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Marquetry / Wood Terms

By John Sedgwick Canadian Marquetry newsletter Sept 86

Marquetarians exhibit strange and characteristic symptoms – although similar in appearance to everyone else, they are quite different. Slowly they develop strange habits and begin to communicate in a bizarre code making little or no sense to the uninitiated. They can be found fondly caressing a tabletop in furniture stores, while examining the skill “or lack of it” that the maker has employed.

Their basement workshops are an eclectic assortment of veneers, wood and assorted books and tools; some of which have never been used. But like all “junkies” they just have to have this special piece of veneer or tool – some day it will be used.

They talk in a strange language using terms like: fiddle-back, curly and bees wing grain. While others merely cut wood, marquetarians want to quarter, flat or roll cut it.

While most would eat oysters, marquetarians make oyster veneers or inlay their shells.

Windows for most are for seeing through and letting in the air, marquetarians want to first fill all windows with the perfect piece of veneer.

A bird’s mouth has no head or body to marquetarians and is used to saw on, of all things. Other common code words are:

Should you know or have occasion to converse with someone using such language, be advised that there is no known cure. The affliction progresses slowly at first and sometimes may appear to be in remission. However, anyone with constant exposure to others so afflicted can usually be considered terminal.

The Economy of making, rather than purchasing a marquetry picture (or the bottom line blues)

By James Colter – Canadian Marquetry Feb 1987

Item Cost
Marquetry classes (meets Thursday evenings) 45.00
Gas (travelling to course) 29.00
Membership fees (three marquetry societies) 50.00
Stationery, etc. for making the pattern 19.95
Veneers 175.00
Exchange (desired veneers not available in Canada) 24.34
Gas (needed them in a hurry) 30.00
Shelving to store veneers 125.00
Misc. supplies (knives, glue etc.) 32.45
Misc. supplies (forgot some things) 25.33
Misc. supplies (this should be it) 49.72
New kitchen table (knife gouges) 209.45
Cutting board 1.49
Long distance calls to other members for advice 122.99
Plywood for backing 16.00
Table saw, power sander 265.99
Purchase of house so I can have workroom 89,599.99
Moving costs 1,250.00
Sale of apartment lease -245.00
Varathane, brush, etc. 16.75
New tiles for floor 145.00
Newspaper .25
Divorce settlement 33,748.22
Saving on purchasing a picture -150.00
Net Cost $125,587.07
(Anyone want to buy a marquetry picture – cheap?)

Marquetry Tom Swifties

by Jim Colter

  1. “I can’t get this blade into the saw,” Tom freted.
  2. “I want to renew my Marquetry Membership,” Tom rejoined.
  3. “Maybe you should use a piece of Tamo there,” Tom said bashfully. [b-ash-fully]
  4. “This picture took 1000 hours to make,” Tom said grandly.
  5. “I veneer both the front and back,” Tom said decidedly.
  6. “This padaulk is bleeding into the other woods,” Tom said readily. [red-ily]
  7. “Would you please plug in my palm sander?” asked Tom cordially.
  8. “I count three horizons in this picture,” Tom said horizontally. [horizon-tally]
  9. “I’ll just replace that maple with that harewood for the water,” said Tom reassuringly. [re-azure-inglly]
  10. “Perhaps you should use quercius alba in there,” Tom joked. [j-oak-ed]
  11. “I can’t find the right wood to represent sand,” Tom beeched.

How To Make a Board

Most of what I know about carpentry, which was almost nothing, I learned in shop. I took shop during the Eisenhower administration, when boys took shop and girls took home economics - a code name for “cooking.” Schools are not allowed to separate boys and girls like that anymore.

They’re also not allowed to put students’ heads in vises and tighten them, which our shop teacher, Mr. Schmidt did to Ronnie Miller in the fifth grade when Ronnie used a chisel when he should have used a screwdriver. (Mr. Schmidt had a strong feeling abut how to use tools properly.) I guess he shouldn’t have put Ronnie’s head in a vise but it (Ronnie’s head) was no great prize to begin with, and you could bet Ronnie never confused chisels and screwdrivers in later life, assuming he made it to later life.

Under Mr. Schmidt’s guidance, we hammered out hundreds of the ugliest and most useless objects the human mind can conceive of.

