Introduction: Lasercut DeepDream Marquetry

Psychedelic marquetry dreamed up by Google's AI brain..

I used Google DeepDream to manipulate a photo of a rose until strange creatures emerged from the petals. Then I used GIMP (open source image software) and Easel to generate g-code from the image. I cut those patterns out of veneer with my modified K40 Chinese laser cutter, and glued them to a box. Boom, marquetry!

Actually, after experimenting with making marquetry from several different sorts of images, I decided that clear simple images of easily recognised objects turned out better than weird psychedelic ones - in my opinion!

I want to share my general process for turning photos into marquetry:

You will need:

  • A photo, preferably of one object against a plain background - or maybe a landscape photo.
  • GIMP (or Photoshop... but use open sourced software, it's cooler..)
  • Easel (you just need internet access to be able to use this)
  • A lasercutter
  • Veneer of several tones / colours
  • A flat wooden surface / box, that you want to decorate with marquetry
  • PVA glue
  • Sandpaper of various grits - eg 40, 120, 320, 1200
  • Lacquer (I used car body lacquer)

Go to the time codes next to the steps in the video - it'll help explain what I mean!

1:10 Open up your photo in GIMP / Photoshop and use the magic wand tool to select areas of different colours and fill them black a white. Each black / white zone will be one piece of veneer in the marquetry. Watch the video to get a sense of the process. You're aiming to simplify the colours in the image - you'll need to play with the magic wand threshold to select various areas of the image. Export the image as PNG or JPG.

1:54 Go to easel.inventables.com - if you've never used it before, you'll need to create an account. Upload the black and white image you made, play with the threshold and smoothing in the image tracer to remove complex / potentially fragile areas, click 'Trace Outlines', and hit 'Import'. Easel can import any kind of image, but creating your own black and white areas within the image gives you far more control over the shape of the veneer pieces, and lets you choose exactly which details get traced by Easel.

3:24 Export the G-code from Easel. Open it up in a text editor and remove all the F commands, Z movement commands, and paste in a 'header' and 'footer' from a g-code file that you know will run on your laser cutter. I made an Instructable about running Easel g-code on a laser cutter: https://www.instructables.com/id/Run-Easel-Gcode-on...

4:26 Cut the g-code several times, in various different types of veneer.

5:05 Glue the veneer to your chosen flat surface using PVA glue. Build up a design by fitting together pieces from different types of veneer.

5:39 Make some wood filler: sand down veneer scraps, ideally scraps of the veneer you used for the background colour. Collect the dust as you sand. Mix the veneer dust with PVA glue, to make a thick paste, with as much wood in it as possible, whilst still being workable.

5:59 Smear the 'filler' into the gaps between the veneer pieces. This is also useful to fill tiny details in the marquetry, that are too small for you to fill with pieces of veneer (the tiny pieces get lost or burnt by the laser).

7:18 Sand, sand, sand. I started with 40 grit sandpaper, then 120, 320, and 1200. I sanded the surface until all the types of veneer and the filler formed a smooth, flush surface.

7:50 Wipe the marquetry with a cloth to remove all loose dust.

8:09 If the object you're decorating has any areas that shouldn't get lacquer on them, mask those areas off.

8:15 Apply lacquer, following the recommendations on the lacquer can. I usually do 2 coats 15 mins apart, based on the instructions on the can, but sometimes 3 coats can look better.

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