Parquetry Tutorial – The Basic Tool Kit


One of the beauties of parquetry, aside from its, well, beauty, is that it is a decidedly simple process requiring only a few tools to get started.

When we gather for the workshop at The Barn in less than a fortnight each student will need only a few tools, none of them exotic or impossible to find or purchase or even make.

These are not presented in any order of importance.


1. Small back saw

The first tool needed is a small dovetail-type saw, used to cut the already fashioned veneer strips into equilateral parallelograms.  Almost any kind of small back saw that cuts cleanly will do.


2. 30-60-90 triangle

Since this type of parquetry is based on the 60-120 degree equilateral parallelogram, a 30-60-90 triangle is required.  A decent quality plastic one from the big box store works just fine.  Or you could do what I do and just pick them up at yards sales for a quarter apiece.  That does sorta explain why I have a whole drawer full of them…

3. Bevel Gauge

To both prepare the sawing jig and the layout of the veneer panel, a bevel gauge is needed.  In the preparation of the sawing guide it is the fence against which you ride the back saw for establishing the initial kerf.  As long as the blade of the gauge is straight and the locking nut locks, you are good to go.


4. Straightedge/ruler

In order to assemble the parquetry pattern properly you have to establish the greater and lesser axes so you know how to assemble the pieces on the kraft paper backing.  The straight edge makes this an easy task, especially if it is a ruled bar used in concert with the aforementioned triangle.


5. Utility knife

Many times  in the course of a project you need to cut or trim something, so some sort of utility knife is called for.  Equally applicable would be a straight ship carving knife.

6. Cutting gauge

If you are including banded inlay into your composition, a cutting gauge (pictured next to the blue utility knife) is useful for establishing the edges of the channels into which the banding will be glued.


7.  Veneer saw

For finishing the edges edges of the marquetry panel, or establishing the channels for the banded inlay, and marquetry saw is a godsend.  I show three different iterations; on the left is an “English” style, the center one is I believe of German heritage — both of these saws cut on both the push and pull stroke — and the one on the right is Japanese, hence cuts only on the pull stroke.  I have tried but do not yet own the new design from Gramercy Tools, but it is superb.  Since much of my future work will be parquetry, I will order one.

8. Small bench chisel

To clean out the channels for the banded inlay.


9. Toothing plane or analogue

When the parquetry panel is assembled and applied to the substrate, it will be neither flat nor smooth.  A toothing plane will accomplish the former.   I have about ten, but if you don’t have one you can make either a low-tech block toother or a squeegee-style toother, both of which employ hack saw blades.


10. Block plane or similar

Often the parallelogram lozenges need just a touch along an edge to make it fit perfectly, and the sharp block plane is just the tool.  Later on, you will need the block plane to follow the toother in the finishing.


11. Scraper

The final step of smoothing is done with a scraper.  Whether you use a card scraper or a block scraper is immaterial, all that counts is that it be cutting nicely and leaves a perfect surface.


12. Miscellaneous tools

I always like to have a pair of tweezers laying in the vicinity, and a bunch of metal-headed thumb pins, to tack down the banding while the glue set.

That’s pretty much all you need tool-wise to get started.  Next time I’ll talk about making and using the sawing and planing jigs.


If spending a weekend in Virginia’s Little Switzerland making a parquetry panel sounds like fun, drop me a line and sign up for the class.  It is  a week from Friday-Sunday.



Historic Transparent Finishes – The Rough Cut


I recently watched and approved the low resolution rough cut for my soon-to-be-released video, “Historic Transparent Finishes” (or is it “Transparent Historic Finishes?”  I can never remember).  Anyway, David Thiel and Rick Deliantoni of F&W Productions (The Popular Woodworking video folks) did a good job of capturing the action.  If nothing else, we were efficient.  As I recall, we shot about fours hours of video, and the rough cut is just under 3-1/2 hours long.


Here are a few snapshots of the computer screen from the video.


Not too surprisingly to anyone who knows my interests, the video will revolve around shellac finishes and wax finishes, including all the old favorites like polissoirs, brushing shellac, “French” polishing, and such.


The outline for this video, in fact the outline for almost everything finish-related that I do, is “Don’s Six Rules for Perfect Finishing.

I think I might show it to the participants for the upcoming Professional Refinishers Group retreat at the barn in three weeks.

That’s another thing I can check off the list.

Jonathan’s Wit

One of the great things about woodworking is the people you get to befriend, and I say this as someone who is not by natural inclination a “people person.”  As the son of a pastor I became reasonably adept at social interaction, but I am entirely comfortable being alone, perhaps too much so.  So many of our cohort are truly gifted thinkers, seers, and solvers.  Many are even pretty good company!


