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Louis Cubes by P. Michael Henderson

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Louis cubes are a striking veneer pattern but one that's somewhat difficult to accomplish. It requires great accuracy in cutting the pieces so jigs and/or spacers are needed to help cut the elements to the right size.

Louis cubes are named for Louis XIV of France because the cubes were popular on furniture during his reign. But the cubes go back much further in antiquity.

 

Louis cubes are constructed by cutting three pieces of veneer, and laying them such that the grain orientation is different on each piece. This means that Louis cubes can be constructed from a single species of veneer, but a more dramatic design results from using three colors of veneer, a light color, a medium color and a darker color. Quarter cut veneer is a better choice than flat cut veneer.

To construct the Louis cubes in this tutorial, I used walnut, wenge, and a processed light wood that I purchased one time as a possible replacement for holly.
Here's a close up of single Louis cube:

In this cube, I put the light wood at the top, the walnut on the left, and the wenge on the right. You can see that the grain direction is different for each piece.

I think that making the left hand piece vertical sometimes makes a better cube than the right hand piece but I that's the way I did these.

There are many ways to cut the pieces for Louis cubes and I'm describing only one technique. You may find other techniques on the web and those will certainly work well.

To do my technique, the following is needed:

  1. Three colors of veneer. Here I'm using walnut, wenge, and a light colored processed veneer. Wenge is a "difficult" veneer - there are others which could be used that would cut cleaner than wenge.

  2. A spacer, which is nothing more than a length of 1/4" MDF cut to width, in this case 5/8". When making Louis cubes, you should make the cubes appropriate to the furniture that you're going to put the Louis cubes on. It's tempting to make the cubes large so there's not so many pieces, but smaller cubes (appropriate to the furniture) look better.

  3. A cutting board with a lip on the front.

  4. A 30/60/90 triangle.

  5. Another piece of MDF set at a 60 degree angle.

  6. A sharp 1" chisel and mallet. It must be really sharp.

  7. Miscellaneous veneer tools, such as a veneer saw, straight edge, sanding blocks, etc.

Here's the veneer and the spacer:

And here's a view of the cutting board with the lip on the front.

A view of the spacer, showing the size.

To begin, cut strips of each veneer using the spacer to set the width.


 
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