An Inexpensive and Easily Learned Art - The Woods to Use How to Obtain Materials - Cost-the Processes of Marquetry Staining - Black and White Marquetry - French Polishing

A pipe rack in marquetry. The design in the centre is effective and original

A pipe-rack in marquetry. The design in the centre is effective and original

Few handicrafts give such good results for the expenditure of a little time and trouble as marquetry.

The worker need not be skilled in drawing or designing, as designs can be bought and traced on the wood, and the shading required is of quite an elementary character.

Anyone with a knowledge of the proper methods who will give time, patience, and careful handling should be able to turn out a thoroughly satisfactory piece of work after a little practice.

Marquetry decoration can be applied to a variety of articles, such as photo frames, boxes, hand mirrors, pipe-racks, etc., as well as tables, bookshelves, and larger pieces of furniture. It has the appearance of inlaid wood, and where the old inlay patterns are used can only be distinguished from it by an expert.


Articles for marquetry decoration are made in holly or sycamore wood, and holly, being the whitest and hardest, is the best to use. Articles in these woods can be obtained at large stores and most art shops, as can also the wood stains.

These stains, specially prepared for marquetry, cost 5 1/2d. per bottle, a special green, called Palmer's green, being 10d. per bottle.

A box containing these colours, together with brushes, tracing pen, and china palettes can be bought for 6s. 6d.

Other materials required are a bottle of French polish, some sheets of sandpaper No. oo, pencils, tracing paper, blue carbon paper, a steel tracer, and water-colour lampblack for outlining.


Books can be obtained at the stores, containing eight and nine sheets of designs, in prices varying from is. 5d. to 2S.

Articles already traced with designs can also be obtained, a little illustration being given as a guide to the colouring.

Designs can be adapted from tracings of inlaid work on furniture, and these old examples are always safe to follow. There is a well-known oval design, shaded into flutings, which is often used as a centre. It can also be adapted to the corners of boxes and frames.

Garlands of bay, laurel, or olive, tied with bows of ribbon, are very suitable, as also is scroll work.

Naturalistic designs can be used if preferred. The illustration of a watch-case

A photograph frame, the design of which is taken from the inlaid cabinet work of the Sheraton period

A photograph frame, the design of which is taken from the inlaid cabinet work of the Sheraton period

(page 4408) shows a good specimen of this kind of design.

Method Of Working

It shall be supposed that the object chosen for decoration is a photograph frame, as this is one of the easiest things to manipulate.

Choose a frame made of hollywood of a fine grain, since upon the quality of the wood depends the quality of the work.

With sandpaper No. 00 thoroughly scour the frame all over till its surface is as smooth as satin to the touch. It is then a good plan to wet it all over, and, when dry, sandpaper again. This will prevent the grain starting when the stain is applied. Do not grudge the time spent over this part of the work, as it is a most important item in the process.

Keep the sandpaper used for this purpose, as it can be used again for the polishing; new sandpaper should never be used after the stain is put on.

Transferring The Design

When the design is ready to be transferred, fasten it firmly to the frame with a piece of blue carbon paper between. This should be done by folding the edges of the design over to the back of the frame and securing with stamp paper. Never use drawing-pins, as they make holes in the wood.

Then take the steel tracer and press firmly over the whole design, taking care that every part is traced over. Remove the paper, and the design will be found transferred in blue lines to the wood.


Next proceed to stain the background round the design, always painting downwards from top to bottom.

Beginners will do well to avoid designs with fine lines, as it is very difficult to paint the background round them. Broad, well-defined patterns will give the best results.

Rosewood stain is nearly always used for the background ; this may be painted in flat, or, if desired, can be left somewhat uneven, in imitation of the marks in the wood.

The stains should be poured into a saucer for a little while before using in order to gain depth of colour.

When the background is painted in, the design will appear in the colour of the holly-wood. This should now be shaded slightly with walnut stain, and where it is desirable other colours can be laid on.

Green is always put on flat, with no shading, as also is blue, except where it is used for ribbon, when the turns of the ribbon should be slightly shaded.

When the work has reached this stage the novice will probably feel very disappointed in its appearance, as the colours will look very crude and raw. The beautiful warm tones seen in marquetry are due to the French polish, which changes the white of the hollywood to a golden brown, and softens down all the other tints to a harmonious whole.

If the staining has a tendency to run into the pattern, it shows that the wood is too soft; so, before proceeding further, go over the whole thing with a coat of size, and, when dry, sandpaper again.


After the design has been shaded and coloured, the whole of it should be outlined with black.

This is done with a pen and lampblack, mixed with water. The paint must be thick enough to give a solid black line; in fact, it should only be very slightly diluted, just enough to make it workable with the pen.

Black-and-white Marquetry

In black-and-white marquetry the background should be painted in quite flat with Stephen's ebony stain. The design must be left white and shaded with fine lines done with a pen, the stain being mixed with water. White French polish must be used.

As it cannot be outlined, great care must always be exercised when engaged in painting in the background.

French Polishing

When the background and design are finished, the polishing process begins.

This must be done in a warm room, free from dust, with strict attention to the instructions given, or a good result will never be obtained. The process must on no account be hurried.

Put on with a brush three coats of French polish successively,

A charming design for a clock or watch case in marquetry work always painting straight down from top to bottom, and never touching it a second time while it is wet. Allow at least twenty four hours to elapse between each coat, in order that the polish may harden thoroughly.

A charming design for a clock or watch case in marquetry work always painting straight down from top to bottom, and never touching it a second time while it is wet. Allow at least twenty-four hours to elapse between each coat, in order that the polish may harden thoroughly.

When the last coat is perfectly dry, take a clean rag, put on it one drop of linseed oil, and rub carefully over the whole surface. Never use more than one drop, or a good polish will be impossible.

Finishing Touches

Next, take the sandpaper used previously for smoothing the plain wood, and rub down the surface till not the slightest trace of roughness can be detected in passing the finger over it.

Then take a small square of clean linen, put in the centre a piece of cotton-wool about the size of a Tangerine orange, and pour a little French polish over it. Gather up the corners of the linen and strain it over the wool, making it into a little pad the shape of a hare's foot.

With this gently rub over the entire surface with a circular movement, always beginning and ending at the edge. Always shake up the French polish before using.

When the surface begins to grow " tacky " - i.e., slightly sticky - leave off polishing, put the frame where it will be free from dust, and leave it for three days. Then repeat the process a second time, and leave it for one week at least, longer if possible; a month is not too long.

Then give it a third and final polishing. A little experience will be needed to get just the right quantity of French polish on the pad. There should be enough to work through the linen and keep the surface moist, but not wet.

The pad when not in use should be kept in a tin, or it will harden. The brushes should be washed directly after use in methylated spirit.

The backs of frames can be stained, but need not be polished. The insides of boxes, of course, may be varnished.

One of the most original applications of marquetry is to decorate the panels of a small dower chest with either armorial bearings or antique figures, according to taste. The result will stand hard wear, and can be rubbed and dusted with impunity. Such a chest makes a pretty gift.