Building a Parquetry Tabletop

Parquetry Tabletop

 In December 2012 #201, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

Grain pattern inspires a new take on a pinwheel design.

By Heather Trosdahl
Pages 48-55

I originally made this table during my first year at the College of the Redwoods Fine Woodworking Program. For our second project we are encouraged to incorporate shop-sawn veneers in some way. My plan was simple: I wanted to make a table out of a small but beautiful piece of red narra (an exotic from Southeast Asia). I knew it had to be a veneered top to get the most out of this unusual board, and I wanted it to be simple in design to allow the wood to speak for itself. I decided to resaw the board and find a pleasing layout by slipmatching my veneers.

Once I cut the veneers I realized I didn’t like how this particular board looked when slipmatched. Bookmatching, or even flipping parts end to end, presented unwelcome chatoyance. No matter how I arranged the veneers and depending on the direction of the light they shifted from lighter to darker in color, highlighting the fact that I was joining separate pieces of wood to make the top.

To my eyes, neither option was going to do this board any justice. Then it dawned on me: I was approaching this project with a solid-wood mindset. Now that I was working with veneers I could put aside my concerns for wood movement, multiplying the possibilities. So why not take this opportunity to explore something new?

I turned to my wood for some guidance: “How can I use the chatoyance as part of the design?” The answer: parquetry – the joining of many pieces of wood to make a geometric pattern. But what pattern? This is where the possibilities are endless and can be somewhat overwhelming.

Luckily, I had a flame-like graphic at the end of my board and I thought it a shame to destroy its potential by slicing it in to smaller pieces. Instead, I cut a template window that framed this part of my board, which allowed me to notice a wedge shape that evoked a petal-like form, or a blade on a windmill rather than a symmetrical wedge suitable for a starburst. I liked this shape, so I used the window to search for other areas on the veneer that would work with this same shape. I found a total of three petals per veneer leaf.

From there, one question guided me through the next stage: “Can I use the chatoyance inherent in the wood to accentuate the already implied movement in, say, a pinwheel pattern?” And so it begins.

Blog: For more information on resawing your own veneer, see the author’s “Shop-sawn Veneer: A Primer” on the Editors’ Blog.
Web Site: Epifanes finishes can be found at Jamestown Distributors.
Web Site: For the file/burnisher the author uses, visit Glen-Drake Toolworks.
In Our Store: For more design inspiration, read Oscar P. Fitzgerald’s “Studio Furniture of the Renwick Gallery.”

From the December 2012 issue #201
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