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I continue to add to my portfolio here on WoodworkingWeb. And, as Monte Python would say “And now for something completely different!”
This summer I had the good fortune to be able to spend two weeks with Patrick Edwards and Patrice LeJeune at the American School of French Marquetry in San Diego. I became aware of them through Paul Miller (shipwright) and when I signed up I was totally unaware just how much the experience would influence my approach to woodworking. More a big “extension” of what I was doing than a 180 degree turn. But, a big influence none the less.
French marquetry is centered on the use of the chevalet. From it’s roots around 1750 it has changed hardly at all, and is probably the finest, most precise tool for cutting all the tiny pieces that comprise the marvelous marquetry work the French craftsmen were known for.
Hence, after returning home, my first order of business was to build my very own chevalet, so I could get on with some marquetry. I chose to use Patrick’s fine plans and hardware kit which greatly eases the process of locating (or machining) all the necessary metal parts. And I’m happy I did. It made things considerably easier.
I made the chevalet from cherry, mostly because that’s what I happened to have a lot of in the form of 2” slabs I cut up with my chainsaw mill about twenty years ago. Ash or white oak are also popular choices. It had been years since I last launched into a heavy timber project, so the planer, 20” bandsaw, and 12” radial arm saw finally got some good use.
It took me about 60+ hours to build, but I wasn’t rushing. Some have finished theirs in around 40 hours, but in any case, it’s not a weekend build. It was actually refreshing to revisit mortise and tenon joinery, as I’ve mostly been doing boxes for the past few years. A fun change.
I included a picture of the early stage when it was no more than a pile of glued up laminations, ready for the real building work.
The two little toolboxes I recently posted were the first actual use of the chevalet, and they hardly challenge it at all. There will certainly be more to come using it’s capabilities. Once it’s finally adjusted, it works like a charm. It’s truly amazing what can be accomplished with a little practice.
I’m hardly a “hand tool snob” but there are indeed times and projects for which the old ways really are just what’s needed. It’s been an enjoyable project to both make and use. Sort of makes me feel good every time I walk by it.
Thanks for taking a look.
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