Hi! Mandi here! I just adore the beautiful geometric shapes created by marquetry craftsmen of yesteryear. You can find complex inlaid wood designs most commonly in antique wooden boxes, cabinet doors, serving trays, and tabletops, made by cutting and arranging pieces of wood veneer, then sealing the design with layers of shiny lacquer.
I thought I'd try a simple version of this texture-rich marquetry technique on a set of wooden trivets. They make a nice tablescape for simple suppers, and when they're not being used, they look great hanging on the kitchen wall! Check out the simple instructions below to make your own.
-wooden squares (I used gallery panels from the craft store meant to be used for art)
-brush or rags to apply stain
-background paper to protect work surface
-mineral spirits or paint brush cleaner
-iron-on veneer tape (I chose a hardwood for durability—oak)
-foil or craft paper to protect iron during use
-craft blade and/or scissors
-metal ruler (optional)
-cutting mat (optional)
Step One: In a well-ventilated area, cover the wooden squares with stain. I used two different stain colors for variety. Make sure to dispose of your rags properly by soaking them in water and taking them to a hazardous waste disposal facility. Or use a paint brush and clean it with mineral spirits or brush cleaner.
Step Three: Cover the laid-out design carefully with foil or craft paper (to protect the iron from any stray adhesive). Make sure your design isn't shifting underneath the foil! Then very lightly press with an iron set to the cotton setting for about ten seconds. If you press too hard, the adhesive will seep out from underneath, and that's just not pretty. Don't reuse the same section of foil for pressing, because it will transfer stray adhesive onto the top of your veneer when you press it again.
If you mess up, just heat the veneer again with the iron. While the wood is still hot, you can use your finger to move any pieces back into place. The more you heat it, though, the less you will be able to move the veneer. That's good for its final purpose as a trivet, but that also means you need to be careful when you're ironing them into place. In my experience, I wasn't able to move the pieces after letting them rest overnight.
Rather than fitting strips of veneer side by side, I left the wooden background visible, creating a depth and texture on the surface of the trivet. Not only is this easier than tightly fitting together pieces of veneer, but it also allows breathing room beneath the pot or dish that rests on top of the trivet.
I tested out these trivets the day after making them to make sure they would stand up to the heat without the veneer shifting or a hot pot discoloring the wood. I heated a kettle on the stove until the water inside boiled, then I set the hot kettle on a trivet for ten minutes. When I removed the kettle, the wood was hot, but not discolored. I was pleased that the veneer tape didn't shift after pushing it with my fingernail. Success!
I love a simple project, especially when it's multipurpose. Wall art and useful table decor—I can dig it!
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Spring and Valentine of the Signature Collection.