MARQUETRY  TECHNIQUES   by  John Eifler
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FINISHING  an  INLAID PICTURE  or  MARQUETRY SURFACE.  (My method)
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When I started teaching Seniors how to make Inlaid Pictures, I realized that finishing techniques as I knew them would not work. I had been using a brush lacquer technique and this method was impossible in a group where the fumes could become a real problem. Besides the fumes, there was the factor of drying time. In a 2 or 3 hour session how could one possibly apply a coat or more of lacquer and then finish the picture all the way with a frame? I do provide a frame for every picture made in my classrooms.
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Dave Bilger, owner of B&B Rare Woods provided me with the beginning of the answer to my problems. He was using a method of applying a varnish based sanding sealer and rubbing it in by hand. I altered his methods somewhat and added in a few twists of my own. Following is my method from start to finish. It is the only method I teach and I have been using and teaching it since 1991. The pictures hold up very well and this finish has been used on many dozens of pictures made by many different people, including myself.
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Start by progressively sanding the picture with 100, 150 and finally 220 grit sandpaper. If you want, you can use smaller grit sandpaper, but it is not really necessary. Whatever your sanding technique, try to keep your picture as flat as possible by using a long sanding block or a sander with a long base. My electric sander takes a half sheet of sandpaper lengthwise and I use that for the 100 grit paper. I use it to remove almost all the irregularities before going to my palm sander which uses quarter sheets. Being careful to use it perfectly flat, I now use the 150 and 220 grit sandpaper.
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Clean the picture surface really well with a tack cloth, brush, or any other method you like. I like to dampen a cloth or paper towel with a little naptha and wipe it down very well to remove the fine dust. Caution: naptha is very dangerous to use. Read the instructions carefully. Now, I like to work on a clean surface to avoid getting too much dust or dirt down into the grains. The product I use is sanding sealer. I always did prefer the varnish based type, but it is getting harder and harder to find so I use any good grade I can get, but not a lacquer type.
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Using a cloth, wipe the sanding sealer onto the entire edge of the picture core as I feel this makes for a good moisture barrier. I then wipe it onto the front and the back. Start with either surface. Wipe the sander sealer on in every direction. I like to use a lot of circular motion. Use it very generously and press very hard. I even rub it in very vigorously with the palm of my hand. This will develop heat from the friction which I feel is very desirable. The object is to get the finish down into the wood and not merely built up on the surface. Now take a clean cloth and wipe all excess finish off the surface. There is nothing you can do wrong here. If the surface is a little rough it is OK.
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Drying time is quite minimal, maybe 10 minutes or so if you have wiped off all the sanding sealer and left no puddles. Now use new and clean #0000 steel wool and take off all sanding sealer that is on the surface. The object is to get right down to the bare wood. Keep using new areas of the steel wool so it is nice and sharp and not all gunked up. Work in all directions. I rub directly off each corner about 20 times. Make certain you steel wool along the edges plenty in a lengthwise direction. When you have done it all thoroughly, you will not be able to see or feel any of the sanding sealer anyplace. A great way to see if it is all off is to hold the picture up to a good light source and look across it obliquely (at an angle.) Ignore the sides and ends. Dependent upon the porosity of the woods, you may have to do the entire process one more time. Some woods, such as redwood burl, are extremely porous and may require even a few coats.
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Now use your favorite paste wax. Apply a good coat. I also like to rub this briskly with the palm of my hand. Wipe it with a clean cloth which will get pretty filled up with wax and produce very little shine. Now use another clean cloth surface and give it a good rubbing. Repeat the waxing process if you wish.
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You will now have a good durable surface that is fun to touch and you will see all the natural wood and not a plastic type coating. I like it! Other people enjoy feeling it and somehow have an irresistible urge to touch the wood.
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Copyright April 28, 1997. John A. Eifler.
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