Cutting and laying marquetrywork

A full-size drawing of the design is necessary, done with a continuous fine line and coloured to represent the actual veneers used. Working copies of the drawing can be prepared either by tracing through with carbon paper, or more accurately by the traditional method of closely pricking through the lines with a fine needle. Several copies can be pricked at the same time, or the design can be printed through the perforations with a pounce-bag filled with finely powdered asphaltum which must then be heated to fuse the deposited powder, or rubbed through with a pad soaked with heelball and methylated spirit. If the design allows of it, two or more sheets of the materials to be used can be pinned or glued together with a waste sheet of veneer under to take the rag of the saw, and the printed design pasted on the top sheet. The whole of the pattern can then be cut out either on a marquetry-cutter's donkey or with the usual form of fret-saw, working on a V-notched table fixed to the bench. The finest jeweller's piercing saws with from 40 to 80 teeth to the inch (25 mm) according to the grade can be used, and wherever possible the saw cuts are made outside the line of the insets, and on the line of the background; the sheets are then separated and the complete pattern assembled on the master drawing, covered with a surface paper and laid in the usual manner. If, however, the design contains many separate pieces of different woods and differing grain directions, then each piece of veneer must be treated separately, the outline transferred to it, the piece sandwiched between waste veneer if there are delicate fibres to be supported, the piece cut, numbered and either taped to the surrounding pieces, or butt jointed with quick-setting Balsa cement or PVA glue. When the pattern is complete all traces of glue must be removed from the under face before laying, and some professional workers fill up slight gaps with a mixture of glue and veneer-dust. Local shading of the individual pieces to give chiaroscuro is achieved by scorching the wood in heated silver sand before they are assembled,

303 Marquetry panel in entrance hall of Gallaher Ltd, London

but it must be skilfully done to be effective. As the veneers are 1/16 in (1.5 mm) or less in thickness, the completed surface must be carefully scraped and sanded with a circular motion, and delicate insets may have to be protected from the coloured dust of other insets by coating with white french polish before sanding.

A superb example of modern marquetry-work which must surely equal the best examples of any previous age was to be seen in the reception hall and main entrance of Gallaher Ltd's former offices in London. Figure 303, kindly lent by Gallaher Ltd, can give only an approximation of the wonderful richness of this panel which is 16 ft (4.87 m) long and 3 ft (0.91 m) high and composed of 70 native and exotic timber species in 20,000 different pieces. The selection, matching and cutting of the veneers was carried out by Mr A. Dunn to sketch designs prepared by Mr George Ramon and drawn in detail by Mr F. Bellan. No staining of any kind was used, and local shading was done by the traditional hot-sand method.

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