How To: Eight steps to mastering marquetry
Marquetry is the boatbuilder’s opportunity to get creative with their craft. But a lot of us are more technical than artistic. Luckily, there are a few quick tips that can turn even the most creatively challenged among us into a master of marquetry.
With the right advice and the right products, no boatbuilding task is too great. Marquetry is one of the scarier artistic tasks among boatbuilders, but even novices can produce great results with a few handy hints.
To help you create an eye-catching design at a professional level, we’ve put together the top user-friendly tips to creating that perfect inlay.
- Prepare your starting materials correctly
Make sure that you use background and inlay wood of the same thickness – or that the inlay is slightly thicker. If the background piece is thicker, you might end up sanding much more than you need to get everything level. Remember, it is much easier to sand down a proud inlay to background level, rather than the other way around.
- Choose the right epoxy
The ideal bonding system for marquetry is one which has good gap-filling qualities and will accept colour-matching additives. Epoxy will soak into those tight spots and WEST SYSTEM® epoxy, in particular, is designed to work with a wide range of additives and pigments and suit a variety of colours. Which brings us onto tip number three…
- Choose the right colour
It’s not often in boatbuilding that we worry too much about colour. But when it comes to marquetry, it’s important that you use the right products to colour-match your wood. Additives like WEST SYSTEM 407 Low Density Filler are designed to work with darker red-brown shades, whereas 410 Microlight® is more apt for lighter, tan shades.
If you want to darken an epoxy mixture you already have, add some Graphite Powder. This is also a great way to produce a black line when filling a kerf.
- Spend time getting the cut right
Marquetry requires a high level and attention so, once you start cutting, good light and magnification are crucial. Use a clamp-on lens or light to get the best view of the blade while you’re working.
When cutting, changes in direction should be made gradually, so avoid sudden changes – except on corners – and always watch the blade carefully. If you drift off the line, adjust gently.
- Repeat for different species
Using different species of wood? Start with one species and the background wood. Once you’ve achieved the cut, place the inlay in the background and repeat the process for the second species – repeat as many times as you like. You can build any number of species into the inlay using this method.
- Drill entry holes in darker wood
Hiding drilled entry holes is tricky, but it’s far easier to hide holes in dark wood. Drill an entry hole in the dark wood and fill it with dark filler to disguise it.
- Make lettering easy
For those wanting to carve their names in wood, marquetry can be just the ticket. Albeit a tricky one.
Firstly, a script or handwriting font requires fewer drilled entry points than using individual letters so can look neater. Drill a 1/16th hole at an obvious turnaround spot (like the serif tail of a letter) so you can make a clean change in direction with the scroll saw blade and optimise your cutting.
Secondly, if you’re cutting a pattern of shapes within shapes, inside of letters like A or O, for example, cut out the smallest shape first. This way, you have the larger piece to hold onto and guide through the saw.
- Save your leftovers
For future projects, keep a record of what species you used to colour-match. Save your dust in vials or jars so you have something to refer back to.
Have you attempted a marquetry design? Or are you a marquetry master? We’d love to see your designs and find out your top tips to creating that perfect aesthetic. Tell us more.