|This unusual instrument is the secret to the success
of the Classic Process.
The craftsman sits on a bench that is an integral part
of the apparatus. His feet control a foot pedal that
opens and closes a vice jaw which holds the packet
of veneers in place.
The left hand moves the packet of veneers and the
right hand operates the saw. The saw frame moves
on a horizontal plane and is supported on a carriage
attached to the arm. Most importantly the saw blade is
perpendicular to the packet of veneers, therefore all
the pieces cut from the packet are identical. The cutting
hand is in front of the packet, and the packets are held
in position by the foot operated vice, leaving the other
hand to move the packet freely.
At some stage I was introduced to the Marquetry
Cutters Donkey. I was and still am fascinated by this
tool, but knew little about it or the techniques
involved. On a visit to a specialist antique tool dealers
I saw a book on the shelf titled simply 'Marquetry' by
Dr. Pierre Ramond - this was to become a bible to me
as the book contained plans of the marquetry cutters
donkey or 'Chevalet de Marqueterie' as it is more
correctly known in France. This was the first and
probably the only time that detailed plans of the
Chevalet had ever been published. The donkey
nables the craftsman to cut veneers extremely
My marquetry donkey was built from plans taken from
Pierre Ramond's book 'Marquetry', so the first thing
you need is the ability and understanding to read plans.
The sliding mechanism and blade clamps were
purchased from Patrick Edward at the American School
of French Marquetry, Sandiego, California.
Traditionally the donkey is constructed from beech,
but I decided to make mine from sycamore, with the
exception of the ash saw frame, giving it a finish equal
to a fine piece of furniture. You also have to make
certain that the donkey is the right size to suit your
I discovered that this was very much a French tool
almost exclusively Parisian and that the techniques of
marquetry using the donkey were still being taught in
Paris at the exclusive trade school L'Ecole Boulle.