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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 7/21/02

A Book Review by Bill Kimbell

Title: Beginning Picture Marquetry

Lawrence Threadgold

Published by: Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.

387 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016-8810
ISBN 1-86108-234-7
Price Softcover: $17.95
128 color pages

I have been involved with marquetry for several years, both on casework and as standalone pictures and have read most of the books published relating to the topic. Very few of them do much in the way of generating either interest or a sense that one could create a picture without outside assistance. Mr. Threadgold has done a fine job of both describing and illustrating the steps involved in the craft. Here is what you can find:

In Chapter 1 he devotes several pages to the history of marquetry, just enough to impart a sense of its past.

Chapter 2 gives the reader an overview of how veneer is cut and some of the resulting appearances of these cuts. He then goes on to describe grain variations, figures, textures and some coloring availabilities. One thing that stands out here is both the quality and size of the photographs. Too often texts contain miniscule illustrations that look like over-copied Xerox's. The photos here (and in the rest of the book) are extremely fine-detailed and large enough to recognize what they are supposed to show.

Chapter 3 begins the actual process of marquetry starting with the tools, equipment and adhesives necessary to complete a picture. Once again the illustrations are well above the "norm" and each item is both named and its purpose described. Mr. Threadgold also provides some nice diagrams so that the reader can build their own press and hand-drill grinder. These are very simple but also very handy items that can be constructed with a minimal skill set and material list. As with all crafts-people, he favors certain tools over others but also provides his reasons for those preferences. All-in-all the chapter provides a well grounded reference for all those tools and supplies that one may require in the next chapters.

The heart of the process begins in chapter 4 with the explanation of cutting marquetry using a knife. Personally I use this technique selectively, it requires a higher degree of skill, is slower (at least for the novice) and requires cutting everything twice. Even with my own bias in mind the author does a very nice job of describing the various knife cutting techniques (with illustrations) and how and when they are used. He provides some very helpful and insightful tips and hints that are usually gained from making many of your own mistakes. The end of the chapter takes the reader through the step-by-step process of creating a knife-cut viola (violet) picture. The detail goes down to the level of the specific knife-cutting technique to use with each piece.

Chapter 5 describes not only the technique of fretsaw cutting but also how to build your own. Once again the diagrams and directions are highly understandable and easy to follow. The author chooses a project that is a little more complicated than the violet but offers a nice project to see how different woods can be used for effect. This chapter could have used a few more illustrations of detail and might have been layed out a little differently. The use of different packets of veneer for different pieces of the picture is somewhat abstract and, personally, can be rather confusing. This is one of those areas where it is beneficial to watch someone with experience, or, be provided with additional diagrams and pictures. The text description resembles the "put tab A in slot C while folding over DFE and pushing side LM." Clear illustration always seems to make this process easier.

Once you have your picture completed it needs to be finished, much like matting a photo prior to framing. Chapter 6 describes the process and provides two different illustrations of the possibilities. Again, the technique is described step by step and provides good illustrations of the process.
It's one thing to copy someone else's work and quite another to develop your own artwork. Mr. Threadgold covers this extremely well in Chapter 7. The subject matter in the last two chapters is rarely covered by other authors much less in such a clear and understandable manner. The author provides some clear illustrations of how to create a potential marquetry picture from a photograph.
The book was well written, illustrated well above its peers and provided a well rounded, single reference source for any one interested in creating a marquetry picture. This would be a great starting point for those people who thought that this craft was much too complicated.

If any one is interested in trying marquetry, have a look at B and B Rare Woods. Dave and Stacy provide a great assortment of marquetry packages and veneers. Dave spent close to 20 years doing marquetry professionally and can answer most any question that you have. They also have plans for a hand saw that you can build yourself ( I have one and love the way it works!)

Bill Kimbell

Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge in exchange for thoughtful, honest reviews. Thank You! And you can usually find their titles at a discount from Barnes And Noble

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