Marie's Table... A Marquetry Adventure #1: Where it all Started.

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 07-20-2012 06:37 AM 4416 reads 8 times favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Marie's Table... A Marquetry Adventure series Part 2: More Marquetry for the Top. »

Some of you may remember a couple of months ago I posted a new segment in my blog about marquetry cutting styles describing the “painting in wood” style. Well, once I started cutting the classic French design (pattern in the back of the workbook from ASFM) I started musing about where it might end up. I’ve made enough boxes and while they were a good venue for some simple marquetry and served well to practice on, my real interest is in bigger projects and more furniture kind of pieces.

To make a long story a little shorter, I decided to go for one of the most common items seen adorned with French marquetry, the writing table. One of the problems you face when you start looking in Pierre Ramond’s books to get a feel for what you want to build is that you soon discover that in France, in the days when the chevalet was developed, they put a lot of marquetry on their furniture. I don’t mean that the top was completely covered with it (although it would have been) but that every flat surface on the piece was covered with marquetry…...........and some of the curved ones.

The question that always gets me in trouble: How hard can it be?

So I started by designing a nice little writing table with lots of marquetry and it just sort of snowballed from there. I’m currently at around twelve to thirteen hundred pieces and I haven’t started assembling the table yet.

Here are a few photos to get you up to speed.

This is a sketch I made several months ago, a little musing about making a fancy table in the old French style (of which I know nothing of course). It immediately came to mind when I did the painting in wood piece. The finished table will actually look a lot like it. That’s surprising for me because my projects often end up very different from the “concept drawing”.

To start with I thought I would cut the “music” motif from the painting in wood segment above in an ellipse and do a leaf garland to set it off.

I decided to do a macassar ebony border around the table top and add elaborate corner marquetry. I matched and mitered the ebony veneer and then stack cut all four corners in four colors in Boulle style. That means the packet was sixteen layers plus 1/8” plywood wasters top and bottom, about 3/4” thick.

If you want things to fit after cutting a packet this thick you had better have a very square blade setup.
This picture shows the check I did to be sure. The piece fitted in the hole in the bottom waster plywood is actually the piece cut out of the top waster piece 3/4” away. This proves that the bottom piece and the top piece are exactly the same size. It took a little adjustment but the built in adjusters on the chevalet handled it perfectly. The piece at the side is one of the ebony layers from the same cut.

This shot shows the layers in the packet. There are four of dyed yellow, four purpleheart, four pale green poplar and four ebony. The Poplar was thicker and caused several problems down the road.

There are something like two hundred and sixty-eight pieces in the corner motifs (total).

Here is the rough laid out border with the corners assembled into the background and the central medallion sitting in rough position. The garland has yet to be trimmed to elliptical on the outside.

I think that’s enough for one night. I am skipping a lot of little things but this blog will turn out to be long enough as it is. I have a ton of photos of this thing. Next time I’ll try to cover the rest of the table top and include a few of the “learning experiences” I was fortunate enough to encounter.

I hope you enjoy this blog half as much as I am enjoying the build. I keep hearing strains of “Fools Rush In” when I’m working on this..????

Thanks for dropping in. Comments, critiques, and especially questions are always welcome.


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

32 comments so far

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1130 posts in 3388 days

#1 posted 07-20-2012 08:27 AM

Painting in wood is the perfect description of your art here. Beautiful work.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Boxguy's profile


2897 posts in 3343 days

#2 posted 07-20-2012 09:35 AM


Have you been to the Getty Center in LA? There is some work there you would like. A couple of desks in particular.

-- Big Al in IN

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6874 posts in 5055 days

#3 posted 07-20-2012 09:36 AM

as always, Paul…masterful. I would think that by now, you would know not to ask yourself…”how hard can it be”.

My wife tells me I’m not interested in doing something if it’s not impossible.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Schwieb's profile


1916 posts in 4537 days

#4 posted 07-20-2012 10:03 AM

You’re no fool, but you can paint me green with envy. This is meticulous work and I hope I can approach it one day. BTW, I have found a man to teach a marquetry class at my shop in the near future. I told him about you and your chevalet. He was amazed, and had only ever seen one in pictures.


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

View tinnman65's profile


1414 posts in 4490 days

#5 posted 07-20-2012 11:14 AM

This looks like its going to be an amazing table. I think that’s my favorite part of woodworking is doing a project and having to problem solve your way through it, what better way to encounter those “learning experiences”! I look forward to the rest of this blog.

-- Paul--- Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. — Scott Adams

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4957 days

#6 posted 07-20-2012 12:20 PM

Wow, I can only imagine all the things that can go wrong.
I love the journey also – what fun.

It is looking really great,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4313 days

#7 posted 07-20-2012 12:45 PM

Your detail work is incredible! I’m happy if I can get a tight fit for a flying dutchman or butterfly inlay to reinforce a slab bench that has a crack through the slab.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View Karson's profile


35273 posts in 5476 days

#8 posted 07-20-2012 12:57 PM

Paul: I great treat to see a master at work. Thanks for offering us this journey.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Bluepine38's profile


3391 posts in 4161 days

#9 posted 07-20-2012 01:08 PM

Wonderful wooden painting. I would lose too many of those little pieces, if I could even cut them out. Thank
you for sharing your journey with us and letting us dream.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Kookaburra's profile


749 posts in 3300 days

#10 posted 07-20-2012 01:21 PM

Another learning experience here at LJ. I have a couple of marquetry pieces that came from my grandparents and I love them. I would have not been able to describe how they were made. At least now I can start describing it. I am looking forward to more installments – I have a lot to learn.

Some questions though-
It looks like you end up with lots of extra pieces – in fact are all of the pieces cut out of each veneer? Does that explain why I sometimes see the same design in a different color scheme? If you do not want multiples are the extras just trashed (cries) or do you take a different approach with your cut sheets?

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4379 days

#11 posted 07-20-2012 01:26 PM

what a fantastic and fun project to take on, i also have a furniture piece planned for this fall/winter that will be fun for me, not on the same scale as what your doing but know what i mean, this is a great learning tool for those who are doing or trying to enter into this type of wood work, thank you for sharing your talent, its always a joy to see

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4410 days

#12 posted 07-20-2012 01:38 PM

I sure admire your courage in tackling such a complex project Paul, and even more so your ability to do it really well. The work so far looks just looks amazing to me. This blog is a real treat. Don’t worry about your blog being too long as I’m sure many others like myself will just enjoy it all the more.

When you get the time I sure would appreciate hearing about the advantages of the Chevalet over a power scroll saw. I am sure there are a few, and it would be interesting to have your take on the subject.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Nate Meadows's profile

Nate Meadows

1132 posts in 3282 days

#13 posted 07-20-2012 02:17 PM


Don’t worry about length, you are teaching and inspiring so much. It is a joy to read and see your work!


-- "With a little bit of faith, and some imagination, you can build anything!" Nate

View sras's profile


6059 posts in 4205 days

#14 posted 07-20-2012 02:22 PM

This is going to be a great blog!! Wow!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 4094 days

#15 posted 07-20-2012 02:28 PM

I’m in “awe” with the complicity of this project! Your work and skill just seem to improve by leaps and bounds with each project. Seems almost criminal that one person should be blessed with so much talent but I’m not criticizing or bemoaning your talents. Almost seems like you’re another Davinci or Michaelangelo in the making? I’ll be following your posts and dreaming!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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