I’ve been wanting to build something, but my shop has been in disarray due to work, weather, sharing it with an incontinent dog and a complete kitchen remodel that went on much longer than was expected.
A tool I could use was my scrollsaw, which doesn’t take much room. I don’t use my scrollsaw much because a good 90% of the projects don’t appeal to me. Something that does appeal is the art of marquetry done with a scroll saw.
Recently, Matt made a veneered phone case, and I decided that Margo needed a fancy case, and I could try out marquetry.
So I turned this:
And learned a lot along the way.
The first issue was getting a case. I sorted that out and got a cheap one. I didn’t realize it was a two part deal, which created some design challenges. It fits super tight, so that is good and will make for a sturdy base, I just would have preferred A piece.
The next was a design. The wife likes dogwoods, so I decided dogwood flowers on the back would be the best choice. Now, I have all the artistic ability a lobotomized possum, so drawing the flowers is out of the question. I found a picture on the internet and isolated the flower part. From there… tracing paper.
First I created an outline of what the phone case looked like. Another recurring problem was trying to wrap my head around what side was the show face and which one was the glue side. With this design, have the camera hole in the middle of the flower would have been a disaster.
I made layers of the tracing paper. The very bottom layer was the flower picture, the next up was the phone outline, and one top of that was the version of the flower I traced.
Here is the flower traced and I’m trying to work out the Most Unexceptional grain direction for light flow. Another thing I’ve worked out is that a key for appearance is the flow of light and wood grain.
And moved the flower down one to trace it again. I also rotated and worked the picture to make it not look like I just traced the same flower twice.
And the final step was to copy the tracing paper at an ultra dark setting to give me a template.
Now, to deal with the tooling issue. I ordered some Flying Dutchman Puzzler blades, a veneer supplies starter kit, and several packs of veneer from Highland Woodworking.
I went to Michael’s and got a piece of white cardboard. Part of that was used to cover the gaping maw of my scrollsaw with a zero clearance table.
I wanted the back to be walnut burl, so I needed to soften it a little. I used the bottle of Super Soft that came with the veneer supply kit. I sprayed the veneer to get it wet and clamped it between some paper towels and let it sit a few hours to dry.
I think it made a neat pattern on the paper towel. Probably because I did something wrong.
Next, I took all the bits of veneer and made a little sandwich with two bits of the poster board and a lot of blue tape.
I purposefully made the sandwich larger than was needed, so I drove some small nails through the outer bits to hold the whole packet of veneer together. So when I gang cut it, everything will line up within the kerf.
I didn’t take any pictures of the cutting process, but I did make an extra copy of the template and as I cut so I could lay the pieces out. This worked great until the wind blew through an open door and scattered all the bits to the wind and broke the back.
Next, I wanted to some sand shading of the leaves to give the piece some depth. With sand shading, you take some sand, get it hot and dip the pieces of veneer in to get them a little darker. I got some sand, a pan from Goodwill and ended up using the stove to heat the sand. The problem with my method is that the pieces are small and the sand is hot. I need to work out a better way to hold the veneer as a run it through the sand. Because of this, I managed to not get the shading I wanted. Still, I think it came out spiffy.
After that, I put the pieces back together and glued them to another piece of Walnut to work as a backer. Another mistake I made was cutting the backer and the face piece separate, when I should have glued them together and trimmed both at the same time.
I’m not sure where the gaps came from, I think it was part of them getting blown about and I didn’t get them back in the spots they are supposed to be. I need to work out a better numbering and storage system. The bits are all small, so I think I’ll get a plastic tackle box that has a lot of compartments. I decided that using more Walnut as a backer(and a little dark wood paste) would fill the gaps and conceal the problem.
Attaching it to the phone case, was fairly easy. I just got some slow setting super glue and stuck it on. Later, I realized I should have done most of the finishing work before I stuck it on there. After that, I took an X-acto and cut out the camera hole. And managed to damage the piece a little. So I glued bits of veneer back to work as patches.
I cut the bottom bit off and glued it separately. I put a piece of cardboard between the clamp and the veneer to protect it.
Now, came one of the biggest mistakes I made. Veneering the sides of the case. It was a combination of technique and probably material. I use the softener to get the material really floppy and some clothes pins to clip it to the case and get it bent into shape. The material was really fragile and I’m not sure it added anything to the case. The sides kept breaking and ended up becoming a hodgepodge of veneer bits and wood filler.
After that came the process of finishing it. I used a soldering iron to create stamens. After that, I used polyurethane to give it shine and protection. It kept getting bubbles in it. Which turns out to be a thing that poly does. I would sand it a little and add a thin layer, let it dry and do it again. I eventually started using poly thinned out with boiled linseed oil. That sort of worked.
I finally gave it to Margo, and she is happy with it. I’m just going to say the defects are proof it was made by the hardworking artisans of Decatur Georgia.
I have a few ideas for doing another one. My phone just has a plain black case, so it needs something super awesome.