’61 Chevy

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.

An Example of a marquetry chevalet

An Example of a marquetry chevalet

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…

Bargin basement Sapele!

Bargin basement Sapele!

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.

Plans to the north of me

Plans to the north of me

...and plans to the south

…and plans to the south

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.

Stock milled for the base

Stock milled for the base

Stock milled for the vertical post

Stock milled for the vertical post

Laminations glued up

Laminations glued up

Squared up after laminating

Squared up after laminating

Double mortise and tenon joint roughed in.   I still have to chop out the rest of the waste between the tenons and fine tune the fit.

Double mortise and tenon joint roughed in. I still have to chop out the rest of the waste between the tenons and fine tune the fit.

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9 thoughts on “’61 Chevy

  1. Is this going to be a super sport model?

  2. I have to find a lumber supplier close to where I live. You made out with that stock!

    You can’t work with wood without being impressed by the chevalet. It’s an awesome tool and a marvel to look at. I’ll be following with great interest. It looks like your off to a great start.

    • The wood was a lucky catch — both because of the cost and because I’m using Sapele for a couple of other projects so I won’t end up with so many odds and ends of wood left over.

      Hopefully I can keep up a decent pace on this and not have it turn into something that takes months to finish.

      • Jonathan


        I’m impressed with the pace you are moving at. I’m guessing that a project like that would take me a good six months to build. I’ve used some Sapele in my workbench, and I like it. It’s hard and heavy. I look forward to reading about your progress.

        All the best,


  3. If you need CVG for try the big box store. I never have trouble finding 2x12s that are prett clear and dry.

    • Around here the construction lumber at Home Depot (the local big box) is dripping wet. It’s probably because they log Douglas Fir all along the Central Coast where I live. I’ve used that to build other stuff, like the legs for my workbench. I cut them to length and left them to sit for what turned out to be probably 8 months and they had twisted a fair amount and were still very wet inside!

      This tool needs to hold pretty tight tolerances to cut accurately and I didn’t want to risk having problems with the finished tool after spending money on the hardware kit and weeks of time building it.

      The dried CVG stuff they stock at the specialty dealer is really nice stuff – fine grained and completely clear (but expensive). I’d like to make a cabinet out of that one day, I went to “Open Studios” yesterday and saw a great cabinet by Michael Singer made out of CVG fir that was really inspiring.

  4. I was going to build one too until I saw the price that P. Edwards is charging for his plans. Yikes! Wish I could find them second-hand (hint hint)…

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