Ambry on Stand – Part 3 (Marquetry)

Catching up again as always.  It’s always easier to make progress on the project than to write about it.

The marquetry should be the fun part of this project.  I sort of changed my plan after some testing and realized that plan A was not going to work.  Plan B turned out to work pretty well.  I started by developing a sketch.  Initially I thought I would make a precise sketch and follow it exactly – I later realized it made more sense to simply let the work “grow” as I went.  In essence the left side would look like the right, more or less.

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Once I had the basic sketch I did a small section of testing.  That’s when I developed Plan B.  I started by laying in the branches and stems in walnut.  I made a couple of templates to run my little Dremel along, starting with a 1/32 end mill bit as if I was doing simple stringing.  That template was clamped at both ends.  I loosened the clamp at one end and shifted it a little to widen the branch at one end.  I repeated the process until I had a tapered groove.  I did change from 1/32 to 1/16 to reduce the odds of breaking the bit.  I cut in the individual leaf and grape stems next.  Then I stuffed it with 1/32″ veneer laid on edge.  Start at the narrowed point and add more veneer as I progressed.  After the glue dried (Elmer’s White) I lowered the walnut flush with the background.

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Next it was time to cut out lots of grape leaves and grapes.  Stupidly I timed myself.  I had 32 leaves to make, and I cut them in sandwiches of two leaves (a stack of 2 pieces of veneer in a packet).  From cutting the first leaf to the last, it only took me 2 hours.  Once you get into the groove it goes quick.  Since I was only cutting the outline I used an aggressive 2/0 blade on the fret saw.  The Knew Concepts saw is amazing and worth every penny.

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IMG_1514For the bunches of grape I planned to cut those out in the same way and assemble into a bunch.  That went badly.  The mahogany I was using was very splintery and the grapes looked a little too irregular and funky.  I needed a new way.  I realized if I used a piece of 1/2″ EMT I could fashion a punch to create the grapes.  I ground and filed the outside until I had a sharp cutting edge, then I slightly crushed it in the vice to give the grapes an oblong shape.  The grain runs in a variety of directions on purpose, and I didn’t mind a little space between grapes.  I can fill that in later with asphaltum.

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IMG_1542 After I had all the pieces it was time to start cutting them in.  I tacked down each leaf or grape bunch as desired on the branches and traced around it carefully with a very sharp pencil.  My old drafting lead holders and sharpener did the trick nicely, giving me a close sharp point.  Then I followed the line with a small 1/32″ end mill in the Dremel and base. A little water and heat pulled up the rest of the background, giving me a recess to drop in the element.  The last pictures below are after scraping off all the hide glue and accumulated crud.

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There’s more to do later, as I do the finishing.  I’ll scratch in some leaf veins, just to add some interest and fill that with asphaltum.  But that can’t be done until finishing is partially complete.

So it turned out OK.  Next step some assembly finally.  That’s when I had a little – OK big – surprise.

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