Putting Marqueterie Together

Fig. 354. SAND-BURNING OR SHADING.

and dipped into a bowl or pan containing very hot silver sand. The usual plan is to have a flat iron tray filled with the sand and placed over a small gas-ring. The corners only of the pieces are dipped, as where the wood touches the sand it burns to a deep brown, and from this point shades away, gradually, into the colour of the wood itself. It is obvious that only light-coloured woods can be shaded in this manner.

The laying of the marqueterie veneer is the work of the cabinet-maker, not of the marqueterie cutter. The surface to be veneered is planed, scraped and finished perfectly smooth and level, and is then roughened with the "toothing plane" to afford a key. The underside of the veneer is toothed in like manner. The edge of the iron of a toothing plane is slightly serrated, and it is pitched nearly upright instead of at the usual angle. Its action, therefore, is rather that of a scraper than of a plane. .

Having prepared the wood, the panel or flat surface is brushed over with hot glue of proper consistency, the glue being allowed to become quite cold. The marqueterie veneer is then placed on its surface, paper side uppermost, and secured, to prevent slipping, by headless " veneer " pins, which are allowed to project above the surface about two-thirds of their length. A flat piece of wood, slightly larger than the panel, technically known as a " caul," and made from soft wood such as pine, is then made very hot and placed on the veneer, handscrews being quickly applied to squeeze the whole together with great force. It is obvious that the contact surface of the caul must be level or the pressure on the veneer will not be exerted equally, and subsequent blistering will result.1 The pressure of the handscrews should be applied to the centre first, to drive the glue outwards. The heat from the caul penetrates through the veneer

1 To make sure that the pressure shall be from the centre to the edges, and thus to drive out the superfluous glue, a caul is usually made slightly convex on its under surface. A good plan is to place a piece of felt between the caul and the work, as this ensures perfect contact everywhere, by taking up any surface irregularities. To prevent this felt from sticking to the work, should any glue exude through the cutting of the ornament itself, it is usual to rub it with soap.

Fig. 355. LABURNUM " OYSTER-PIECE."

(Cut transversely from sapling.)

Fig. 355. LABURNUM " OYSTER-PIECE."

(Cut transversely from sapling.)

and liquefies the cold glue underneath. The headless pins, used to keep the veneer in position, are forced into the soft wood instead of being driven home into the panel (seeking the line of least resistance), and when the caul is removed can be extracted with pliers or pincers.

In the process outlined above a trap exists for the inexperienced. If the veneer be laid with hot glue, the heat will cause the veneer to expand before the handscrews can be applied, and it will be put down in a state of strain, and will remain so after the glue has hardened. In the course of time this strain results either in pulling the veneered surface hollow, or if too well secured, the veneer will crack until the tension be relieved. All wood veneered on the one side only will always warp somewhat in the

Fig. 356. CHEST OF DRAWERS.

Veneered with oyster-pieces of walnut and banded with sycamore.

Date about 1700-5. Messrs. Gill and Reigate.

Fig. 356. CHEST OF DRAWERS.

Veneered with oyster-pieces of walnut and banded with sycamore.

Date about 1700-5. Messrs. Gill and Reigate.

direction of the veneered side, but when hot glue is used, and the veneer applied immediately, this pull will be excessive.

This casting or cracking of surfaces which have been veneered in the wrong way is a more important point than would appear, at first glance. Where original marqueterie is found with the veneer split in this way, it is strong presumptive evidence that it must have been laid by a workman unacquainted with the technicalities of his craft. When the heat is applied by the agency of the caul only, the veneer is secured by the handscrews before it can penetrate through to the glue beneath, and there is no expansion, with subsequent contraction, and the work should stand. A modem innovation is the

Olivewood Bookcase

Fig. 357. CHEST OF DRAWERS.

Veneered with oyster pieces of olive wood and lignum vit® and inlaid with boxwood lines. 3 ft. 3I ins. high by 3 ft. 2 ins. wide by 1 ft. n ins. deep.

Date about 1695. J. Dnpnis Cobbold, Esq.

Fig. 357. CHEST OF DRAWERS.

