A mini-chevalet for marquetry

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Nearly a year ago, I began building a mini-chevalet to cut the marquetry in the table top. Patrick Edwards, French-marquetry method master, provides a great explanation of a chevalet if you’re unfamiliar with this tool.

Essentially, it’s a hand-powered scroll saw mounted on a horizontal rail. Mine is built entirely from scrap 1/2 inch plywood, uses nylon bushings, and fret saw blades. The saw is constrained to move perfectly along this line, with the veneer packet held in a vertical spring-loaded (at least in this version) vise. The advantage to this gizmo is that relatively thick veneer packets can be cut with the guarantee that a piece from one end of the packet will fit into the hole on the other end. We want nice tight joints in marquetry with no gaps between the pieces.

The major differences between this version, and a full-sized chevalet are cutting capacity, and comfort. The full-sized model is a sit-down affair with foot pressure controlling the grip of the vise. It’s also capable of working longer pieces as governed by the length of the saw arms.

This will be my first introduction to this tool. It’ll also serve as a prototype for when I get around to building a full-sized version. However, there are two limiting factors on that last point: materials, and shop space. The first is easy to correct, it just takes money! While the second point is also solved by money, that solution is vastly more expensive.

The design is based off one Don Williams made. I saw pictures of his on the Smithsonian website, and corresponded with him. He graciously provided me with pictures from multiple views. Donna Hill shared more pictures she took at Woodworking in America a few years back. The process has been a great learning experience, and I expect that it will continue to be as I begin using it.

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