I give credit to Dr. Pierre Ramond, who was the first to publish plans and explain what this tool did in his ground breaking book, "Marquetry," printed in English by Taunton Press in 1989. Even though there was a French edition of this book published in Europe years before, it was the Taunton Press edition which first hit the American market big time. This edition is now out of print, and the Getty Press reissued the same volume with a new cover and some added photographs in 2000, and that edition is now also out of print. Fortunately, we have the internet and book search engines.
I began making and selling hardware kits and blueprints for a chevalet when I opened my school, the American School of French Marquetry, in that same year, 2000. Many of my students purchased kits and went on to build their own tools, and those tools have encouraged other woodworkers to build their own versions. As this tool gains acceptance in the marquetry world (admittedly a small world), I get calls and emails asking about how the tool works and to explain certain features of the tool or explain some obscure detail of its operation.
The initial problem is that it is usually the case that the builder has never used this tool and won't realize what parts of the build are important until he uses it. I did this on my first tool, which I built in the 1970's. After spending time in ecole Boulle and learning more about it, I modified that first chevalet several times. It had so many changes that, today as it sits in my school, it is named "Frankenstein." (By the way, Frankenstein swings both ways, right and left handed!)
The biggest problem I have in discussing this tool with someone is terminology. What are the parts named? In Pierre's book, the cut list for the plans include generic English translations of the names, which are sometimes confusing. Therefore, I propose to create some terms here for common usage, so that when others ask me I know what they are referring to.
This tool is for right handed workers. The support arm is on the right of the person sitting on the tool. If a person wants to build a left handed tool, the arm is on the left. In both the left hand and right hand tools the vertical adjustment is on the inboard (nearer the worker) and the horizontal adjustment is on the outboard side (away from the worker). The majority of students I have had who were left handed end up cutting fine on a right hand tool. How many left handed violinists do you see?
The saw is attached to the lower rod of this guide and the upper rod has sliding bushings attached to it and swings back and forth on the pointed screws which hold it at each end. On this support cross member I have placed a sample piece of wood which we use to test the accuracy of the alignment. Note the keyhole pieces which have been cut in this wood, proving the adjustment is correct.
You can see the custom metal elements to hold the blade, called blade clamps. These are tempered steel, and the front clamp (where the turned knob is) is fixed in place, while the back clamp (on the left) has a long threaded bolt and wing nut. I designed this back clamp to slide in and out by supplying a brass "U" sleeve. This sleeve is put into the wood saw frame, with a press fit or a bit of epoxy and it allows the clamp to remain in position for using different blade lengths. We use German blades which are 16cm long.
Note the turned knob is only for pressing against the shoulder when tensioning the blade. The worker holds the saw frame near the knob on the flat part of the frame when sawing.