The Craft of Marquetry

Hirjikaka By Hirjikaka, 12th Jul 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Crafts>Embossing

Marquetry is the name given to the craft of making intricate designs or pictures by covering a plain surface with two or more layers of wood veneer. The overall effect is quite dazzling.

Craft of Marquetry

Men like to store stuff; and most of it usually is the despair of their wives and relegated to the garage. Fortunately, decorative wooden chests, accessory or valet boxes are available which actually enhance the appearance of rooms they are kept in and make great gifts for guys. One of the most attractive and elaborate forms of decoration is marquetry.

When it comes to fine craftsmanship - a dying art in this wired century - marquetry is right up there. Marquetry is the name given to the craft of making intricate designs or pictures by covering a plain surface with two or more layers of wood veneer. The overall effect is quite dazzling.

Marquetry in some form has been around for 3000 years, dating back to ancient Egypt. It was also known as inlay and involved the gluing precious and decorative material into or onto a flat solid wooden base to produce mosaics depicting cultural and religious themes. The technique of marquetry using exotic woods originated in 16th century Florence and in Antwerp. In those days, marquetry was used mainly to create fine and luxury furniture; and only by royalty and members of the nobility could afford it. The process was painstaking and expensive, especially the effort required to saw and cut expensive hardwood into thin tiles. Then the tiles had to be glued and scraped, rubbed down, waxed and burnished. It was only towards the end of the 16th century that the jigsaw blade was invented, which made mass production possible.

Craftsmen skilled in the delicate art of marquetry are few and far between these days. It is a skill that requires not only experience and proficiency, but a lot of patience. Consider this: covering a 10” x 12” wooden chest with marquetry depicting a nature or wildlife scene, for example, could require up to 50 individual pieces of veneer, derived from as many as 15 unique wood species like poplar, yellow pine, maple and walnut. It is not surprising then, that objects covered with marquetry are not cheap, but they are so unique and make such a dazzling fashion statement that they are well worth the cost.

If you are beginner and would like to try your hand at simple marquetry, you need to follow a few basic steps. Nowadays thin veneers are more readily available, which makes your job a bit simpler. A number of easy-to-follow instructional videos are available on YouTube and other websites. Even if your initial efforts are not good enough to sell, you will enjoy a relaxing and rewarding hobby.

Wooden chests are available with a varied combination of shelves and compartments inside. You can buy chests with felt ring holders, brass necklace pegs with a built-in elastic pouch to protect pendants and felt-lined rows for watches or bracelets. Some drawers are divided into felt-lined areas for bracelets, brooches and more. The internal partitions are often removable to make room for larger items.

To sum up, marquetry-embellished wooden chests, accessory or valet boxes add elegance and class to any surrounding and make stunningly beautiful and unique gifts that will be treasured for generations.


Craft, Decoration, Marquetry, Woodwork

Meet the author

author avatar Hirjikaka
I am a retired Civil Engineer living in India. Writing used to be a hobby; now it is a passion. I do not write for gain or fame, but because it makes me complete. People fascinate me and I have friends - offline and online - all over the world. I try...(more)

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author avatar chrysolite
13th Jul 2011 (#)

Hi, Hirjikaka! Thank you for this great article! My father used to buy chests and other things that were embellished with marketry and he even tried his hand himself on a couple of pieces and he showed me and my brother how to do it. It is such a fabulous hobby and I agree with you: If only we had time to do such endearing pieces. Maybe once I'm retired, I will start making a few pieces!

Greetings from sunny Spain, love to be your friend!

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author avatar Hirjikaka
13th Jul 2011 (#)

Hi chrysolite! Glad you found it interesting. Marquetry requires a lot of effort and patience, but the final result is sure worth it.
I've been to Spain. man, what a beautiful country. Which part are you at?

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author avatar chrysolite
14th Jul 2011 (#)

We live on a little homestead in a remote valley in the mountains of the Costa Blanca/Valencia, about 40 km from Denia. We've been here for almost 10 years now and love it more and more. Politics don't enter into it! ;)

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