Marquetry 'Donkey' at Patrick Edwards' School

Learning the Boule method of marquetry from a master.

SHOP OWNER: Ron MacKenzie

     I recently completed my first week of marquetry school at Patrick Edwards' school in San Diego. Pat teaches the time-honored techniques of the famous Ecole Boule in Paris. Here's a brief recap of the Boule method along with some photos of my first efforts:
Step 1: High-Contrast Photo

1. For the first etude, a photo is made of the student. It is then copied with high contrast.
Step 2: Tracing from Photograph 2. The student then traces the dark and light areas so there are "islands" or closed loops that make up the picture. This is harder than one might imagine as sometimes you have to visualize some shadows where there are none. This process is done on a light box using tracing paper.
Cut-out Veneer

3. In this class we chose four pieces of veneer. There were two light and two dark pieces. This method uses pieces cut from one veneer and placed in the contrasting veneer.

4. The pieces of veneer are edge glued together using paper tape into a "sandwich". There is a facing sheet of veneer and a backer board. Just in front of the backer board is a piece of "grease paper." This is newspaper brushed with lard and is used to lubricate the blade. The traced outline is then glued with hide glue onto the face of the top piece of veneer. Small holes are drilled at inconspicuous locations of each island and each is numbered. The numbering is to keep track of the islands during the cutting event.

5. Using the Chevaliet, or "donkey," the islands are cut out. This requires that the blade be disconnected and threaded through each hole. This is time consuming and is not very practical in commercial applications. Also, the choice of veneers is limited, as only the ones in the stack are used. In the picture of the chevaliat (top of page), the U-shaped piece holds the blade at the open end. The piece is held in a foot-activated clamp which is underneath the blade.

6. Once all the pieces are cut out, the large pieces--the ones with the holes in them--are glued to a final backing board. Each cut-out piece is then glued into the background of the contrasting color.

This is only a brief thumbnail sketch of the process. Hope it is clear and provides some good information.

. . . Ron MacKenzie



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