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Plentiful patterns. Make hundreds of designs using micro lumber and only two or three miter angles.

A few shop-made appliances allow you to add stunning face-grain inlay to your work.

Geometric bandings and inlay patterns, or parquetry, are widely used, from Japan to Egypt to Spain. I developed a method of creating parquetry while learning to build ouds, a musical instrument that is the ancestor of the European lute and modern guitar.

The method can be employed to make bandings and inlays from as little as two species of wood, one at a time, to more detailed patterns using multiple layers to produce several copies of the same pattern. The designs I most frequently use create the illusion of dimension, as if the pattern were a flexible ribbon, folding, twisting and turning along its length. These patterns are fun to design and make, and can richly embellish any project.

This geometric parquetry differs from typical mosaic-wood techniques (think classical guitar rosettes made primarily of dyed strips and sliced into end-grain segments) in that the exposed face is  entirely face grain. No end grain is visible, so the chatoyance and color of the wood is vibrant. I like to use figured woods such as curly or bird’s-eye maple. Even at this small scale the wood’s figure creates a shimmer and sparkle.

To my eye, these designs look best when the joints are near perfect, so simply cutting the pieces with machines usually doesn’t cut it, although some of the cuts could be accomplished with precise machine setups. Plus, machines remove large amounts of wood, and many of the designs I use are cut from books of exotic and costly veneers, which take time to mill and assemble. Power machinery would waste more of the carefully prepared material. I also enjoy the process using hand tools – I can listen to music or the birds outside my shop. The fragility…

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