Making the first adjuster yesterday seemed to take forever, like four hours forever. Making the vertical adjuster today took half the time. I can’t decide if it’s because I already had my chisels laying on the bench, or I had headphones on listening to Lightnin’ Hopkins. Either way, I should have time after lunch to make a bit more progress.
After noodling over the joinery between the horizontal support arm and the vertical riser yesterday I’d realized I needed to make the supports for the saw first and work backwards to that joint so that I ended up with the saw in the right position.
I printed our my measurements and laid out all of the critical bits on my wood for the horizontal adjuster. And realized I had the orientation inverted. Opps. Erase, repeat. The horizontal adjuster goes at the far end of the saw, the vertical at the near.
I was thinking I would break out the router to make the adjuster slot and recess for the steel plate, but that just seemed like too much trouble. Setting up stops or making a jig. Instead I drilled some ruled to remove the waste for the slip and chiseled it out (only half way through, because the slot for the sliding tenon on the other side will complete it).
Then I knifed in the outline for the steel plate, drilled out most of the waste with a Forstner bit, chopped the outline and finished it with my router plane. This was fun.
The rest was just drilling/tapping the pivot adjuster hole and sawing out the shape. I tuned it up a little with a rasp. It’s not an elegant shape, but it will be functional. I’ll probably round over the edges and smooth it out a bit more, but first I need to make the vertical adjuster.
I’ve been stalled the past couple of days on the Chevalet. The blueprints are missing the level of detail that I tend to put into plans. It’s all stuff you can figure out, but I like to have a specific plan before I start marking out and cutting.
I have all of the “beams” glued up and trued for the saw support arm, and I was going to start with this joint here. In the Chevys at school this was, I believe, a “triple tenon” joint, although that’s not called out in the plans. Since my parts are different sizes as a result of working with the wood I have available, I needed to make some adjustments in the joinery here.
Because my horizontal arm is slightly thinner and wider than the plans, there isn’t enough meat to cut a through mortise and two half mortises on the faces, so I’m going to do a bridal joint. But that got me thinking about the length of this vertical riser…
The horizontal piece I have is a little different in size than the plans too. Crud. Which means that the vertical adjusters on the ends need to be sized differently. In short, I needed to re-design and build from the opposite end of this assembly.
I sat down at the computer yesterday and drew of the horizontal arm that supports the saw adjusters, and then drew those up too. I tried to include the critical dimensions from the plans, I need to have the saw itself end up in the same position relative to the vise jaws when I’m done jiggering around with everything. Once this assembly is done I can make the vertical member to ensure this is at the right height for the upright. I’m going to make one more check of the measurements before I lay out and cut the two vertical adjusters and the horizontal piece.
One afternoon at the Marquetry class in San Diego, Patrick called us over to meet a former student, Aaron Radelow. The story he told was amazing; in short he created a perfect reproduction of this reading/writing table that had been built for Louis IV around 1760. The original is in the Getty museum, and Aaron was able to get access to the original to measure it.
When he was done he had a perfect replica, and a perfect inverse copy as well. Because this was made with the Boulle method to saw the marquetry parts, the packets that were prepared for each panel had layers of both blue horn and ivory. The resulting parts could then be assembled blue-int0-white and white-into0blue.
The link below has more details. Regardless of the style of furniture you like, this is an amazing piece in terms of technical complexity, fine details and masterful execution.
The front upright is mostly done! Huzzah!
Finishing this part meant I I had to jump ahead and start making the cross arm that will support the saw mechanism so I could get the notch in the clamp mechanism the right size (ish). That’s done, and I’m ready to move on to completing the arm mechanism.
With the nuts recessed I was in the mood for a test assembly so I could see some progress. I’m going to attack this with a round over bit later and knock those sharp edges off.
I’ve been grabbing little snatches of time this week, making progress on the Marquetry Chevalet. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to show for it. Lots of dimensioning 8/4 rough sawn stock and laminating it to make thicker beams.
Generally, my parts are thinner than what is shown in the plans. By the time I get the 8/4 stock flat and glued up it’s not thick enough. I don’t think it’s a big deal really, certainly not worth the waste to add another layer of 8/4. I hope. We’ll see…
I have all the parts for the beam to support the saw glued up, and the parts for the saw frame itself rough dimensioned and “acclimating”. I need the horizontal beam for the saw support done to finish the work on the front upright. And I need my 14 year old to get out of bed so he can support the end of the upright while I cut the S-curve on the bandsaw. And to do his homework, wish me luck…
I decided to “finish” the class exercises from the class I took a couple of weeks ago with Patrick and Patrice at ASFM. My view of these is a little more objective now than when I was at the class. Lots of obvious mistakes, but I’m hopeful that once I get my Chevalet built I’ll be able to work through these again and do a better job, moving on to be able to incorporate marquetry into real projects.
