MARQUETRY AND THE PEDESTAL TABLE
A one week class takes his work to another dimension.
SHOP OWNER: Brian Gray
LOCATION: Sandusky, OH
About a year ago, my interest in marquetry started to peak when I bought Paul Schurch's decorative veneering book and video. Through these two resources, I learned some skills without which I would have been lost. How to properly sharpen a veneer chisel (not the same as a bench chisel - quite different) is just one example.
Another example is how to properly sharpen a veneer saw. I had previously owned veneer saws, and thought that they were worthless because they would tear the wood apart, especially cross-grain. Once I learned how Paul sharpened his veneer saw, I took my previously worthless saws and made them into precision instruments. Again, sharpening a veneer saw is very different that a back saw, just like the veneer chisel to the bench chisel.
Paul also introduced tools that I had never used before. To name just a few, there’s the V-Edge (a brass straight edge made specifically for cutting veneer with either a saw, scalpel, or veneer chisel), and the V-Tong.
The major focus in Paul’s video is how to make a basic background (bookmatched center, three layer filletti, and a border). He teaches how to make the background from the selection of veneers, to the vacuum press, to the final finish. Along with this, he also gets into how to fix mistakes, flatten veneers, tune tools, and "massaging gum tape" (a step that I never employed in the past, with consequences at times).
Once I figured out how to make a decent background, I put together some pretty neat projects. An example is a chest on a stand I built. Once I got to this point, I wanted to learn how to take these skills in making a background to the next level by adding marquetry to the background.
I hopped on a plane and went to California to take a weeklong workshop with Paul. I met up with a friend in San Diego, and we drove up to Santa Barbara to take the course together.
The result of the course was the marquetry panel shown on the pedestal table, along with two other panels that I have yet to make into furniture. I was amazed that we produced so much in only five days.
Paul's teaching style is top-notch. He never seems to get tired of the repetitive, basic questions that he must get at every course he teaches. Our class consisted of five students and his apprentice. I think the small class size really allowed us to go at our own pace, and Paul was able to follow each of us without a problem.
I've sometimes observed that masters, who are of Paul's level, can be stingy with giving away their advice and secrets (even if you are paying tuition!). Paul is the opposite. I got the definite feeling that a major part of his motivation in teaching is to promote and uphold the craft. One can clearly tell this is of importance to him.
Within the pedestal table, I learned how to do a 12-piece radial match. The most difficult part here is to make sure that all twelve little tips are intact and meet perfectly in the center. After going through the course, I now realize why many marqueters will put a pattern right in the center of his radial match – he screwed up the tips, so he will cover it up. Paul's design wouldn't allow us to do that, so we had to expose whatever mistakes we made on the tips. Mine turned out pretty well, but if you get real close, you can see my imperfections. My friend's tips came out nearly flawless (dang him)!
Doing the actual marquetry was lots of fun. Cutting the pieces on the scroll saw, keeping track of hundreds of little pieces (we stack-cut our marquetry.... meaning that we were cutting three panels at once), sand shading them, and then the best part - assembling the pattern. It's very satisfying to stand back and see your design pop out on the worktable. It's even better when you apply a finish for the first time.
I left the course with the marquetry panel that you see. The top is completely Paul's design. Once I got home, I let the panel sit for a while, but finally got around to building the base. I designed the pedestal base myself. I used a ball mill, rasps, files, and sandpaper to shape the spiral, and dovetail joinery to attach the mahogany legs.
Overall, if you are interested in getting started in marquetry, check out Paul's video and book. If you also take the advanced course from him, you won't regret it, and your work will go from simple backgrounds, to beautiful patterns only limited to whatever designs you draw. Paul's website is http://www.schurchwoodwork.com. While I was at the course, we got to see some of the pieces that are pictured on his website. Be sure to check out his portfolio of amazing work.. . . Brian Gray
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