Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chevalet de Marqueterie

Last summer, when I was sailing in Canadian waters, I had the good fortune to meet Paul Miller of Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, BC.

Paul is a retired shipwright. He's built a lot of boats.

For his retirement he built a Friendship Sloop by Jay Benford. It's cold-molded and the inside layer is laid-up to look as though it's carvel-planked. Friendship has all traditional hardware, rigging and furnishings, but a modern underwater design, so she's fast and nimble.
Paul says that he named her Friendship because that's what she's for - making friends.

I was fortunate to spend a quiet afternoon sailing with Paul. He really wanted the wind to pick up and put his boat through it's paces. But I think a boats true nature shows best in very light air. A well tuned boat sails well in a whisper of a breeze. Friendship is indeed, well tuned.

Having said that, here is a quick video of Paul single-handing Friendship on Cowichan Bay, in twenty knots of wind.

Paul is no slacker!

As we sailed, he told me of his current passion for marquetry. I knew very little about this old art but Paul has taught me a great deal. He designed and built his own marquetry horse, of which he is understandably proud.

The marquetry donkey or marquetry horse was known in 18th century France as Chevalet de Marqueterie.

A Chevalet de Marqueterie is a frame which supports a horizontal scrollsaw. The saw can be moved in three directions (up / down, left / right and forward / backward). There is an integrated seat for the marquetarian, who's feet control a pedal that opens and closes a vise jaw holding a packet of wood veneers.

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 perfectly perpendicular to the packet of veneers, thus all pieces cut from the packet are identical. The cutting hand is in front of the packet which is held in position by the foot operated vise, leaving the other hand free to guide the work. The result is accurate to fractions of a millimeter.
How steady is your hand?

By varying the woods used for the veneers, the marquetarian can make several identical images, each with unique color and grain compositions, all from the same packet.

Paul has been prolific in design and execution and wrote to me a few days ago to say he has a new website displaying his marquetry, inlay and cabinetry - prm designs. If you see something there you like, please contact Paul and tell him so.

This is a man who knows how to spend his retirement! His work can also be seen here.

And yet, there's more! Paul offered to make up some deadeyes for Saga, out of some Black Locust left over from the construction of Friendship.

Now, that's a friend for you!

Thank you, Paul.

No comments: