Boulle Marquetry Decanter Restoration

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Project by Patricelejeune posted 04-13-2016 01:03 AM 3319 views 6 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Boulle Marquetry Decanter Restoration
Boulle Marquetry Decanter Restoration No picture No picture No picture No picture No picture
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There has been a renewed interest in Boulle marquetry Napoleon III furniture in the last years.

Most of the time, unfortunately, the cost of restoration is to high for a lot of customers or even compared to the value of the piece. It is sad as those pieces need to be well maintained.

Here is a little story on restoring a 1860-1880 decanter with almost all the original Baccarat crystals.

It arrived with the usual loose and missing brass, but also it had been meanly sanded, without loosing the engraving though, and sprayed with lacquer.

First thing to do is to lift the loose brass and assess the damage.

Epoxy is not the way to reglue Boulle. It is usally used without cleaning under and therefore the brass is bulging and is extremely difficult to remove when you want to do a proper restoration

Neither is contact cement. In fact you can not imagine how many pieces we have to restore that have been “repaired” with contact cement. It is not long term efficient on any kind of veneering

After cleaning the substrate and the inside of the brass of any glue and oxydation

The pieces is remoisturized and the pieces that are not to damaged are rehydradrated new glue is inserted and pieces are reglued in a vacuum bag

Other way to reglue what can’t or is not easy to reglue in the vacuum bag is sand bags

or hard foam like in this case isolation material

The top was really in a very bad shape, especially as those pieces are made with wood that are deeped in acids and other chemicals to achieve the ebonizing

New brass pieces are engraved

Then the reopened kerfs and the engraving line are filled using the traditional pore filling methode but with soot black and charcoal to get a real nice black

You can see I was doing the black at the same time than a clock for which you can see the progress there
I am actually engraving the horn and it will be finished this week and I will post about it.

After a bit of polish the hinges and all the harware is put back on et voilà!!

-- Patrice lejeune

19 comments so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3660 posts in 4954 days

#1 posted 04-13-2016 01:42 AM


The restoration is really incredible! It seems to me that it could take more time for this restoration than the actual build 150 years ago. No wonder few people can (choose to) afford to have such beautiful pieces restored. Certainly there are very few people like you and Patrick who are capable of such extensive, high-quality repair work.

Thanks for sharing.


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Luke Addington's profile

Luke Addington

80 posts in 2410 days

#2 posted 04-13-2016 05:20 AM

It looks so nice! I would love to learn how to do this properly one day. Fantastic job Patrice and thank you for posting it.

-- Luke,

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4040 days

#3 posted 04-13-2016 06:25 AM

Very nice Patrice. Was the tortoiseshell intact?
It looks perfect now.
You do nice work. :-)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Kiwib0y's profile


89 posts in 2265 days

#4 posted 04-13-2016 07:50 AM

It is a certainly a pleasure to see another posting. I would like to thank you for posting items like this one as I love sitting here admiring your work and the furniture you show us you work on or create.

-- "It is only a silly question if it is not asked" Don,New Zealand

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 4195 days

#5 posted 04-13-2016 01:50 PM

Nicely done, indeed. Your work never fails to impress. And you’ve saved a lovely piece.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Julian's profile


1656 posts in 3932 days

#6 posted 04-13-2016 02:45 PM

It is amazing that you were able to make that box look like new.

-- Julian

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4108 days

#7 posted 04-13-2016 03:28 PM

Patrice, your work is extraordinary and I can’t even imagine the patience, craftsmanship, and knowledge that goes into this sort of restoration work. It must be a wonderful feeling of accomplishment to know that you are saving these beautiful pieces from deterioration for future generations to enjoy.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View bobasaurus's profile


3735 posts in 4426 days

#8 posted 04-13-2016 04:08 PM

That is some ridiculously nice restoration work. What glue did you end up using, if you don’t like epoxy or contact cement?

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Patricelejeune's profile


386 posts in 3162 days

#9 posted 04-13-2016 04:40 PM

Thank you guys.
Restoring Boulle is very time consuming and frustrating at times, so it is nice when it is done.
Paul, There were very little missing shell. Most ot the time it is the brass that pops out. We have a small box with small pieces of shell salvaged here and there that we can use.
Bobasaurus, The traditional glue for Metal on wood is fish glue, it has more elasticity and absorbs better the conflicting expension and retractaion of the wood and the metal. Also as a protein glue, it is reversible aloowing future restoration.

-- Patrice lejeune

View DonSol's profile


249 posts in 2484 days

#10 posted 04-13-2016 05:45 PM

You do absolutely beautiful work. I have done some repair work on furniture, not marquetry, and I would see repairs that someone else did and I wonder what were they thinking.

-- Don Solomon, New Castle, IN; Quality is not an act, it is a habit. Aristotle

View Hammerthumb's profile


3116 posts in 3217 days

#11 posted 04-13-2016 08:22 PM

Patrice – I remember you showing me that decanter when I visited last year. It was in very poor condition and I was wondering when you would get a chance to work on it. I am glad you posted pictures. I have to say that I am amazed! Great work and well done!

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View mmh's profile


3697 posts in 4964 days

#12 posted 04-13-2016 11:37 PM

Incredible restoration work, and as usual so masterfully done. I can only admire the patience and the mastered techniques of your work.

It’s also amazing how such a beautiful piece of work has been abused over the years. Alas, we still have master craftsmen such as you around to revive them!

Are you teaching anyone to keep this art alive?

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View madburg's profile


348 posts in 2085 days

#13 posted 04-14-2016 12:24 AM

Great to see the piece restore to its former glory. What a privilege to be able to work on such a piece. THanks for sharing it!!

So where do you get the fish glue from? Or do you make your own along with OBG? Do you use garlic as is suggested in the texts, to clean the new metal prior to gluing down? Or what else do you use to clean any new metal before gluing?

-- Madburg WA

View PineSucks's profile


283 posts in 2269 days

#14 posted 04-14-2016 01:24 AM

Wow. Phenomenal work. A museum quality restoration!

View Dale J Struhar Sr's profile

Dale J Struhar Sr

522 posts in 4372 days

#15 posted 04-14-2016 01:32 AM

Unreal, what a fantastic job. Beautiful.

-- Dale, Ohio

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