Inlay and Marquetry with David Marks

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A couple weeks ago I had the treat of spending 3 days attending David Marks’ Inlay and Marquetry class.  David teaches out of his shop in Santa Rosa, California.  Being there was very literally stepping foot into the set of Wood Works.

This is the first woodworking class I’ve taken and I was pleasantly surprised at how much richer of an experience it was compared to learning from videos.  Having someone with such a wealth of experience helping troubleshoot your technique is a powerful way to learn.  In addition, wandering around David’s shop led to a couple AHA moments discovering little things he’s done over the years to make work easier.

So… Inlay? Marquetry?  What’s the difference?  Before this class I had no idea though it turns out to be pretty simple:

  • Inlay is the technique of cutting a shape out of a thin piece of wood, cutting a matching recess (mortise?) into a thicker piece of wood, and gluing the thinner piece into the thicker piece.
  • Marquetry involves taking two thin pieces of wood, cutting a shape out of one and a matching hole in the other, and glueing the first piece into the second.  Once completed this thin piece of wood is usually glued to a stable substrate or inlayed into a larger piece of wood

While some template router inlay was covered, this class primarily focused on a technique called Double Bevel Marquetry. Here you cut both pieces at the same time on a scroll saw with the background piece on top and the inlay piece on the bottom.  The table of the saw is tilted slightly (4 – 7 degrees) creating a bevel on each piece.  When dialed in with test cuts, this bevel ends up perfectly compensating for the kerf of the saw blade and you get two pieces that fit together with no gaps.  One of the beauties of this technique is that you can be a bit free form and stray from your layout lines.  Any move you make on one piece is matched exactly on the corresponding piece.

A sense of depth can be added to the piece by Sand Shading.  This is done by heating a pot of sand on a hot plate and placing one edge of the inlay piece into the hot sand.  This scorches one side of the wood, darkens it, and creates a nice gradient.

David had an impressive selection of bandsawn veneers ready for us to play with.  I came to the class with the vague idea of working on a cherry blossom design but it wasn’t until I saw the piece of curly claro walnut that bent just the right way that the idea snapped into reality.  When looking for some stock to use for the petals David suggested purpleheart (too dark), osage orange (to orange), resin impregnated box elder (getting there), then he got a gleam in his eyes, climbed up into his wood stash and came back with a small bock of pink ivory (one of the rarest woods in the world.)  What generosity!

Instead of boring you with the details of the build, I’ll let the pictures tell the story.  If you ever have the chance to take a class with David, he has my unmitigated recommendation.

A small sample of the palette of wood we were provided

A sketch of a cherry blossom with the woods I'll be using

Using the window thechnique to place the center of the flower

Gluing in a pedal

Nearing completion

Close up of flower in progress

Back filling with black dyed epoxy

Hey mom! Look what I made!

Obligatory picture with David

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