The Ancient Craft of Marquetry

Men like to keep things around, and a lot of the time this is to the annoyance of their wives and they get sent out to the garage. Fortunately however, beautiful wooden chests, accessories or store boxes are can be made that really improve the rooms they are situated in and make these make terrific gifts for many men. One of the most attractive and popular forms of decoration is marquetry.

When it comes to the fine craftsmanship, a dying art in this computerised century, this is one which is right up there. Marquetry is the process of creating intricate patterns or designs by covering a surface with two or more layers of wood veneer. The overall effect can be stunning.

Marquetry in one form or another has existed for over 3000 years, dating back to ancient Egypt. It was also known as intarsia and was done by  gluing precious decorative materials on a flat solid wood base to produce mosaics with cultural and religious themes. The inlay technique of using exotic woods originated in sixteenth-century Florence and Antwerp. In those days marquetry was used mainly to create fine and luxurious furnishings, and only royalty and members of the nobility could afford it. The process was long and expensive, especially the efforts required to divide the expensive hardwood into thin slabs. Following this, the tiles had to be glued and scraped, sanded, waxed and polished. It was only towards the end of that century that the mechanical jig saw was invented, which then made mass production possible.

Craftsmen skilled in the delicate art of marquetry are not easy to find these days. This is a skill that requires not just experience and technical skill, but a lot of patience. To illustrate, for a 10″ by 12″ box with inlay of a country or wildlife scene, up to 50 small pieces of veneer, from up to 15 types of wood such as Poplar, Yellow Pine, Maple and Walnut. It is therefore natural that pieces covered in marquetry are not cheap, but they are so interesting and they make such a strong fashion statement that they are well worth the price.

If you are just starting and want to try your hand at simple inlay work, you need to take only a few steps. Thin veneers are now more easily available, making your task significantly easier. Quite a few easy to follow instructional videos are available online, on YouTube and other websites. Even if your first efforts are not quite good enough to sell, you can take great pleasure in your new relaxing and rewarding hobby.

You can make wooden chests with a wide combination of shelves and space inside. You can get boxes with felt ring holders, brass hooks, necklace holders with built-in bags to protect them and felt-lined divisions for watches or bracelets. Some drawers can also be divided into areas for bracelets, brooches and other jewellery. You can make the inner walls removable to accommodate larger items.

In short, inlaid decorated wooden caskets, valet boxes and accessories give elegance and class to almost any environment and make beautiful and unique gifts that will be cherished for generations, particularly by men who would not anyway want to throw them away!

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