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Woodworking with P. Michael Henderson


Making a Veneer Compass Rose

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Mike Henderson



Veneer is a versatile medium that allows the woodworker to create decorative elements that perhaps could not be created in solid wood. 

While the possibilities are limited only by the veneer workerís imagination, Iím going to describe in this article how to make a decorative compass rose, similar to the one shown in the tray below.


In describing this, I have to assume that you, the reader, have some level of expertise in working with veneer Ė it is simply not possible for me to describe all the basics of veneer work here.

There are two rules of veneer work that I want to remind you about:

  1. Always work (cut) from the glue face, and

  2. Veneer tape only goes on the show face.


Let me start by describing some of the tools required for this project Ė please see the picture below.

Starting from the left, we have a sponge sitting in a container of water.  This is used to wet the veneer tape.  Next, is the template for cutting the pieces of veneer for the compass rose.  This template is for 16 pieces to make up a disk.  You can make your own template but describing how to make one, and verify its accuracy, is beyond the scope of this article.  Above the template is a brass brush which is used to brush the veneer tape after itís applied to get it to lay smooth.

To the right of the template is a straightedge used when cutting veneer.  You do not want to use a steel straightedge.  Your straightedge should be of a soft metal, like brass or aluminum, so that you do not ruin the edge on your knives when cutting veneer. 

To the right of the straightedge and at the top of the picture is the veneer tape, and next to that is 3/4 inch blue painterís tape. Weíll use the blue tape a lot.

Below the tape are a veneer saw and two Japanese marking knives.  Two Cherries makes a very good veneer saw, and Woodcraft carries a no-name that is every bit as good as the Two Cherries.  The Woodcraft saw is less than $10. But no matter what saw you buy, itís not ready to use from the store. It requires preparation (sharpening) which is beyond the scope of this article.  Search the web and youíll find descriptions of how to prepare a veneer saw for use.

I use the Japanese marking knives for cutting veneer.  Other people use different things.  Some people use a chisel as a knife, while others use things such as a scalpel. Whatever you use, it should fit your hand well and you should keep it extremely sharp.

Next to the knives is a sanding block.  This cannot be your furniture sanding block Ė it must be very flat.  The one I have here is a piece of MDF with some P150 grit sandpaper glued to it.  Weíll use this a lot.

The other tools are a 6 inch scale and a compass.  Also included are pieces of walnut and maple veneer.

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