When Dave set out to write this piece I had only scheduled one post, but he got unusually verbose! I decided we’d try for two posts, one today and one Friday — be sure to stop back then for a continuation of his discusson of piece by piece. — Jenn
The first week of the ASFM class teaches the students how to cut marquetry using a chevalet, and gives 15 – 20 hours of practice. By the end of the week you can cut along the line and manage the very small pieces that are one of the benefits of using this approach. As mentioned in the prior review of the school, the chevalet automatically cuts identical pieces by insuring the saw is perpendicular to the veneer packet. If the cut line is very precisely available in identical multiples and the lines are followed precisely, piece by piece marquetry is possible. By the end of the first week, it is pretty clear how accurately each student can cut. In week two, the more precise students do piece by piece marquetry, and the others learn “Painting in Wood”, a more sophisticated version of packet cutting. We had both in the class I attended, so I can comment on both.
Piece by piece marquetry is an early mass production technique. If marquetry pieces could be cut very precisely, it would be possible to orient bundles of veneer, each of one type, so that a dozen or more of each piece could be cut at once with ideal grain orientation. All of the pieces would be cut this way. These pieces could then be sand shaded to add depth to the design. The background pieces would be cut last, then those shaded perfectly cut foreground pieces could be inserted into the background. The fit could in concept be much tighter than in packet cutting, since there is no need to leave a saw kerf gap. The result is a dozen or more of identical pictures with ideal grain orientation, no gaps, and no limit on the use of material type- there is no reason that small amounts of many woods could not be used. The key constraint to doing this is that the pieces need to be cut very precisely.
“Painting in Wood” involves inserting optimally oriented pieces of veneer into filler layers. Each layer could have 5 – 10 veneer inserts located only where they are required, and separated by filler pieces of veneer. Two layers are shown in Picture 1. When the pattern is cut, each picture element is in the correct color but very little valuable wood is discarded. A typical packet could have 6 – 8 layers but only produces one finished picture. In the day, incorrectly colored pictures were not acceptable, so this technique minimizes the use of valuable materials but takes more time per useful picture than piece by piece, which was developed later.
The key advantage of painting in wood is that your eyesight doesn’t need to be as good, and the picture always fits together, since the foreground and the background are cut together. The second picture shows the completed Painting in Wood piece from my class. Also, if you only want one final picture, this uses expensive material efficiently.
Dave will be back on Friday with more on his experience with the piece by piece marquetry technique!