Design Principles Applied to Wood Products: Marquetry with Veneers

The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts China Centre
2019.12.23 - 2020.1.3
Joachim Tantau

This course introduces students to the craft of marquetry – wood veneer decoration. Marquetry techniques have been used extensively in Europe, India and the Middle East to decorate wooden items of different scales, from tables to musical instruments to small boxes. This technique achieves intricate designs ranging from geometric patterns to floral motifs. It is sometimes further embellished with inlay of bone, mother of pearl or silver. Today, veneer is still used to add rich and precious elements to beautifully designed contemporary objects.

Students on this short course will learn all the design and craft techniques necessary to translate a pattern - a geometry or a floral motif - into a marquetry panel. Guided by our expert tutor and carpenter Joachim Tantau, students can further continue their work by integrating this decorative panel into a small object such as a coaster or a small tray and on the surface of a box.  All students will learn and work according to proportional systems to achieve coherent and harmonious final pieces. They will explore various woods and veneers and learn how to select and discern between them. Students will learn how to complete their own marquetry piece from concept design to polishing and finishing.

On this course students will:

  • Get an overview and basic understanding of different kinds of marquetry and their various applications throughout history.
  • Learn to appreciate and discern the key differences of different types of wood: grains, quality, and colour. 
  • Learn about specific hand tools, their functions and utilization. 
  • Learn how to translate a design into marquetry by choosing appropriate scale, colour scheme, grain direction and veneers. 
  • Produce a decorative marquetry pattern from veneers, cutting veneer pieces using chisel and scalpel. 
  • Acquire basic knowledge of the several finishes used for wood such as waxes and shellacs. 

Outcomes of the Course

  • Create sketches and drawings of the design process for the pattern and the final piece.
  • Produce coloured drawing of the marquetry pattern showing colour scheme and grain direction.
  • Design and make a panel and a small box with a decorative marquetry pattern.
  • Finish the marquetry piece through sanding and application of shellac with a final wax polishing.

Tutor biography

Joachim Tantau

Joachim Tantau was born in 1988 in Hanover, Germany. In 2011 he received his undergraduate degree in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning from the Leibniz University of Hanover, where he also attended lectures on architecture history and the art of the Renaissance. In his studies he focussed on garden history and the conservation of monastery gardens.
From 2011 to 2013 Joachim studied his Master’s degree at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts in London where he focussed on the history and design of fountain houses in different cultures.
Joachim has been a passionate woodworker since very young age. His has designed and executed various furniture projects as well as a number of ambitious architectural projects, such as half-timbered houses and decorative garden pavilions.
Since 2013 Joachim is running a studio in Hamburg, Germany where he designs and produces high-end bespoke furniture and architectural features like garden pavilions and interiors as well as fine jewellery boxes. He works for private and corporate clients from all over the world. Recent commissions include an altar and a plinth for a rare 15thcentury sculpture for  St.Mary’s in Abergavenny, a commission carried out under the direct patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales, and a Tabernacle for a convent in Riga, Latvia.
Joachim also works internationally as a tutor and regularly gives workshops in Geometry, Marquetry, and various subjects related to woodwork. Recent classes have taken place in Aserbaidschan, Egypt, the UK, Spain and Brazil.