Sand Shading, my Favourite Technique

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I have a lot of favourite techniques but for sheer “wow” effect it is hard for me to think of one that beats sand shading marquetry. My favourite way to do it is one piece at a time rather than the more common method of shading several pieces at once.

Here’s my setup for sand shading one piece at a time. The marquetry has been preliminarily assembled on sticky shelf paper, a sheet of thin acrylic covers most of it, and the sand is hot. (~600 degrees F)

I remove one piece, shade it in a spoon of hot sand, and return it. Then I repeat a thousand times (give or take). I am still developing this way of doing things but it is working very well and I have complete control of how the picture grows as I am shading.

Here’s an example. The curled edges here look flat so I shaded the outer edges a bit and now (second photo) it looks better. I ended up shading almost every piece and all of them seemed to add to the three dimensional effect.

This is the end of day one, about 4 1/2 hours.

A detail at that stage

Day two

Day three

And day four, around twenty hours total shading time.

This is the same marquetry before shading. The transformation amazes me every time.

Thanks for looking in


-- The early bird gets the worm but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.

Nice set-up. Nice work. I just learned the hard way, about why I should be working with 1/16 veneer for sand shading. LOL The thin stuff is just a problem waiting to happen. Both you and Patrick told me so. I should have listened.

A phenomenal difference after shading, turning it from a sketch-like picture into a piece of art.

It’s one thing to say sand shading is a great technique, but quite another to do it as well as you have done here Paul. I guess like anything else in woodworking it is a skill that has to be learned from experience and good tips from folks like yourself.

My first attempts have been pretty crude. I was just glad that I learned to remoisten the pieces a little after shading so they would swell back up to pre-shading size for a good fit. I realize it isn’t rocket science, but I still don’t feel very comfortable with it. I guess I will just have to pay my dues as I assume you must have done.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway

Sand Shading Does add a lot to any marquetry project.
One piece at the time… For sure nothing will beat that:)
The pictures brought back some great memories.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

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