Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 4, Issue 5
   May 2010
   A Return to Tradition: the Marquetry Chevalet

  A marquetry chevalet
  A marquetry chevalet.
This tool, known as a marquetry donkey, French horse or chevalet de marquetrie, was fabricated in the Furniture and Decorative Arts Laboratory of the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, Ontario. The device is used for cutting marquetry and is based on a 19th century design of an 18th century tool that originated in France. In the laboratory, the chevalet is used to reproduce damaged or missing marquetry decoration found on historic furniture.

The plans and hardware, including the carriage, blade clamps and blades, were acquired from W. Patrick Edwards' American School of French Marquetry in San Diego, California. The chevalet was constructed of birch, with the addition of ebony wedges in the through tenons and other ebony detailing. Both handwork and machining were used to fabricate the tool. A hard wax/oil finish was applied to the piece.

According to the archives of the Paris guild of cabinetmakers, the chevalet was invented in 1780. The device allows for the craftsman to cut an exacting design in a packet of stacked veneer, creating multiple, identical pieces at once. Twelve or more veneers can be cut at the same time; hence, the technique may be considered one of the earliest forms of mass production.

Since multiple images in decorative veneers can be created at once, the technique lends itself to the fabrication of surface decoration for objects in pairs. Detailed plans for a marqueteer's chevalet originally appeared in Pierre Ramond's classic text, Marquetry, and the device is still in use today at Paris' exclusive trade school, l'École Boulle.
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