Choosing contrasting lumber

I'm kind of curious of the process others go through. I have made maybe 7 projects with inlays / contrasts over the years that turned out just fine but not that head turning wow that I'd like to hear. I see photos of some of the projects on various websites or watch a 1/2 hour show on the TV and wonder if it's the photography or if it's in the finishing heck I don't know. My preference for finish is generally natural Watco and beeswax for most anything I do that's not near a kitchen. I prefer to stay away from exotics and work in the usual Oak, Cherry, Maple Walnut available to me from local timber. I store and purchase lumber in rough stock so it is something of a mystery until it comes out of the planer which brings me to the question. Do you wait to see the wood and let it's looks/grain/figuring tell you what it wants to be? Is there some "golden rule" about how some woods compliment others? I personally think it's a right brain left brain thing and I'm just missing it.
EJ
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wrote:

18th and early 19th century veneerwork you may get a better idea of how woods pair traditionally. Those pieces are usually finished by french-polishing (padding with shellac) which makes the grain show very clearly.
In the eastern US, the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, the Winterthur Museum outside Wilmington, DE, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston all have fine examples. I think the Smithsonian has, as well.
Watco and beeswax can make a very attractive finish, but it is quite different from french polish. You might want to try them side by side on a couple of samples of walnut-veneered plywood, and see which you prefer.
If you haven't done french polish, you will need to practice, but it can't hurt anything even if (when) you mess it up the first time.
Rodney Myrvaagnes J36 Gjo/a
"That idiot Leibniz, who wants to teach me about the infinitesimally small! Has he therefore forgotten that I am the wife of Frederick I? How can he imagine that I am unacquainted with my own husband?"
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