Marquetry is the art of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to case furniture or even seat furniture, to decorative small objects with smooth, venerable surfaces or to freestanding pictorial panels appreciated in their own right. Parquetry is very similar in technique to marquetry: in the former the pieces of veneer are of simple repeating geometric shapes, forming tiling patterns such as would cover a floor (parquet), or forming basket weave or brickwork patterns, trelliswork and the like.
Marquetry (and parquetry too) differs from the more ancient craft of inlay, in which a solid body of one material is cut out to receive sections of another to form the surface pattern. The word derives from a Middle French word meaning “inlaid work”.
The veneers used are primarily woods, but may include bone, ivory, mother-of-pearl, pewter, brass or fine metals. Marquetry using colored straw was a specialty of some European spa resorts from the end of the 18th century. Many exotic woods as well as common European varieties can be employed, from the near-white of boxwood to the near-black of ebony, with veneers Marquetry as a modern craft most commonly uses knife-cut veneers. However, the knife-cutting technique usually requires a lot of time.
For that reason, many marquetarians have switched to fret or scroll saw techniques. Other requirements are a pattern of some kind, some brown gummed tape (IE as the moistened glue dries it causes the tape to shrink and so the veneer pieces are pulled closer together), PVA glue and a base-board with balancing veneers on the alternate face to compensate stresses. Finishing the piece will require fine abrasive paper always backed by a sanding block. Either ordinary varnish, special varnishes, and modern polyurethane -oil or water based- good waxes and even the technique of French polish are different methods used to seal and finish the piece. Sand shading is a process used to make a picture appear to be more three-dimensional.