Wood Marquetry

Wood marquetry is a decorative technique that involves inlaying a veneer onto an object, like a table top, jewelry box lid or a picture frame. There are three primary methods used in marquetry: knife cut veneers, laser cutting and engraving. One common example of marquetry is a wooden chess board, which is often a beginner project because it only involves geometric cutouts. That being said, there are some wood marquetry pieces that rival paintings in their intricacy and ornate inlays. While wood veneers are the most common, other materials can be used, as well. For example, ivory, bone, and fine metals can also be used to create the inlay. Marquetry is very similar to another technique called parquetry; the latter differs from the former in that the design of the inlay is made completely of geometric patterns.


Marquetry can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. However, it is most notably recognized as a method of intricately decorating Italian cathedrals in the 14th century. During the 16th century, artisans in France began using it as a method for decorating large marble slabs and furniture. Over time, the technique evolved to include other materials, like colored straw and bone. Fleming Pierre Golle, a French master, went on to develop his own method of inlaying veneer with his son-in-law, Andre-Charles Boulle, called Boulle marquetry, which was very popular at the time and is still taught in classes today. After a brief period of unpopularity, marquetry was again looked at with a renewed sense of interest in the 17th century. The 18th century led to the rise of the veneered jewelry boxes that can still be seen in gift shops today.

Tools & Materials

Before embarking on a marquetry project, it's very important to ensure that you have all of the necessary supplies and materials to finish the job. There are two ways of going about this, you can purchase a marquetry kit, or purchase each tool individually. To complete a basic project using the knife method, you will need to have the following tools: a knife, blades, pencils, carbon paper, ruler, a cutting board, tape and a picture to trace. Additionally, it's also a good idea to have a mounting board; however, some people work without one. There are a few more supplies that you will need to finish the project and make it look professional, which include a clear varnish, steel wool and sand paper. The varnish should preferably be water proof and UV resistant if it is being used on a piece of outdoor furniture.

Tips & Techniques

The easiest way to learn wood marquetry is to start with the knife method. As its name implies, it involves using a knife to cut the wood instead of a straight saw or a fret saw. It's much easier to control a small, handheld knife than it is a larger saw when you are trying to cut out challenging edges. Some people also use laser cutting techniques when they have extremely delicate or intricate patterns because the laser offers a higher degree of precision when programmed correctly. Unfortunately, using laser wood marquetry has higher startup costs, which is another reason why most novices don't initially use the technique. One of the best ways to learn a new cutting or inlay technique is to watch someone else do it, either in person or through video. Additionally, many beginners find it helpful to have a physical book on marquetry techniques, tools and projects on hand, as well, so they can easily refer to instructions when they're stuck.

Societies & Associations

Another great way to learn marquetry is to find a local society or association. Oftentimes, associations will host workshops that members can attend, which is beneficial in learning how to apply the different marquetry techniques. Additionally, they are a great way to network with likeminded individuals that want to further their marquetry skills. It's important to remember that some groups require an annual membership fee; this is usually negligible in contrast to the amount of knowledge that you can pick up.


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