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.