One terrific fellow and gifted designer and maker who fits this description is Jonathan Szczepanski, who lives and works in the Maryland suburbs of DC.  Jonathan is one of the moving forces behind the SAPFM Chesapeake Chapter, and at yesterday’s meeting he presented Michele and me with these t-shirts of his design.

Untitled-1 copy


If you find them as amusing as I do and want to “Roll with Roubo”, Jonathan has them posted for availability at CafePress.  It has become one of the treasures of my wardrobe, I tell you.  Fortunately, like Jonathan’s Roubo I am a total hipster.


Brevity and Elegance

Roubo was many things, and apparently one of them was a polished wordsmith (or he had a great ghostwriter), although in this instance he cited another author as the source for this expression..

6 14-15-16-17

Consider Roubo’s introduction to the subject of creating moldings for various works, a recitation that would almost certainly resonate with my friends, planemakers Matt Bickford and Tod Herrli.

Moldings are part of the ornaments of architecture (and consequently of woodworking, which makes part of the latter), or better said, they are distinct features, which serve to give to different works a character of richness or of simplicity relative to the different subjects that you are drawing.  One can therefore compare moldings to letters that are used in writing, which by the combination of different characters, form an infinity of words according to the diversity of languages. 

Now that is both brief and elegant!

It will be included in the second chapter in our upcoming To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo on Furniture Making.

Roubo 2 as Baseball


Now that Roubo 2 is winging its way to the desktops of the LAP magicians I wanted to take a minute to reprise our work thus far.  That 5-inch thick stack of folders next to my laptop is the version Chris Schwarz will be working his way through in the coming days.  Yes, it really is that big.

I hope to have a bound version of the submitted draft at the local chapter meetings of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers the next two Saturdays; the Virginia Chapter is meeting at the Leesburg, Virginia, the following Saturday is the Chesapeake Chapter at the Woodworker’s Club in Rockville, Maryland.

Even before Roubo on Marquetry was in the production pipeline in early 2013, we were hard at work on Roubo on Furniture Making.  By May of 2011 we began assembling translated sections, with editing and rewriting as time allowed.  Now we find ourselves on the cusp of the editorial phase, and for an abbreviated peek behind the curtain, here are the innings of labor for a project like this.

1st Inning – Michele creates a transliteration from the original text.

2nd Inning – Don chops up all the Plates into individual figures and plugs them into the transliteration; Don engages in in-depth review, editing, and rewriting of the transliteration to make it comprehensible to a contemporary world

3rd Inning – Philippe and Michele review Don’s edits and returns the sections to Don with copious edit tracking

4th Inning – Don reviews the edits and incorporates them into the manuscript, then forwards it on to external readers

5th Inning – Don and Michele sit together at the dining table and Don reads sections aloud while Michele follows along in the original French.  These sessions, usually four hours because that is all the longer I can read out loud, have been astonishingly helpful in catching typesetting errors, syntax, word choice, and overall literary flow.

6th Inning – Don revises the manuscript sections based on the notes from our read-out-loud sessions combined with any comments from the outside readers, and sends them along to Lost Art Press

7th Inning –  Lost Art Press edits the thing; Don reviews the edits

8th Inning  – Wesley designs the books, Don reviews the galley proofs

9th Inning – the book gets manufatured and distributed

And that is where we are right now only thirty-six short months since beginning in earnest, in the bottom of the sixth.

Go ahead, write a book.  I dare you.


A Banner Day

It’s a big day around here as the first sections of the Roubo 2 manuscript were submitted for editorial review by the magicians at Lost Art Press.  It is worth noting that after reading this material perhaps a dozen times, I still find it engages, educates, and interests me.  This is a work about which we are very pleased.  I think you will be pleased too.


Thanks to things we learned during the creation of the first volume, To Make As Perfectly As Possible: Roubo On Marquetry, our working pattern is fundamentally different from a document traffic flow plan.  This manuscript, while almost twice as long as the first one, is taking less than half the time.

Now we treat each Plate and its accompanying text as a stand-alone document.  So in the end I will not be submitting one big book manuscript; I will instead be submitting 99 documents.  I’ll let Chris and Wesley melt them together into the whole.  Some of these sections are brief – the shortest is two pages – while others are several dozen pages.  On average they are about 10 pages long, so yes indeed, the working manuscript is more than 900 pages long.


