Before proceeding with the subject matter of this chapter, it will be necessary to define the terms which it is proposed to use. It appears to be a general idea that inlay and marqueterie are interchangeable designations. Even were this an actual fact, it would be necessary, for the better understanding of the subject, to make a distinction between the two. In previous chapters there have been many references to inlay. In Stuart oak furniture a coarse ornament of holly and fruit-woods is quite a familiar detail, as we have seen. It would be misleading, however, to describe this as marqueterie, for the reason that the name implies a process as well as a result. Marqueterie is an inlay, yet inlay is not necessarily marqueterie, and it will be advisable to explain exactly where the difference lies.
Tudor and Stuart inlay consists of pieces of lighter or darker woods which are chopped into the solid oak background, and then " cleaned up " with the plane, scraper or glass-paper. Marqueterie is a pattern formed by inlaying various woods, metals or materials such as pearl or ivory, into veneers, the whole being then glued down, or " laid," with the hot caul, the press, or the veneering hammer.
A third subdivision may be attempted here, that of parqueterie, where the inlay as a whole, or in part, is formed by putting together pieces of various woods to form patterns, in much the same way as a parquet floor is laid. The familiar " Nonsuch " chests are examples of this method of inlaying (see Figs. 47 and 48).
For the purpose of appreciating problems which will arise at a later stage, the following account of the methods of the marqueterie cutter may be of service.
The pattern to be inlaid is first prepared and drawn out on paper, which is then ' pricked," that is, the design is perforated with a needle in much the same way as if it were followed by a sewing machine (see Fig. 351 for this operation). The result is the master-pattern or " pricking." If this design be laid flat on a sheet of plain white paper, - paper-hanger's lining paper of light weight is the best, - and "pounced" through, or in other words, dusted over with a small bag of porous linen filled with fine brown or black powder (bitumen powder is nearly always used) a replica of the design will be found on the paper underneath. To prevent the powder from rubbing off in the handling, the pounced sheet is laid on a hot metal plate placed on a charcoal fire or a. gas-stove, and the design burned in. Care must be taken to see that the heat is not too great or the paper will scorch. For the work several of these impressions are taken; the first is pasted on to the veneer background, the others cut up, according to the various coloured woods or material required for the inlay, and pasted on to the pieces selected. Fig. 350, shows a marqueterie pricking or pattern. An alternative method, and one which is usually followed in the case of small panels, especially where the inlay is in the one wood, - seaweed marqueterie of holly or sycamore in walnut, for example, - is to cut both inlay and ground at the one operation. If the saw be kept rigidly at right angles to the work (and with the former running in guides, as it does, and the latter firmly held in the "chops" of the marqueterie-cutter's "donkey," this is comparatively easy) the inlay must fit its ground exactly. The pieces which fall away from the saw are usually preserved, and used as counterpart panels, the effect being, of course, reversed. If the original be one of light wood in dark walnut, then the counterpart will be an inlay of walnut in light wood. It is not exceptional, especially in the instance of long-case clocks, to find one which is the exact counterpart of another, proving that the marqueterie of both must have been cut by the same workman, and at the one operation.
Fig. 351. Pricking The Design.
It is usual to cut veneers, whether for ground or inlay, or both, in layers of four or six at a time, both the outer layers, on each side, - generally of common wood, - being discarded, as the motion of the saw has a tendency to rag the cut on the outer pieces. If only one panel be required, and cut with ground and inlay at the one time, a common wood is used for these outer layers. From this it follows that the labour involved in cutting six panels is the same as with a single one, the extra value of the wood and the time in fitting the marqueterie together being the only additional cost.
The marqueterie cutter sits astride on a narrow bench of chair height, at the end of which is a lateral wooden vice or "chops," placed at a convenient height for working. The " chops " are closed by the action of the foot on a treadle. The bench with its vice is known as a " donkey" (see Fig. 352). Each section of the inlay, in its six layers of veneer secured together with panel-pins or fine nails, is then held in the vice and cut with a fine saw, held in a long frame running laterally in guides. The wood is turned round to the various positions demanded, by opening and closing the " chops "; the saw only makes a horizontal backward and forward motion. The ground is cut in the same manner, care being taken, with a large panel, to prevent breakage. If the design be symmetrical, large panels are usually cut in four quarters at the same operation, the pieces then being joined together (see Fig. 375).
Fig. 352. Cutting Marqueterie. - The use of the " donkey."
Fig. 353. Putting Marqueterie Together.
Fig. 354. Sand-Burning Or Shading.
Both inlay and ground, being cut from identical patterns pounced from the same master " pricking," should fit exactly if the cutting be accurately done, even if ground and inlay be separately cut. When this cutting is finished, the work is fitted together, each piece in its allotted position, and a sheet of paper glued over the outer, or exposed side, to keep the whole in place. The panel is then left to dry thoroughly, usually in a screw-press. (See Fig. 353, which illustrates this putting together of a marqueterie panel.)