Veneered with oyster pieces of olive wood and lignum vit® and inlaid with boxwood lines. 3 ft. 3I ins. high by 3 ft. 2 ins. wide by 1 ft. n ins. deep.

Date about 1695. J. Dnpnis Cobbold, Esq.

veneering press, where panels are placed between two large metal plates and squeezed together byr powerful screws. A number of gas-jets placed underneath keeps the plates and the work hot until the pressure has been applied, after which the gas is turned off and the work allowed to cool. V\ ith large panels, it is important that the pressure should be applied to the centres first and to the edges afterwards, otherwise the liquefied glue will be imprisoned in the centre and will be unable to escape from the edges. It must be remembered that glue, even u hen quite cold, is still soft for a very long time after the panel has been veneered, and as the air is more or less kept from it by the panel on the one side and the veneer on the other, the process of hardening is a very gradual

Fig. 358. CHEST OF DRAWERS.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie of holly and sycamore. 2 ft. ioi ins. high by 3 ft. ii ins wide.

Date about 1695-1700. J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.

Fig. 358. CHEST OF DRAWERS.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie of holly and sycamore. 2 ft. ioi ins. high by 3 ft. ii ins wide.

Date about 1695-1700. J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.

Fig. 359. CABINET ON STAND.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. Height, 5 ft. jl ins. ; width, 3 ft. 7J ins. ; depth, 1 ft. Si ins.

Date about 1675-S0. R. Eden Dickson, Esq.

one. In this action of " setting," glue contracts very much, and it is necessary, therefore, that the layer of glue between the panel and the veneer should be squeezed out as thinly as possible. The excess, if allowed to remain, will make an imperfect joint, and cause blisters and bubbles. These blisters are very troublesome to rectify. The}' cannot be reduced b\ another application of the hot caul, as a certain amount of air takes the place of the contracted glue, which cannot be squeezed out, as it has no escaping vent. It is necessary to prick the surface, so as to allow the imprisoned air to escape before attempting to reduce blisters by the caul or the hammer. A veneering hammer is in form like a blunted axe, with the head fixed at right angles to the handle instead of in a line with it. The hammer is rarely used for large flat surfaces, as the caul is much more convenient and certain, but for shaped surfaces, especially where there is curvature both ways, as in a "bombé" front, it is indispensable. The veneer to be applied is soaked with hot size, or glue, on each side, both to render it pliable and to facilitate the action of the hammer. The glue must be thin and very7 hot. The veneer being laid, the hammer is used, from the centre outwards, with a pressure applied with a circular action, the aim being to work the excess glue from the centre to the outside edges. An accurate knowledge of the correct consistencies of the glue, for both the hammer and the caul methods, is indispensable.

After the panel has been allowed to stand for about thirty hours, the handscrews and the caul can be removed, but the process of " cleaning up " should be deferred for

Fig. 360. MIRROR FRAME.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie.

3 ft. i in. high by 2 ft. ins. wide. Frame 5! ins. wide. Cushion-mould 3J ins.

Date about 16S0-5.

Fig. 360. MIRROR FRAME.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie.

3 ft. i in. high by 2 ft. ins. wide. Frame 5! ins. wide. Cushion-mould 3J ins.

Date about 16S0-5.

J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.

CABINET.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie.

(Upper part only.)

The coarse style of inlay of c. 1690.

Height, 2 ft. 6 ins. ; width, 3 ft. ; depth, 1 ft. 6 ins. Victoria and Albert Jluseum.

CABINET.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie.

(Upper part only.)

The coarse style of inlay of c. 1690.

Height, 2 ft. 6 ins. ; width, 3 ft. ; depth, 1 ft. 6 ins. Victoria and Albert Jluseum.

a week, if possible, as the glue is still soft underneath. With marqueterie-work the inlay and veneer of the ground are rarely of exactly the same thickness, and the thinner of the two will gradually sink as the glue contracts. It is better that this sinking should take place before the panel be cleaned up rather than after, if perfect finish be desired. The " faker " wilfully adopts the bad method of smoothing his work quickly, to obtain the uneven surfaces, and even the blisters so frequently found in genuine old work. To clean up, the protecting paper is first washed, or better still scraped off, irregularities of surface are rcduced with a fine toothing plane, and the work is finished with a steel scraper and fine glass-paper. The final process of polishing does not concern us here. In this cleaning up it must be remembered that excessive friction, in producing heat, may soften the underlying glue and thus cause blisters. The work, therefore, must be kept as cool as possible. Especially is this the case with the inlay of brass and tortoise-shell, known as " buhl " or " Boulle."1 In this work the process of smoothing is generally done with pumice-stone and water to prevent the work from becoming heated.

