Because of my background in furniture and my passion for
antiques and old tools I was naturally drawn to the
traditional methods of saw cutting marquetry and not the
modern methods of knife cutting so widely used by
marquetry societies in the UK.

Sourcing knowledge on traditional saw cut marquetry
was almost impossible. Very little had been written and
most of the information available was either vague or

My earlier attempts at traditional marquetry were with a
fretsaw and jewellers blade, using a V table or birds
mouth. This was the traditional method used in England
and America. My tools were the most basic and the
technique was the simplest. The disadvantage was the
hand moving the saw is beneath the veneers and the
design, while the hand on top has to manipulate the packet
of veneers as well as hold the packet down on the table.
Most importantly you could not guarantee that the saw
blade was perpendicular to the veneers.

Techniques I use

The Classis Process
The final stage in the development of saw cut marquetry
was the introduction of what we now call the Classis
Process or piece by piece.

Developed during the 18th Century this is perhaps the most
complicated method of cutting marquery and the most
sophisticated and is the method that I use most often.
With this method each individual part of the design and the
background is cut seperately.
A marqueter from the 18th century seated
at a donkey, cutting a packet of veneer with
a saw blade held in a fret saw
Veneer is maintained on
the cutting table
Fret saw

The advantage is that it enables an infinite varieties of wood
veneer, bone, horn, ivory, shell, pewter and brass to be
incorporated into the design. Most importantly it enables a
quantity of marquetry panels to be produced at the same

3 finished marquetry panels

Two unique tools are assocated with this technique
......Perforating Machine for reproducing drawings

......Chevalet de Marqueterie (the Donkey) for cutting the
......packets of veneer.

If each piece of the design is to be cut seperately then fitted
together it requires very accurate cutting it also requires
very accur
ate drawings. Any inaccuracy in the drawing
automatically result in an inaccuracy in the cutting.

Machine a Picquer & The Donkey

What is required
First - we need a number of idential drawings.
Secondly - the line must be continuous.
Thirdly - the line must be needle sharp, approximatly
1/10mm. Quite a challenge for the late 18th Century.

The answer was perforated printing and the
Machine a picquer.

To cut marquetry using the Classic Process packets of
veneer should be made up relative to the veneers
suggested by the design. Always the same species in
any one packet.

Cut pieces of veneer elements ready for assembly

Paper elements are cut out using the idential copies that
you have reproduced, ie each individual piece should be
cut out in paper. E
ach paper element is glued onto the
relative veneer packet

We can now proceed to cut out each individual piece at
the Chevelat de Marquetrie. This calls for extremely precise
Remember the design lines are approximately 1/10mm wide,
cut to the outside of the line and try to remove half of that

Cut out paper elements

Once cut these pieces are assembled in trays and are
shaded by placing n hot sand for a few seconds to obtain
a shading effect. The hot sand burns or partially scorches
the veneer.

Pieces of cut out veneer assembled in a tray

A packet of veneers is made up for the bacgrounds and a
copy of the design is glued onto the top of the packet.
This background packet is then cut at the Chevalet.

In this case we cut to the inside of the line and try to
remove half of that line.
The background and the various
pieces are now assembled to complete the design.

That basically is the Classis Process.

...Douglas Bowman — Tel: 01379 854646 / 01379 852083 — e-mail: