Box Swap 2023, A Tribute to M.C. Escher

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I’ve been planning to try a tessellation marquetry for some time now and the swap gave me the opportunity to give it a go.

When it comes to this particular style there is only one obvious choice of artist and that is M.C. Escher. If you aren’t familiar with his work check him out. The thing is that tessellations really lend themselves to marquetry so I’ve been itching to try one. The one I chose for the box sides is an Escher classic called The Horseman. It is a very clever design featuring identical horsemen heading in opposite directions and perfectly fitted together. The tricky part is getting the scale and side/end ratio organized so that the parade is unbroken around all four corners of the box. It also is probably the most difficult to assemble marquetry I have ever done because there is no continuous boundary around all the parts and there are a LOT of parts.

Everything was cut on my chevalet and assembled with hot hide glue. The featured veneers are Cherry, Holly, Mahogany, Walnut, and some very old Brazillian Rosewood that I have quite a lot of but which has become so dark that it easily passes for Ebony.


The box itself is very simple. It’s made of solid birch with plywood top and bottom. The corners are just mitres with vertical keys because they had to be fine tuned after the marquetry to match the figures. The inside is all veneered in Walnut. I hinged the top with my usual integral hinge and even ran pattern matching veneer bits into the hinge sockets so when seen from the back the marquetry doesn’t seem broken in the hinge area. 🙄 (didn’t take a pic of that…)



The top, inside and out uses Escher’s Sky and Water design where general fish and goose shapes in the middle gradually become more distinct as the  go up and down away from it. I cut it four up leaving me a couple of extras to use somewhere else (watch this space😉😁).




The finish inside is brush shellac and outside is French polish. I sized it to accommodate 8 1/2 X 11 paper so that it might be used as an art box (or not) and to that end added a bonus pencil case in a pattern I’ve used before. 


Guess I’ve gone on long enough. Bottom line it was a great swap. I enjoyed the challenge and the friendships.
Well done Eric!

The early bird gets the worm but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.

39 Comments

That is a beautiful piece of art Paul, very well done. The banding and the top are both wonderful, I really like the transition from the fish to the birds. A nice looking pencil box to with a nice catch. Very Well Done.

Thank Yu for participating in the Swap.

Main Street to the Mountains

paul your marquetry always amazes me with the skill you show. id never have the patience to even attempt it. thanks for joining us in this fantastic swap.

working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

So professional and beautiful! I also love the locking system of the small box. 

No name noobie here

Just sitting here shaking my head at your skill and determination to hand craft all that inlay to such perfection. Truly amazing work! Your body must go into some kind of auto-pilot after the first few days of cutting 👍
Forget the dumb duck (thumbs up)... these three gecko's will give 12 thumbs up,


Guess I’ve gone on long enough. Bottom line it was a great swap. I enjoyed the challenge and the friendships.
Well done Eric! 
Never long enough when you do a great job...

If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

If you are going to do an impression of an Escher, and pull it off reasonably well, of course the result will be phenomenal - which the top certainly is.  I was really anxiously awaiting some better photos so I could get my eyes on the horsemen, and what, exactly, was going on there.  When I first saw this in the swap thread, my first thought was - ok - how in the heck did he keep that band of merry men continuous around the four sides of the box.  Obviously, if all the sides are equal this would be somewhat easier, but still, it is a math problem, which in the old days would be done with a pencil - now I guess it is done with a computer program.  You must have an incredible reserve of patience to sort out all that detail, and all those parts into a cohesive unit.
One little detail which I totally love, and which most wont even notice - front side, those two tiny darker 45º corners for the register in the bottom part of the box.  

No Bees. No Honey. Bees Lives Matter

That is a gorgeous box!  WOW!  I have wanted to build one of those chevalet.  Really think they are neat.
Thank you all for the kind words. Much of the credit here goes to the artist (Escher). I am only the technician this time.
Brian, it was worked out with “analog” technology. Not a pencil so much as mental math. 🤔😁
Scrappile, if you really want to build a chevalet, I’m just in the process of drawing my plywood version up in OnShape. I have all the plywood parts done already and the rest is easy. I never charge for plans so if you’d like some just PM me.
…you don’t have to speak OnShape. It spits out dimensioned shop drawings.

The early bird gets the worm but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.

Holy smokes, that is unbelievable work!  The more I look, the more I marvel.  
Badass as usual Paul. 

“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems.”

Wow this is some work of art. You have some incredible skill making all of those cuts
I have been a fan of your work for many many years. Always so beautiful and this is no exception. Just incredible work.
The pictures of the box show the beauty, but live it is just amazing.  Going to take it back to WA state and put in on the corner fireplace top.  Will look perfect there.

daveg, SW Washington & AZ

Great job, Paul! I especially like the horsemen. Great execution there.

May you have the day you deserve!

Exceptional as ever Paul.  I didn't notice who had posted it, but when I started looking I thought..... oh wow someone to rival Shipwright.  Wrong, it was you after all!!!  The very gradual transition on the top took a lot of looking at to follow the incremental change. Very impressive a classic of a classic.  Almost makes me want to set up my bench mounted Chevalet again, which I've not used since my Boulle boxes. 
Sounds like Paul is inspiring a few here to start in with Marquetry, I know I will jump into it one day.

Main Street to the Mountains

Paul, you never cease to amaze me with your marquetry skills!  It is a very beautiful box.

Words to express my amazement don't exist, I'll just say WOW!!!!!
Words to express my amazement and admiration for the craftsmanship here don't exist, I'll just say "WOW!!!!"