A company in Connecticut is now selling marquetry that is directly printed onto sheets of veneer. Instead of slicing, dicing and shading various wood species into a multitude of parts, you just order a single sheet of veneer and use it on anything from a small panel for a box to a complete tabletop. Intrigued I asked the company, Decorative Imaging of Norwalk, CT to send me a sample. A received a variety of patterns, geometric and floral, both rectangular and in long strips, rather like large versions of banding. The images are printed onto 20mil thick, paper-backed maple veneer that has a layer of phenolic resin to prevent any glue bleed through. A used pva veneer glue to attach a small sample onto a piece of 1/2-in. thick plywood, at the same time gluing a piece of regular veneer on the underside to avoid the risk of warping. The first thing to remember is that you can’t sand this veneer in ANY way. After taking the sample out of the bag I ran my hand across the surface and felt a slight dust nib and automatically picked at it. Off came a bit of the pattern, but luckily too small an area to notice. In the same vein, you need to apply at least two coats of finish before sanding the surface to avoid the risk of sanding away the pattern.
You can learn more about this product at www.decorativeimaging.net. Existing designs sell for around $15 a square foot, but you can have the company custom design and size the panels to your own requirements for an extra creative charge. They also sell the designs on peel-and-stick veneer.