The main thing I did here was to re-saw some walnut scraps and laminate my marquetry discs onto it to make coasters. The story behind the design on these is that they are a simplification of a design used on backgammon pieces from an elaborate marquetry game table. That just makes my head hurt to think about…
In class we assembled the projects face-down onto special French ribbed kraft paper (there is a joke somewhere there, but it escapes me), and packed mastic into the saw kerfs. The the brown smeary stuff you see here.
I used Old Brown Glue and clamped the discs to the Walnut bases between waxed paper. Once the glue is dried the process is to wet the paper-covered face and scrape off the kraft paper and excess glue. That always feels a bit dicey, getting enough water soaked in to be able to scrape the paper mache mess off without releasing the veneer from the substrate. But it all worked out OK.
Then I sanded the surface a little and started applying finish. I’m using spar varnish on these because I needed something waterproof and wanted a glossy build up. I sprayed (rattle can) two coats, let it dry, knocked it down with 220 grit and repeated, twice. This is the first coat going on.
While these parts were drying I rube some oil into the self portraits. Two coats of oil, then a top coat of wax. It’s oil-only in this picture.
Here are the final coasters drying in the sun. Unfortunately I can see every inconsistency in the sawing, and places where the veneers are reversed (the two green veneers are different shares, for example). Regardless, with a cup of coffee sitting on one, from across a darkened room these will look great!
I have a secret desire to get this Marquetry Chevalet done quickly. OK, maybe it’s not secret anymore, but still. The reality is I’m going to run out of Chevrolet car model years to joke about long before I sawing marquetry packets. Oh well, I’ll get it done eventually.
I found a build up blog over on Lumberjocks by Mike Lingenfelter he shows in 8 posts the construction and adjustment process of fabricating his Chevalet. I picked up a couple of tips, but it was also instructional to see how long it took him to do. He started on October 6 2013 and by January 4 he was tuning it to cut correctly. Three months, that probably what it will take me too although I’d like to cut that in half.
Fitting the upright to the base took some time, I went slowly so I didn’t make a mess of it. I planed the rough spots off the tenon cheeks, then pared the walls. The finished fit is fairly snug without any gaps along the faces so it should be plenty strong.
Then I did the cut out detail on the base, drilling holes for the rounded end and sawing out the waste in between. A little work with a plane and a task cleaned that up likely. I sawed the outer corners and blended them in. After it’s all assembled I’ll probably run a round over but around everything to get rid of the sharp edges.
The two remaining steps are to saw out the detail for the top of the upright, and add on the side supports for the saw support clamp. I have the stock prep’d for the support clamps, and laid out the cut for the top, but ran out of time. Another hour or two and this part will be done.
Last Sunday I got back from San Diego, and in little bits of spare time I’ve been reviewing what I learned in the Marquetry class. I learned a lot, not the least of which is that getting to the point where I can do marquetry well enough to incorporate in furniture is going to take a bit of practice.
It’s a bit of a detour from the Arts & Crafts furniture that I am caught up in making, but I’ve decided I want to be able to do a credible job at this so I’ve started building a marquetry Chevalet. The “61 Chevy” is a reference to that, a 61 cm working height Chevalet. The one below isn’t mine of course, but it’s essentially what mine should look like. If you’re not familiar with how the tool works, it’s pretty simple. The marquetry packet is held in the vertical jaws with a foot operated clamp, and the saw slides back and forth on a gimbal mechanism that ensures the blade is always square to the face of the packet. The operator is responsible for guiding the saw along the curve, rotating the packet.
The first order of business was lumber – I’m not building a piece of furniture and was trying to find a balance between something stable and something cheap. The cheapest option would be home center construction lumber, but it’s so green that I didn’t dare use it to build something like this. I priced out white oak, at around $6/bf it would have been a little pricer than I wanted. I tried another place, remembering they had a lot of stock in kiln-dried vertical grain Douglass Fir — but I was shocked to find that it was almost $7/bf. But in a nice turn of events they had 8/4 Sapele “narrows” for about $4.50/bf. These are 4″ to 6″ wide, left from one of their big commercial customers picks through each lot of 8/4 lumber and rejects anything narrower than 6″. It’s hard, heavy and quarter sawn. I ended up getting about 35 board feet, hopefully enough…
Back in the shop I taped up the plans I got from Patrick Edwards. Generally I don’t like to build from full scale plans like this because there just isn’t room in my shop. Luckily I haven’t built the cabinets and racks I plan to yet.
