My Marquetry Journey

Plywood, the mere thought of using it struck at the very heart of my soul. It was good for making jigs, construction and cheap fast projects. I considered myself a serious woodworker and plywood was not something I considered in my projects. My exception to this thought was a bedroom set my parents had purchased for me during my late childhood. It was a Scandinavian modern design, but the set was made from teak. The “wood” was gorgeous and was a particleboard covered with a very thin slice of teak.   I still have this bedroom set today and am still inspired by the veneer that was used in its making.

Marquetry was not woodworking that I had even considered. I reasoned that if I wanted to make great pieces, the wood should be great as well. I was missing the point entirely of marquetry. I visited Don Russell’s home on numerous occasions and found beautiful pieces of furniture in progress of being built and completed. I only use the term furniture for the sake of implying useful pieces, but I really would like to convey masterpieces of woodworking. He had created pieces that were worthy of any magazine or museum. I was extremely interested in the effects that were used to create such stunning pieces.

Marquetry was the answer. I was hooked on the idea of using this on my own pieces. I started researching marquetry and soon learned that the Federal style was a beacon to my woodworking soul. I was connected to this style of furniture and design like no other. Two things happened during my research. The first was that I was becoming more aware of classifications for style and what they meant and conveyed to the viewer. The second was I was becoming captivated by the intricate and “engineering” like precision of the style of the Federal period.

I signed up for a marquetry class. I figured I had no experience and I had very limited knowledge of the tools and techniques, so the class would at least get me pointed in the right direction.   This next statement is going to be very dramatic, but it is true. The week marquetry class with Paul Schürch changed everything I knew and understood about woodworking. It is the single class that I have ever taken to date that quantumly changed my woodworking journey. Paul was the instructor I modeled my own class teaching style after in many ways. The class was informative, fun, stressful/not stressful, challenging and very fulfilling. When the week was over, I had a complete understanding of why marquetry was used to create wonderful pieces of woodworking art. I was empowered to go forth and marquetize the planet!

I bought my beginning tools, some veneer and I was ready to start. The scroll saw was a prominent tool in creating patterns for the marquetry pieces, so I was well prepared for this step. I needed a project to focus on and get more experience. One of the projects in the class with Paul was a table top skin that was very intricate. I had the skin from that class for 5 years before I was able to incorporate it into a tilt top table project with Don Russell. I was able to use the table skin to create a walnut and ash tilt top table. During the table project I had created a cherry version for my mother, so in 5 years I had created 2 tables using my marquetry skills. One of my favorite projects that I have completed to date is a chess board.

Marquetry is a way to use fantastically figure wood over a sub base wood to “paint” pictures or provide patterns to enhance wood. Being able to see the various burls, swirls, bees wing, birds eyes and other chatoyance that nature provides in wood is the reason marquetry can allow a woodworker to add these stunning effects to a piece of work. The veneer that is used is sliced thin, and allows the rare and beautiful wood to be used more efficiently.


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