"Art is man added to nature."-Bacon.
Inlaying is an art of great antiquity. The terra may be regarded as equivalent to the Latininterserere,to insert. Inlaying proper consists of cutting out thin pieces of wood, veneer, or other material to correspond with the units of a certain design. These are marked upon the groundwork and cut with chisels and gouges. This leaves cavities into which the prepared units of the design are "insertedor"laid in"the groundwork, being fixed with glue or other adhesive medium. The term"marquetry"is often confused withinlaying,but the two processes are totally distinct. Marquetry comes from the French word"mar-queter,hence marqueterie, and originally meant to spot or mark. The latter term is applied to decorative work where six or more sheets of veneer are temporarily fixed together and cut simultaneously to a design with a special saw and implement called a"donkey". The various pieces are then interchanged from the different layers in order to effect the necessary contrast of colour and are then glued down to a sheet of paper to complete the whole design. A good example of inlaying is shown in the frontispiece at the head of the mirror frame. From this it can clearly be seen that the design must be composed of separate and distinct units. A characteristic example of marquetry from a Dutch cabinet is shown in Fig. 1. A comparison of the two examples shows the fact that with the former process stencil effects are best and in the latter continuous designs of floral and symbolical devices can be executed. The inlaying in the frontispiece is also an excellent object lesson in the handling of material, and the limitations of design imposed by the use of a brittle material. It is an axiom of good inlay design that the various units of an inlayed pattern should be of such a shape as to permit of easy handling during the processes of cutting and shaping previous to glueing in. Obviously this prevents the use of composite parts designed with a too close resemblance to the natural motif, when it is intertwining stems, sharply curved stalks, leaves, etc. This principle will be better understood by reference to the illustration, Fig. 3; here are shown some inlaying designs based upon the wild rose. A certain stiffness of effect is inevitable, but considerable charm can be produced by good grouping and colour harmonies with natural woods. To produce either of the panel centres shown, the design is first prepared on cartridge paper and glued down to the groundwork or panel, see A, Fig. 2. Tracings are then made of each unit, i.e. stems, flowers, and leaves, these being glued down to suitably coloured veneer. In the case of the flowers, one tracing serves for three thicknesses of veneer, and so on with leaves and stalks. These are cut out with a small hand fret-saw [see illustration Ch. xvi, f. 8 (1)], used in conjunction with a small cutting board or a vice as illustrated in Ch. xvi, f. 15. They should be cut"outside the line,that is, so as to leave the pencil mark upon the unit, and the cavities upon the ground are cut with gouges first"inside the line". Each piece should be tried and fitted if necessary before glueing is proceeded with. C in Fig. 2 illustrates the design when the main units of the design have been inlaid. The spots and small diamond shapes are best done with a small square awl hole and chisel, afterwards filled with a coloured composition. Although generally termed inlaying, the examples shown in Fig. 4, are really "overlaid". These are admirable examples from the Bethnal Green Museum, illustrating the possibilities of good decorative work in woods and veneers. Richness of effect is obtained by the careful selection of material, with due regard to colour and the natural markings of the wood. The executive processes attached to work of this type vary from those previously described. The general principle is to first lay a piece of veneer upon the groundwork (this is described under the heading of veneering in another part of this work). The design is glued down to the groundwork and a tracing is taken of each unit, these being glued down to pieces of veneer and cut out with a fretsaw. As in the process of inlaying, each unit should be cut outside the line and the groundwork outline just cut away. The design is commenced at a corner and laid down piece by piece until the whole is completed. Inlaying of yet another kind is shown in Fig. 5. This is a fine example of Persian craftsmanship and a beautiful specimen of design work. In the execution of this and similar work the groundwork was covered with a preparation of mastic-a kind of lacquer-and the prepared units were embedded until the whole box was in-crusted with mother of pearl or ivory. It was then allowed to stand until thoroughly hardened, when it was levelled down, the finished surface having the appearance of inlaid work. The drawback to this process is that the mastic has a tendency to peel away from the groundwork, as can be seen in the photograph. The original coffer is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. There are various interesting references to inlaying in classical literature. Chests mentioned by Homer were ornamented with inlaid work of precious metals and ivory. Vitruvius and Pliny also refer to inlaying, using the word"cerostrata,meaning inlaid with horn and wax. In Book 23 of the"OdysseyUlysses describes to Penelope the bridal bed in the following terms:Beginning from this head post, I wrought at the bedstead till I had finished it, and made it fair with inlaid work of gold and of silver, and of ivory". A Biblical reference to inlaying is found in 1 Kings x. 18: Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with the best gold". There are several other references to this and other arts in the Bible.
Fig. 3.-Various designs for inlaying based upon the"Wild Rose".