Tuesday, February 21, 2012

American School of French Marquetry

We just finished another class in marquetry here at the school. ASFM has been offering classes since 2000 and we have enjoyed the company of hundreds of students. I find the character of the "typical" student who spends the money to learn French marquetry can be summarized in one word: "unusual." We have, in general, type A students who show up: corporate executives, scientists, airplane pilots, researchers, conservators, artists, craftsmen/craftswomen, and even a retired formula 1 race car driver.

One of the benefits of having regular classes every few months is that we are forced to clean up the shop. I think that, absent the students, the shop would be a real mess. No matter how much we think we are sweeping the floor and taking out the trash, it always gets ahead of us. That is why the classes are like the "open house" period at ecole Boulle. It gives the staff the necessary motivation to stop working and pay attention to the surroundings.

This past week we had a rather unique class, where 3 of the 4 students already owned a chevalet. This is very cool. Almost all the time we are just introducing new students to the special features of this tool, and this time we could jump in the deep end the first day. It was a lot of fun. Of course they still had to do the basic exercises. There is a method to my madness which seems to work with most students.

I stress the process by starting out with a simple exercise and repeat with a slightly more advanced exercise and, after that, another exercise, which illustrates a different feature of the process. By completing three similar exercises in one week, the student has the opportunity to learn the basic process necessary to do Boulle marquetry. That is, select a design, select the woods, build a packet, cut out the elements in a specific sequence, sort the parts properly, build an assembly board, glue the project together, add mastic, glue the marquetry to a surface and (finally) clean off the Kraft paper from the front of the picture.

When we have time, we discuss other topics of interest, like hammer veneering, French polishing, geometric marquetry, protein glues and anything of interest to the student.

I sincerely enjoy sharing this pastime with these students, and I think I learn as much from them as they might from me.

Here is a link to a nice post and video from last week's class.


Chuck said...


Your post brought back many memories for me. The short video is very good and leads to a question. The saw guide bar appears to be at quite an angle to the main frame of the chevalet yet should be perpendicular to the vise jaws. Is the vise canted back a bit or are these old eyes getting tricked again?


W. Patrick Edwards said...


Your comment made me think about discussing this in a new post. Thanks.