This is the process by which I create most of my work. As the name suggests, it involves cutting a stack of veneer all at the same time using a single pattern placed on top. Depending on the number of veneers used, the process will yield between four and eight unique variations on one design. This is because what would normally be considered the “waste”, or off-cut veneer on a sheet can actually be mixed and matched with the various other off-cuts on the other sheets to create a full picture, though with a different color pattern.
The stack of sheets is held together by pins (essentially tiny pieces of wire) on each of the corners. I pre-drill the holes in each of the sheets so in addition to holding the entire veneer packet together, the pins help to align all the veneer sheets and the pattern. This helps me center a book-matched burl veneer or any other unique features of the grain that I want to highlight in a specific area of the design.
Please note that while I do have some control over the grain pattern that appears using the stack cutting technique, it is far more limited than in the double-bevel technique described below. My focus for stack cut pieces then becomes mostly on the intricacies of the cuts and the color schemes rather than the nuances of the grain.
This technique varies from stack cutting in several ways. First, only two veneers are cut at the same time. The background veneer is placed on top with the insert veneer underneath. Then, as the name suggests, the table of the scroll saw is tilted at an angle, which produces a beveled cut on both the veneers. The angle is set such that the saw kerf (the gap left where the blade has cut) is eliminated entirely once the insert piece is placed into the background. With this technique, it is important to only rotate the piece in one direction (clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on if you tilted the table to the left or the right). Otherwise, you will have essentially reversed the relationship between the insert piece and the background piece, and will have twice the gap instead of none.
This is a technique used often to help achieve the exact orientation of the grain of an insert piece in relationship to the rest of the composition. It is done by cutting a hole in the background veneer that is not quite as large as the actual piece that will be inserted. In this way, you can orient the insert veneer so the grain flows to compliment the rest of the picture. This technique isn’t useful for stack cutting for several reasons: First, because it would ruin one of the off-cut pieces that could be used in a different variation, and second because you can really only orient one piece in relation to another at a time, so any other veneers in the stack beyond the first two would not benefit from the grain alignment.
While creative and intricate cuts and grain/color selection can accomplish much for a piece, I often find areas in the picture sometimes look too sharply contrasted or awkward without an additional technique used to soften the edges. While I could spend countless hours searching through my veneer to find that perfect little piece that is dark on the edge and highlights the middle, the time spent searching would not be very cost effective in the end. (Certainly using more veneer and finding the exact shade can be done, but most people would not be willing to spend the extra money for the time/additional cuts involved).
Instead, I use sand shading, which adds a little time to production, but also allows for a lot more subtle and smoother details within the work.
The process of sand shading consists of heating fine sand in a pot enough so that when a piece of veneer is dipped into the sand for several seconds, it begins to scorch the wood. Alternatively, the hot sand can be carefully poured over the part of the veneer you wish to darken. The scorching effect leaves a very soft transition to the edge, and gives a sense of depth that would otherwise be lacking in non-shaded pieces.
One does need to be careful not to leave the veneer in for too long, otherwise it gets too scorched and the structural integrity is compromised. I’ve had entire edges crumble into charcoal because I wasn’t paying attention.