Grand Illusion on a Small Scale
Learn Joel Shepard's techniques for veneering and crafting wood in miniature
When Joel Shepard began making his Biedermeier-style cabinet, he wasn’t expecting to use wood to construct the illusion of full-scale rooms in the cabinet’s 22-in. by 24-in. interior. But more than 5,000 pieces of veneer later, that’s exactly what happened. After his client decided against a painted interior, Shepard used commercial and handsawn veneers in innovative ways to get the desired effect. As well as employing a woodworker’s eye for interesting and contrasting woods, he used lighting and perspective to trick the viewer. The longer one peers into the rooms, the more the details are revealed in the floor, ceiling, wallpaper, wainscoting, frame-and-panel door, and molding.
To create the baseboard and door-trim molding, Shepard stacked sheets of veneer about 20 deep, gluing and clamping them into “lumber,” which he then carefully profiled with small router bits and carving chisels.
For the wainscoting and door, he applied West African etimoe veneer to a thin core of mahogany before routing the beading on the wainscoting and cutting the tongue-and-groove joinery and raised panels for the door.
Shepard combined three woods—mahogany, imbuia, and walnut—to create the pattern on the floor. First, he milled 1/4-in. cross-grain parallelograms, and then glued three of them (one of each species) into a hexagonal stick.
The sticks were glued into bundles of 30 to 50 and resawn into 1/16-in.-thick veneers, which form the floor.
Ornate ceiling and walls
Because he was working with a limited amount of madrone burl veneer, Shepard had to be creative about cutting and orienting it. He arranged the ceiling pattern (left) by book-matching, rotating, and piecing the pattern together.
Click on images to enlarge.
From Fine Woodworking #199
Photos: Joel Shepard and Rebecca Nelson