Marquetry's Design

Beauty of


If you have a particular picture in mind, perhaps the following ideas will be of help. If you are working from a photo, or a picture in a book, the first step is to take a photocopy, so as to preserve the master intact. If a copier is not available the alternative is to trace the picture and use the tracing. Don’t press too hard otherwise the picture underneath will become badly marked.

There are many design books that offer their designs free of copyright specifically for hobbyists in needlecraft, marquetry etc. 

Please remember the laws of copyright. It is incumbent upon you to find out about the law and act accordingly. Although you will impose your own interpretation of a design on your finished article, you must acknowledge the source and not try to pass the design off as your own. For example, the Disney Corporation take a very dim view of their cartoon characters being used without their express permission and have made it clear to many organisations including the Marquetry Society that they will not hesitate to protect their interests. 

Once this first stage is done, you have a base to start from. Look at the picture and try to divide up areas of similar colour, or shading. No toning down with the pencil allowed; aim for simple blocks. After you have got these areas sorted out, put in the details that will give the picture the character you are looking for. Try to remember that each piece of detail involves a cutting operation, so do try not to go overboard and fill the picture up with a mass of fine lines. Always keep in the back of your mind the impressionists, and ask yourself would Manet do it like this; well, probably not, he is better known as a painter than a marquetarian, but you know what I mean. Let the woods do the work.

Now you have the design sorted out in your own mind, and on paper, but it is unlikely to be the desired size. If you have access to one, modern photocopiers often have the facility to zoom up and down, and with a little trial and error the correct size of picture can be obtained. However, be cautious that photocopiers are liable to "stretch" the resultant image mainly along the long axis such that geometric designs and shapes (e.g. circles and squares etc.) will be distorted and no longer true. If you are making something substantially larger, the design will have to be redrawn as the lines on a photocopier enlargement will look as if you have drawn them with a crayon.  If such a luxury is not available, then it’s back to the old fashioned method of drawing a grid over the design. You need a similar grid of the correct size, and then copy the detail from one square into its corresponding partner on the correct size grid. This method works equally well if you are moving up or down in size.

Now the design is complete and you are ready to make a start. The Window Method is the only way to give you the opportunity to experiment with different veneers, as they will appear in the picture, without actually having to cut them in.

For some basic guidance, please refer to the section on veneers and their uses. For a better appreciation, build up a set of veneers for reference so that a number can be offered up and the most appropriate can be chosen.

Alternatively, if the main subject of the picture is to be a freak character veneer you have found, then most of the hard work has already been done for you and it is just a case of embellishing what nature has started!

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