Design Considerations When Using Marquetry

Designing for marquetry does not require special skills, just a basic understanding of wood veneer, its uses and limitations. Being a durable material, veneer offers many advantages in addition to its aesthetic properties. Following are some things to consider when using wood as a design medium:

  • Wood grain type (burl, bird’s eye, rift cut, etc.) and direction can be as important as wood species or color in the final design.
  • Both flat and curved surfaces can be produced with marquetry designs.
  • Marquetry panels can be created with different core materials (plywood, medium density fiberboard, or solid wood) of various thicknesses.
  • Wide selections of dyed veneers are available in hardwood species, as well as many natural domestic and exotic veneers.
  • Dyed veneers are intended for interior use only. Overexposure of these veneers to direct sunlight can result in noticeable fading in some colors. This effect is similar to the fading that can occur with fabrics subjected to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light.
  • Some natural wood species, such as eastern cherry, darken in color significantly with exposure to ultraviolet light. Other species, American walnut being one example, tend to lose color, or bleach out, with constant exposure to sunlight. Achieving accurate color requires some color testing to anticipate these changes.
  • Cutting veneers with a laser cutter limits the overall size of an unbroken piece of veneer to 18" by 24". This can often be worked around in a variety of ways, such as edge joining veneers (of lengths up to 24" long) to produce much wider finished marquetry panels. To join sheets of veneer end to end often requires the employment of some sort of design device such as changing the direction of grain, adding a veneer strip that separates the sheets, etc.