End of 2011 Patrick Edwards and myself found a box sold at Christie’s for €15,000. We really liked the layout of the marquetry even if in detail the marquetry was average. We decided almost immediately to start on in as a spec job.
We kept the overall layout but focused on drawing it at the best level from the period, we had in mind of course the Painting in Wood of André-Charles Boulle. We focused on staying true to the period with one exception, we did not use the painting in wood technique (stack cutting), but the piece by piece technique (classic method). This little transgression alowed us to produce a series of 4, lowering therefore the price of each box, keeping the possibility to customize the inside to the desire or need of the clients.
Patrick chose the woods an laid out the palette. We used sawn veneer as it was used at the period, using an ebony background with 20 some other wood veneer, both natural colors and dyed.
First you need each pieces on paper cut out from the multiple copies of the drawing in order to have them all laid out, then distributed to the 4 layers packs
Once glued on the pack using hot hide glue, the packs are riveted using veneer nails 5harder and harder to find) in order to stabilize the pack and make them real tough to avoid breakage. Then I did cut them using, of course, the chevalet. Best marquetry cutting tool ever in my opinion and i used quiet a variety of devices and machines and always came back to it.
While cutting I keep the pieces on my tray organized by colors, so it is easier to find were they go afterwards.
Then the pieces are gradually put together on a tray as an exploded view of the final picture.
When all the pieces are cut, it is time for shading. Doing a map is always welcome, and it gives me something to do home at night when I am not interested in the program.
The picture is shaded in hot sand. With so many pieces to cut it gives 4 time more pieces to shade. Better be in a zen mode at that time. And why is it always in the summer.
The pieces are put back together in an exploded view, this will help putting together the picture later.
Finished with that step everything is safely stored away.
Time to cut the background. Ebony is really hard on the blade, I used couple dozens there.
Once the background is cut the marquetry picture is put together on an assembly board using hot hide glue.
A little mastic for the couple gasp here and there, and done with the marquetry. In the meantime Patrick was working on the box itself. Hand made joinery, full blind dovetail for the corners. Patrick did a post couple weeks ago on dovetails featuring the full blind one.
The inside of that box is going to be olive, veneer for the side and solid for the compartment.
There is a hidden compartment…
… which is decorated with a “frisage” as well as the inside of the lid.
The outside is veneered using liquid hide glue and scraped. I put some alcohol on it to get a nice picture there.
The interior are finished…
…then the boxes are glued with Old Brown Glue. It is typically french to finish the parts before glueing. As it is often a french polish finish this way you have perfect finish in the corners, and using hide glue cleans up so easily with water.
Time to finish the veneering with the outside banding.
Ebony and Boxwood string inlay and banding are produced.
And glued, again using Old Brown glue as it is super easy to use and is reversible.
Then using Lie-Nielsen Inlay tools, I inlaid the last corner inlay.
Finished with the veneering. Final scraping and sanding before finishing.
Traditional pore filling with pumice. You have to change your web constantly to avoid dragging to much black from the ebony in the lighter pores.
French polish after that.
We did to different inside for that series, a jewel box ebony inside with goat skin parchment bringing a nice contrast.
With 2 removable trays and a antique miror held by an hand plane boxwood and ebonized molding
The most popular was the letterbox with the hidden compartment.
All our work now receive our label Edwards & Lejeune
I received in 2012 Best of Show at the Design in Wood show for the marquetry with that box. Thank you so much for reading this post. A little pick at our next boxes series.