1 The name is, of course, derived from Andre Charles Boulle, the famous French ebeniste.

Fig. 362. CABINET ON STAND.

Veneered with patterns of oyster-pieces of laburnum and other woods. Height, 5 ft. 3I ins. ; width, 3 ft. 4J ins. ; depth, 1 ft. 81 ins.

Date about 1690. Victoria and Albert Museum.

2 59

Fig. 363. CABINET ON STAND.

VenWred with walnut oyster-pieces and inlaid with marqueterie, 6 ft. 3J ins. high by 4 ft. Si ins. wide by 1 ft. n ins. deep. Date about 1685-90.

Fig. 364. CABINET ON STAND.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. (The original stretcher and feet are missing.) Height, 5 ft. .jl ins. ; width, 3 ft. S ins. ; depth, 1 it. S ins.

Date about 16S5-90. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fig. 364. CABINET ON STAND.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. (The original stretcher and feet are missing.) Height, 5 ft. .jl ins. ; width, 3 ft. S ins. ; depth, 1 it. S ins.

Date about 16S5-90. Victoria and Albert Museum.

Fig. 365. CABINET ON STAND.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. Height, 4 ft. ioJ ins. ; width, 3 ft. 4 ins. ; depth, 1 ft. 0 ins.

Date about 1690. J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.

The art of inlaying woods, the one into another, being mastered by the English craftsman, and the concomitant problems of veneering on straight or shaped surfaces being solved at the same time, materials such as ivory or bone, and even metals such as silver or pewter, were used. Coloured effects were obtained by the staining of wood or ivory, as it was found that the colour-range of the woods available was extremely limited. One of the most decorative devices adopted, which became very general among English cabinet-makers, was to cut saplings transversely, that is, in thin slices across the trunk, and to veneer with these " oyster-pieces." As an ornamental method there was a good deal to be said in its favour, but even if constructional principles be strained to include veneering at all, there is no doubt that end-grain wood, such as these transversely cut saplings must be, does not adhere to its bed as efficiently as veneer cut with the grain. In addition to this, these oyster-pieces are, necessarily, exceedingly brittle, and although this tendency to break under the slightest strain is partly obviated when they are glued down, any warping of the bed or inefficient adhering will cause them to fall off in small broken pieces. If these fragments are not preserved and replaced, it is almost impossible to match them, as no two of these sapling-pieces are ever exactly alikein texture-pattern, and any subsequent

Fig. 365. CABINET ON STAND.

Veneered with walnut and inlaid with marqueterie. Height, 4 ft. ioJ ins. ; width, 3 ft. 4 ins. ; depth, 1 ft. 0 ins.

Date about 1690. J. Dupuis Cobbold, Esq.

restoration becomes an unsightly patchwork. Of these oyster-pieces, the sections of walnut, laburnum or lignum-vitae were the most frequently used, although king-wood and fruit-woods such as apple, plum or cherry are not exceptional. Fig. 355 shows, on a reduced scale, a laburnum oyster-piece with its sap-ring, before being jointed up for veneering. In Figs. 359 and 361, both the inside and outside of the upper and lower doors are entirely veneered with sections of walnut and laburnum, furtber enriched by an inlay of walnut marqueterie in panels of holly. In Fig. 356 the fronts of the drawers are veneered in the same manner, portions of the outer ring of light-coloured sap-wood being left to enhance the appearance of the oyster rings. The drawers here are edged with a banding of sycamore, but a more usual device was to border panels and drawer fronts with two strips of walnut placed together, with the grain running diagonally, and placed in opposition to produce a " herring-bone "

THE CABINET, FIG. 365, SHOWN OPEN.

THE CABINET, FIG. 365, SHOWN OPEN.

Fig. 367.
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