Marquetry Cutting Styles #2: Boulle Style

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 06-11-2011 07:48 PM 8727 reads 9 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Double Bevel or Conical Style Part 2 of Marquetry Cutting Styles series Part 3: Classic Style »

This style is named for one of the great masters, Andre-Charles Boulle (1642-1732) and it differs from double bevel style in several ways.
In both Boulle style and Classic style, which I’ll cover next, it is imperative that the blade is at exactly 90 degrees to the work, both vertically and horizontally.
Also in both these styles cutting is done in a “packet” of veneers rather than piece by piece as is done in double bevel. This results in several pieces of identical shape on each cut.

In Boulle style marquetry a packet is assembled with one layer in each of the colors that will appear in the finished motif.

The pattern is affixed to the top of the packet and the cutting is performed at 90 degrees resulting in one piece in each color, of each shape..

The primary motif is assembled in it’s field veneer, which was one of the layers in the packet. At this point it will appear backwards because it is always assembled glue side up and is held together by veneer tape or a backing paper on the good side.

After the first motif is assembled there will be enough pieces left over to make as many more motifs as you used layers. This is not always a very useful set of parts. In motifs like the albatross here, you’ll only get one that looks real. The others may not resemble anything to be found in nature.

On the other hand if you are doing a geometric pattern or a graphic, both or all may be useful. It was common in the eighteenth century to make a “contre-parte” piece with the negative pattern. That is why you sometimes see pictures of two tables, for example, that are almost identical but one is dark on light and the other is light on dark.

Boulle style cutting almost always means that you will have a saw kerf, but with the extremely small jewelers’ blades used for this work and the judicious use of a little appropriately colored putty, they are very easy to hide. I say almost because in some motifs, particularly geometrics, it is possible to “compress” the pieces. In this case however the field piece, if there is one, must be cut separately.

That’s it for Boulle style. This has not been nor was it meant to be a definitive “how to” on the style, just a description to distinguish it from the others.

Thanks for looking in.

Next time the Classic style, where you really have to be good.


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

16 comments so far

View Druid's profile


2152 posts in 3330 days

#1 posted 06-11-2011 07:56 PM

Impressive. I like it. Very nicely done.

-- John, British Columbia, Canada

View sras's profile


5229 posts in 3664 days

#2 posted 06-11-2011 08:24 PM

That helped Paul. I have been asking myself “what about the saw kerf?” for a while. Are the jewelers blades easy to find?

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4416 days

#3 posted 06-11-2011 08:25 PM

OK, couple of questions, which you may have already answered but I missed:

Is there an entry cut from the side, or do you drill a really small hole for blade entry?

I guess you have to make sure to cut from the inside out, as it seems impossible (or at least frustrating) to remount a really small piece and cut it in half. (?)

How the heck do you glue up these things?

What kind of blades, and where do you buy them? Is the definition of “jeweler’s” enough? A quick look at Amazon reveals large count packages. Do they break that easy on veneer?


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View prometej065's profile


336 posts in 4217 days

#4 posted 06-11-2011 08:39 PM

Excellent Paul ..
educational, but above all, charming and with a sense of motivation and talent done in!
Intriguing is wait your new works!


View shipwright's profile


8397 posts in 3332 days

#5 posted 06-11-2011 09:06 PM

Steve and, well, Steve, jewelers’ blades are not that hard to find. They are designated opposite to fret saw blades ie: 2.0 as opposed to 0.2. the larger the number the smaller the blade, vice versa for scroll blades as I understand it.
I buy mine from Patrick Edwards at ASFM in quantity because, yes they do break, especially the 60 tooth ones used in fine work (that albatross has a different colored eye in each motif).

Blade starts in a very tiny hole and yes you have to watch what you cut first. I cut the albatross from the top to the bottom and only needed two holes, one for the eye and the other got me the rest.


Thanks Dusan

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

View stefang's profile


16803 posts in 3869 days

#6 posted 06-11-2011 09:58 PM

Hi Paul, and thanks for educating us on these techniques. I’ve read a bit about them, but so far I have only tried the double bevel method, and that with relatively thick pieces like 2mm. I like the double bevel method, but tiny details seem pretty difficult to me since you can only revolve the work in one direction to get the appropriate angle (towards the center or towards the outside) and that isn’t always the optimal direction for the cut. I’m wondering if the Boulle method overcomes this disadvantage and if that is the main advantage to it besides being able to create several different colors of the pattern? I use my scroll saw with variable speed for this type of work.

The Boulle work shown here looks really very good to me.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3613 days

#7 posted 06-12-2011 12:11 AM

It is amazing what you do, Paul. I am one of those that love marquetry and sit and look at it and look at it and even dream about it. But as for me doing it, well maybe someday. I love to see what you do with it. They are wonderful!

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View peteg's profile


4435 posts in 3357 days

#8 posted 06-12-2011 12:14 AM

Paul, I am not into Marquetry (at present) but if ever I wish to have a go I know whoes door I will be knocking on for some lessons, :))

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View Brit's profile


7821 posts in 3377 days

#9 posted 06-12-2011 12:30 AM

Thanks Paul, I learn something every time you post.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3427 posts in 4247 days

#10 posted 06-12-2011 02:52 AM


Another great post! We’re learning alot here.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 3457 days

#11 posted 06-12-2011 06:31 AM

Paul, You gave me an idea on my parquetry work. I normally glued to colors of wood… cut it then flip it. This time I can make thicker and just temporarily stick it (maybe with double sided tape) then cut… I can make two projects in just one cutting labor.. Thanks

-- Bert

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3469 days

#12 posted 06-12-2011 07:10 AM

Thanks Paul.

It’s great to read your blog. Lots of info.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View Schwieb's profile


1894 posts in 3996 days

#13 posted 06-13-2011 07:49 PM

Nice Paul. Thanks for sharing this

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4514 days

#14 posted 06-19-2011 05:12 PM

Very nicely presented, Paul.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 3823 days

#15 posted 06-23-2011 04:56 AM


-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

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