Our first major project was a little bookshelf that you could use as a stool. The idea was that some day you’d be looking for a book, when all of a sudden you need a stool, so you’d just dump the books on the floor and there you’d be. At least that was the thinking behind the bookshelf–stool. Mr. Schmidt designed it, and we students sure knew better than to ask any questions.

I regret today that I didn’t take more shop in high school, because while I never once used anything I know about the cosine and tangent, I have used my shop skills to make useful objects for m home. For example, I recently made a board.

I use my board in many ways. I stand on it when I have to get my socks out of the dryer and water has been sitting in our basement around the dryer for a few days and has developed a healthy layer of scum on the top (plus heaven-only-knows-what new and predatory forms of life underneath).

I also use my board to squash spiders. (All spiders are deadly killers. Don’t believe any of the stuff in the National Geographic.) Generally, after I squash a spider, I leave the board in the water for a few days, spider-side down, to wash it off, assuming the scum isn’t too bad.

If you wont to make a board, you’ll need:

Get your board at a lumberyard, but be prepared. Lumberyards reek of lunacy. They use a system of measurement that dates back to Colonial times, when people had brains the size of M & Ms. When they tell you a board is a “two-by-four”, they mean it is not two inches by four inches. Likewise, a “one-by-six” is not one inch by six inches. So if you know the size of the board you want, tell the lumberperson you want some other size. If you don’t know the size you wont tell them it’s for squashing spiders. He’ll know what you need.

You should paint your board so people know it’s a home carpentry project, as opposed to a mere board. I suggest you use a darkish colour, something along the lines of spider guts. Use the chisel to open the paint can. Have your gun ready in case Mr. Schmidt is lurking around.

Once you’ve finished your board, you can move up to a more advanced project such as a harpsichord. But if you’re really going to get into home carpentry, you should have a home workshop. You will find that your workshop is very useful as a place to store lawn sprinklers and objects that you intend to fix sometime before you die. My wife and I have worked out an eight-step procedure for deciding witch objects to store in my home workshop.

  1. My wife tells me an object is broken. For instance, she may say ”The lamp on my beside the table doesn’t work”
  2. I wait several months, in case my wife is mistaken.
  3. My wife notifies me that she is not mistaken. “The lamp on the beside table still doesn’t work” she says.
  4. I conduct a preliminary investigation. In the case of the lamp, I flick the switch and note the lamp does not go on. “You’re right,” I tell my wife, “that lamp does not work.”
  5. I wait 6 to19 months, hoping that God will fix the lamp, or the Russians will attack us and the entire world will be a glowing heap of radioactive slag and nobody will care about the lamp anymore.
  6. My wife alerts me that the lamp still doesn’t work. “The lamp still doesn’t work,” she sometimes says late at night.
  7. I try to repair the lamp on the spot. Usually I look for a likely trouble and whack it with a blunt instrument. This often works on lamps. It rarely works on microwave ovens.
  8. If the on-the-spot repair doesn’t work I say: “I’ll have to take this lamp down to the home workshop.” This is my way of telling her she should get another lamp if she has any short term plans - say, to do any reading in bed.

If you follow this procedure, after a few years you will have a great many broken objects in your home workshop. In the interim, however, it will look barren. This is why you need tools. To give your shop an attractive, non-barren appearance, you should get several thousand dollars’ worth of tools and hang them from pegboards in a graceful display.

Basically there are four kinds of tools: tools you can hit yourself with (hammers, axes). Tools you can cut yourself with (saws, knives, hoes, adzes). Tools you can stab your self with (screwdrivers, chisels). Tools that, if dropped just right, can penetrate your foot (awls)

I have a radial arm saw witch is like any other saw except it has a blade that spins at several billion revolutions per second and therefore sever your average arm in a trice. When I operate my radial arm saw, I use a safety procedure that was developed by x-ray machine technicians: I leave the room.

I turn off all the power in the house, leave a piece of wood near the saw, scurry to a safe distance, and turn the power back on, That is how I made my board.

Once you get the hang of using the tools, you’ll make all kinds of projects. Here are some others I made: a length of rope. Wood with nails in it. Saw dust.

If you would like plans for any of these projects, just drop some money in an envelope and send it to me and I’ll keep it.

Updated January 2017