I left about 9am Sunday from Santa Cruz to drive to San Diego. I plugged my first planned stop into the GPS, put on an audio book and put the pedal down. I’m listening to “The Alloy of Law” buy Brandon Sanderson — the “Mistborn” trilogy that this is and follow-on to is one of my favorite fantasy stories, up there with the Sword of Truth and the Wheel of Time series. More action and better magic. Anyway, it was easy to get caught up in the story, which made the long drive pass enjoyably.
I just made it to Pasadena just in time to visit the Crow house, built in 1909 by the Greene and Hall brothers. It’s on the market for $2.7M, and while it’s not as elaborate as the better known Gamble house it’s still very nice. I especially liked the layout of the house, and the large garage in the back.
After visiting the Crow house I was just in time to sit in traffic to San Diego, making the hotel by about 7pm. This morning I got up and after liberal quantities of coffee I found Patrick Edwards’ shop where the class is held.
We spent the morning talking about some history related to Marquetry, and Patrick gave everyone a lot of information about using hide glue, which is essential to assembling marquetry as he teaches it. The five main types of marquetry he described are:
- Tarsia Certosina, apparently the earliest method which involved excavating an area using a knife and chisels, inlaying a piece into the solid wood background, leveling it and then repeating. This would probably the the ancient equivalent of modern-day inlay as seen on guitars and other instrument work.
- Tarsia Geometrica, this covers both complex geometric designs, like a field of 3D cubes, and elaborate patterns of veneer where the slices are arranged in patterns to produce different designs.
- Tarsia a Toppo, this is generally “banding”, where veneers are arranged in a pattern and glued together into a block, then strips are sawn from the block to produce banding that is used as a border
- Tarsia a Incastro (the Boulle method), this involved assembling a packet of contrasting veneers and sawing out the design through the whole packet. The individual layers are then assembled to produce the finished design. In a packet with two colors, you end up with essentially a positive and a negative image. The saw kerf is visible, and is filled with glue and sawdust of mastic. Double-bevel marquetry and “painting in wood” are probably both variants of this method.
- The Classic Method, this involves producing several packets, one of background veneers, and one for each color in the design. The individual parts of the design pattern are cut out and glued to the appropriate packets, allowing you to product multiple copies of the same design.
If all that sounds like confusing gibberish, that’s ok. I’ve only got a tenuous grasp on the differences myself. The interesting point is that this week we’re only doing Boulle (pronounced “bool” not “bool-ley”). Over the course of the week we’ll do three different projects, and after we took a lunch break we started on the first project.
Part of my mission this week is to sample fish tacos at as many places as I can, as San Diego is the home of the fish taco in the same way that Kansas City is known for BBQ at places like Arthur Bryant’s. I tried the fare at a place near the hotel last night (not great) and today at El Comal, about 6 blocks from Patrick’s shop. El Comal good, although there is room for improvement.
After lunch we started assembling and cutting our Boulle packet. The packet has a 3mm backer board, a piece of newsprint treated with lard folded over on itself to lubricate the blade, three layers of thick veneer, and a front board with the design laminated to it. These layers are taped together into a packet, and pilot holes drilled for the blade. We started cutting, and I quickly discovered it takes a certain level of coordination to operate the clamp with my feet, move the saw with my hand and rotate the packet to follow the line. More that I could muster today. I was feeling a little frustrated, but I wasn’t doing any worse than anyone else in the class.
We all cut three or four pieces from our packets and called it a day, with Patrick’s promise that by tomorrow our bodies would be quickly getting acclimated to the process. Actually, by the last part I cut it already felt more comfortable, the first few it was more like a drunken roller coaster than any kind of precision operation.