Poor man's marquetry: or: cheap and easy wood stain

Picture of poor man's marquetry: or: cheap and easy wood stain
This is a pretty simple idea really. But I think the results are sort of nice.

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Step 1: Supplies

Picture of supplies
a design of some kind

some wood

something to cut wood with, how about a 10" miniature table saw from MicroMark! Yay! I love this thing. My new favorite tool.

watercolor paints (or prismacolor pens)
two cups of water

can of shellac or other finish

soldering iron or wood burning tool.

safety goggles (to keep the smoke out of your eyes)

Step 2: Draw on wood

Picture of draw on wood
transfer the drawing to the wood. There are several techniques on instructables for doing this. I used the following method:

Print your design out in mirrored form. Trace over the lines heavily with pencil.

Turn the drawing over and tape it into place on the wood surface.

On the back of your drawing, scribble heavily with pencil or burnishing tool. This will transfer the pencil lines of the drawing to the wood surface.

Remove the paper and trace over your drawing using pencil in any spots that did not transfer well.

Some other instructables that discuss different ways of transferring images to other surfaces:

Step 3: Etch the design into the wood

Picture of etch the design into the wood
I used a soldering iron to etch the design into the wood.

Trace over all the lines of your design slowly with the soldering iron to create a bold deep line.

At first I tried an actual wood burning tool but I found that it took way too long to heat up and got way too hot to handle after a short while.

The soldering iron heats up quickly and you can work with it for longer periods.

You'll want some goggles to keep the smoke out of your eyes. It smells nice, but it will dry your eyes out if too much smoke gets in them.

Some other instructables that discuss wood burning:

Step 4: Erase all the pencil lines

Picture of erase all the pencil lines
After your design is completely burned into the wood. Erase all the pencil lines carefully. I used a rotary eraser for this, it worked well to remove the pencil all over.

SparkySolar9 months ago

Thank you so much for this neat Instructable.


brianfss2 years ago
Nice idea. Let's take it to the next level. Design using Corel or illustrator or whatever. Using a laser cutter, set the power high enough to cut a deep enough line and then proceed with your staining process.
Another suggestion--I've started using fiber reactive dyes (tie-dye dye) in place of wood stain or aniline dyes. After all, what is wood? Cellulose. What are cotton t-shirts made of? Cellulose. Fiber dyes are Way Way cheaper than aniline dye designed for wood, and are available is almost unlimited colors.

lets leave it as it is, not subject a person to buying huge expensive toys to make simple things. If you were mass producing then this is an excellent idea, but for a person doing art or a one time thing and this is perfect.

While it is very cool to do projects using laser cutters and 3 d printers, they are not cheap, and there is a learning curve.

This instructable is great, as is.

foobear (author)  brianfss2 years ago
Sounds interesting and high tech. Probably out of reach of most people including me. Thanks for the tip on the fiber dyes!
chaitanyak1 year ago
wow! i have to do this!
i havnt used my old soldering iron in months!!
never occurred to me to use it for wood etching
moonchylde2 years ago
absolutely amazing. I've been painting for years, but never thought of this. Time to start digging through the scrap wood pile again!
foobear (author)  moonchylde2 years ago
Harvard822 years ago
I like it. Looks good.
foobear (author)  Harvard822 years ago
thank you Harvard82!
squeezed2 years ago
Also helps if you're a really good artist. Great project.
I wish it that it could be for sale (and that the price was one i can afford) it's fun and whimsical to look at
That is VERY kind of you, and thank you, but please don't even think of it. I will enjoy looking at it right here on Instructables. It is so very cool. You are indeed a genious. (Besides, the only money you would get from me these days is monopoley money) :0(
foobear (author)  porcupinemamma2 years ago
I just now noticed this comment, sorry. I'm not exactly up for selling it, but I could mail you a color reproduction that you could frame if you wanted. Or if you have a color inkjet printer, you could print it out and frame it (or just tape it to the wall, if you're like me)
spyder20212 years ago
That is cool, yet very easy to learn process. Great job !
foobear (author)  spyder20212 years ago
Thank you very much!
punkhead585 years ago
Your craftsmanship is incredible considering the sheer amount of improvisation you utilized. 
foobear (author)  punkhead585 years ago
thank you!  garsh!
That is really really cool ! Nice job!
foobear (author)  domestic_engineer6 years ago
thank you!
ChrysN6 years ago
Wow that looks great! It's so bright and colourful. Nicely done!
foobear (author)  ChrysN6 years ago
hee hee thank you!