VENEER PRESS
 
'MACHINE A PICQUER' - A PERFORATING MACHINE
   

Perforated printing with a hand held needle was already widely used but the results were naturally very crude. The size and spacing of the holes would vary enormously.

The perforating or pricking machine produced uniform results with the right sized needle, holes of 1/10mm could be produced. These holes were so close together the line appears continuous.

Its purpose is to provide extremely accurate, precise drawings in quantity - using the Classic Process. The needle is carefully guided over every part of the design underneath which is pinned a sheet of Kraft paper.

If a sheet of kraft paper was perforated in this way it could be used to create a dozen or so exact copies by pouncing Judean bitumen through the holes. This powder is set by heat.

Antique perforating machines vaguely resemble a dentist drill. It is even less familiar to woodworkers than the Chevalet de Marqueterie

I have only seen two antique machines come up for auction in the past twenty years. I was fortunate to purchase one, but it was not cheap! The only other option is to look for an alternative method of reproducing the design. The 'machine a picquer' is impossible to find and the modern electronic version is no longer available so you would have to find a precision engineer willing and able to make one for you.


Almost from the beginning I was attracted to working with veneers and the first piece of equipment I bought for my workshop was an interwood Veneer press.

My interest in veneering was to introduce me to my greatest passion marquetry.
   

CHEVALET DE MARQUETERIE - THE DONKEY
   

 

 
This unusual instrument is the secret to the success of the Classic Process. The craftsman sits on a bench that is an integral part of the apparatus. His feet control a foot pedal that opens and closes a vice jaw which holds the packet of veneers in place.

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 perpendicular to the packet of veneers, therefore all the pieces cut from the packet are identical. The cutting hand is in front of the packet, and the packets are held in position by the foot operated vice, leaving the other hand to move the packet freely.

At some stage I was introduced to the Marquetry Cutters Donkey. I was and still am fascinated by this tool, but knew little about it or the techniques involved. On a visit to a specialist antique tool dealers I saw a book on the shelf titled simply 'Marquetry' by Dr. Pierre Ramond - this was to become a bible to me as the book contained plans of the marquetry cutters donkey or 'Chevalet de Marqueterie' as it is more correctly known in France. This was the first and probably the only time that detailed plans of the Chevalet had ever been published. The donkey nables the craftsman to cut veneers extremely accurately.

My marquetry donkey was built from plans taken from Pierre Ramond's book 'Marquetry', so the first thing you need is the ability and understanding to read plans.

The sliding mechanism and blade clamps were purchased from Patrick Edward at the American School of French Marquetry, Sandiego, California.

Traditionally the donkey is constructed from beech, but I decided to make mine from sycamore, with the exception of the ash saw frame, giving it a finish equal to a fine piece of furniture. You also have to make certain that the donkey is the right size to suit your individual physique.

I discovered that this was very much a French tool almost exclusively Parisian and that the techniques of marquetry using the donkey were still being taught in Paris at the exclusive trade school L'Ecole Boulle.