learn more about wood veneers you might consider purchasing the "World Woods in Color" by William A. Lincoln. Lincoln was the President of the British Marquetry Society, and is world renowned in the marquetry, veneer and wood industries. This book, published by Linden Publishing is an invaluable reference to marquetarians and woodworkers alike. The handiest feature of the book is the full color illustrations of the over 275 species of woods included. If you are going to order veneers over the internet this is the book to have. You can purchase this book at Click here to go to the Rockler online catalog page for this product

On your pattern draw arrows to indicate the general direction you intend the wood grain to follow. The choice in direction depends on your desired effect. Generally your first consideration will be given to natural characteristic of the object. The leaf, for example, has a stem or vein that runs down its center dividing it into two parts. In nature, on each side of the leaves stem, each sides "grain" runs diagonally away from the other. This effect is emulated by running the wood grain in the same manner, as illustrated. Another, secondary, consideration is that when using the same wood species for adjacent pieces, giving even a slight change in direction will add subtle contrast between the pieces. This will vary based on the species and will be more apparent after a finish is applied to the final work.


Once you have selected your woods and set them aside, you will choose your starting piece and the veneer it will be cut from. You will layer your materials as shown, with your veneer on bottom, then the carbon paper and finally the pattern. Don't start yet. Read on for some more important steps.


Now you are almost ready to cut the first piece. Before we do lets examine the veneer you'll make the cut from. Some veneers have many varying colors and tones. Some are vary consistent. Some species have very distinct annual ring graining and some vary figured grain patterns. You will learn to use, not only the color, but these other characteristics to give your work texture and depth. Examine the Bubinga veneer shown here. Bubinga, an African wood, is naturally a red-purple color which will lend itself to the rose. Note the area circled in green is the lightest area on the veneer flitch. In contrast, the area circled in blue has the deepest color. You will use these variances when you choose the location on the veneer to make your cuts.


Carefully place your pattern over the area on the veneer that you want to cut it from, orienting the grain with the arrow you determined. Note, you should place masking tape on the veneer completely covering the area the cut will be from. This will help the veneer from splitting and the carbon paper transfer will be more visible on dark woods. Carefully slip the carbon paper under the pattern. On this first piece you will freehand trace the outline of the first shape. Make sure to use a sharp thin (5mm) mechanical pencil and enough pressure with the pencil as necessary to transfer the carbon.  


Place the pattern and carbon paper aside. Carefully cut the piece, following the outline, without cutting away the line. Once the piece is cut, set it aside. Do not remove the tape.


Select the veneer you will cut the next adjacent piece from. In this case it will be cut from the same veneer. Select an area of the veneer with a slightly different tone. Place the masking tape over the area. Layer and orient your pattern in the same fashion previously described. This time you will place the previously cut piece in it's place on top of the pattern. Trace along the edge of the piece where it shares a common edge with the new piece. Then, continue to trace the pattern line, freehand, around the remainder of the shape. Set aside the pattern, carbon paper and previous piece. Cut the new piece making sure, especially along the edge where it will join with the other piece, not to cut away the carbon line. Cut right up to the line but do not cut it away. This is important to ensure a snug, gap-free fit.


As you complete the cut of each piece, tape it to the previous pieces. You will continue this process working around the pattern until all of the pieces are cut and assembled together.


Now that all the pieces are cut you are ready to glue it to a backer board. Although you could use various wood glues to bond the piece to the backer board, perhaps the best way to bond your first piece is with contact cement. Follow the instruction on the cement label for application.


Once you have bonded the veneer to the backer board you are ready to remove the tape that was used to hold the pieces together and have a look at your work. Carefully remove the tape to avoid tear-out of the grain. Sand your work with a fine grit sand paper and apply the finish of your choice.

That's it... You've completed your first marquetry piece!