I will sit down with Michele next week for our penultimate oral reading session, with the final one probably in a fortnight.  I am also laboring on the essays and photographic enhancements for the book, but as of right now Chris has something to sink his teeth, er, red pen, into.

Watch out Henry O. Studley, I’m coming for you!

Two Parts Roubo, One Part Moxon?

It was more than a week into Spring, and being this Spring the sun rose to reveal an inch of icy snow coating everything the morning we were to visit the incomparable Conner Prairie historic complex, one of the nation’s premier enterprises of historic reenacting and interpretation.   Once the slop was scraped from my truck we were on our way; one advantage was that the bitter cold kept the crowd small and we had the place nearly to ourselves.


One of the highlights was the timber frame barn in the Conner homestead.  The main cross-beam is a gargantuan oak timber more than 12” x 24” x 40 feet long (the historic carpenters there figure the tree trunk was more than eight feet in girth) and the longitudinal mid-rafter beam was an 8×8 perhaps 70 feet long.


I especially enjoyed our time in the carpenter’s shop, where my wife and I were the only visitors.  This allowed for a lengthy conversation with the proprietor about tools, wood, and their lathe.  He showed it to me and allowed me a turn.


It is a magnificent shop-built machine with a 300-pound flywheel that can get away from you fast!  Since I am a head taller than “Mr. McLure” it was very awkward for me, but I could see one of these fitting into the fabric of The Barn.


In the center of the one end was the impressive work bench, which had been built in the shop in years past.  A copy of no specific documented model, it is instead a combination from a historically accurate vocabulary. 


It seems to be about two parts Roubo with one part of Moxon and a dash of Nicholson.  The six-inch-square oak legs are capped by a four-inch slab top, and the fixed deadman is stout as well.  There is no real woodworker in America who would not be delighted to have this beast in their workspace.  I know I would.

If you are going near the Indianapolis area, take a peek.

Roubo Spoof – FABULOUS!

Lee Valley spent a lot of time and energy  to create this April Fools treatment of Roubo on their web catalog.  It is fabulous!  Seriously.

 They even got in a sly crack at Studley.  Bravo!
I am indeed honored.

Parquetry Workshop Day 3

The goal for the weekend, thus the goal for the day itself as the final one, was to allow each student to leave with a fairly complete Roubo parquetry panel.  The pace of the day was then almost by definition a peripatetic of not frenzied one.


After opening the gluing set-ups each student was faced with a glued-down panel with a heavy layer of brown craft paper on the surface.  Gentle work with a dampened sponge or rag combined with scraping with a scraper or knife resulted in a cleaned panel ready for trimming on the edges to allow for fitting of the banding.  The trimming was accomplished with a straightedge and a utility knife or veneer saw.


With strips of the banding glued up on day 2 each panel was fitted with the decorative detail.



One of the delights of traveling and teaching is the opportunity to learn new things.  In this instance, I learned that Utrecht art supplies carries an aluminum-head push pin, a necessary and useful tool for pinning the banding in place while the glue sets.  I’ve been making-do with plastic headed pins, but until now had no success in finding the aluminum head ones.  I left for home greatly pleased with the new information and source.   My great thanks to Ms. S for finding them and bringing some to class, and for letting me buy her stash from her.




Once the students had their banding glued and pinned, while that was setting I took the opportunity to demonstrate flattening the surface of a parquetry panel with a toothing plane, smoothing it with a scraper, and finishing it with molten wax and water-wax.  The students did not get to try all of these methods, but the techniques are simple and the students promised to finish them at home.


Once the banding was set, borders made from strips of the veneers used for making the original lozenges were fitted and glued as a longitudinal border around the perimeter of the panel.


By the end of the day, everyone had their panel in “take home” condition, now equipped with a new technique to apply to new projects.  Several of the students indicated that those new projects are either underway or in the planning stage.


If this workshop interests you, you can sign up for the July 18-20 rendition of the identical project at The Barn, by dropping me a line here.  I look forward to seeing you soon.

Parquetry Workshop Day 2

As is often the case for the second day of a three day workshop, the atmosphere was one of quiet work and little instruction or lecturing.  Since the objective for the day was to get everyone’s parquetry assembled and ready to glue to the plywood base, there was lots,


and lots,



and lots of gluing parallelogram lozenges down to the kraft paper.


As usual, whenever somebody got theirs ready to go they jumped in to help the next person get theirs ready.


In addition, we needed to get the loaves of banding glued up to slice first thing in the morning of the third day.


Finally everything was glued up and we called it a day.