I started by milling up stock for the front upright assembly. Generally this breaks down into three or four projects, the upright, the saw frame, the saw support and the seat assembly. I milled the wood for the upright, glued it to get the thickness I needed, squared it up and started on the joinery. I’m in a hurry to get this done, but it’s going to take me several weeks to get the tool built.
Today was a pretty good day in class. I’m still really disappointed in how my pieces came out, and the morning started with assembling the last of my coasters (they may be frisbees, in point of fact). But it was good practice, and Patrick had lots of interesting stories and great advice on how to do marquetry.
The first was around how to organize your work. For this simple set of six coasters, about 4″ in diameter, there were 162 parts total. I had slightly more than that because I broke a few. I lost a few too, so maybe it was a wash. His advice was pragmatic. First, handle each piece as few times as possible. As you take a plug out of the packet, immediately throw away the backer, grease paper and any layers that aren’t part of the actual project. Then arrange the parts in an exploded view in the correct relationship to each other as they will go into the final assembly. In the case of the coasters we positioned the parts face side down, so it’s a mirror image of the goal, and the inverse of how they came out of the packet.
This layout is essential for assembling the project onto the kraft paper. You smear a bit of hide glue onto the area, and you have maybe 4 or 5 minutes max before the glue cools/dries too much for assembly. After that you need to add little bits of glue as you go, and it’s gets progressively more messy. There aren’t many things more fun that trying to handle little delicate bits of veneer with sticky fingers. Root canals, maybe.
Another useful trick is making a pattern to either repair veneer or in this case, to replace a missing part. Remember the missing parts? A couple were little dots about 1/8″ in diameter, those I just cut from a scrap with a tiny gouge. One piece had broken off the background and gone on walkabout. I’ll probably find in glued to the bottom of my sneakers tomorrow.
The repair technique is to use a bit of thermal printer paper, like from an office adding machine. Hold it over the cavity and rub it with a burnisher. It will pick up the outline of the opening. Now trace around the outline on the paper to define the cut line, glue it onto a piece of veneer (in this case I used the outside scrap from my pack) and cut it out.
Once I cut the plug from my pack I picked out the veneer color I needed and glued it into the hole in the coaster. This has a bit of paper on it as all of the colored veneers for this project were first laminated with newsprint to help keep them together. Since this is the back of the project it doesn’t matter, but I probably should have reversed my pattern (or glued it to the other side of the packet) to avoid this.
From three or four feet away (assuming you have bad eyesight) the
frisbees coasters don’t look horrible. It’s like that old saw – looking good from afar, but far from good looking.
Same drill as yesterday, mix and apply the mastic, working it into the saw kerfs, then scrape off any excess. After it cured for an hour we scuff sanded with 80 grit to remove any lumps and cut the discs free.
This afternoon Patrice demonstrated French Polishing, although of course they don’t call it that in France where he’s from. It’s just called “polishing with a pad”. That’s a process for another day.
Patrick also did an excellent lecture on a technique that is a variation of Boulle marquetry called “painting in wood”. The key to painting in wood is that instead of each layer in the packet being a different veneer, a layer may have two or three colors pieced together, with the grain aligned to suit the picture. This makes more efficient use of materials than standard Boulle. The alternative, piece-by-piece, requires hyper-accurate cutting as each piece is cut independently from the others.
So, what’s the final verdict?
First, next time I take a class I’m leaving my sell phone in the trunk so I can’t possibly get calls from work.
The class provided lots of seat time learning how to saw marquetry packets on a Chevalet. I knew that going in. It also provided in-depth instruction in mixing and using hot hide glue, applying french polish and designing marquetry projects, from the drawings through assembling the packet and keeping track of the parts.
I think the self portrait I did actually came out nice, we laminated that onto a piece of plywood yesterday and removed the kraft paper today. I’ll put some finish on them when I get home, I’m happy with that one. The other two projects with the crazy curly-Qs I’m officially calling for a do-over.
I’m going to build a Chevalet when I get home and re-do the coasters. Maybe the square project too, but at least the coasters because everyone needs a nice set of marquetry coasters, right?