Horses, Mules and Donkeys...

Apr 07 2017 0 Comments

For quite a few years I have known what a shaving horse and a spoon mule are used for, but recently I found another member in the family of unplugged tools... “The Chevalet Donkey” for marquetry.

This tool, known as a marquetry donkey, french horse, or chevalet de marquetrie, was invented in 1780. “Chevalet” from the French dictionary means stand, support, trestle or frame. The device allows the craftsman to cut an exacting design in a packet of stacked veneer, creating multiple, identical pieces at once. Twelve or more veneers can be cut at the same time; hence, the technique may be considered one of the earliest forms of mass production.

Since multiple images in decorative veneers can be created at once, the technique lends itself to the fabrication of surface decoration for objects in pairs. 

To have a better appreciation on how it works, please watch the video below. Video quality might not be the best, but is quite easy to follow through.

Click on the picture to watch the video

Patrick Edwards, a traditional furniture conservator, restorer and maker has done a lot of research about the “Chevalet Donkey” and he managed to reproduce the plans so you can make your own. He also makes all the hardware needed to build one.

There are several advantages to using the chevalet. When the packet is held vertical and the blade is horizontal, the dust drops away from the design. Also, the blade is cutting directly in front of the face so it is easy to see and follow the line. The bench provides a comfortable place to rest while working, and the feet easily clamp the packet so the left hand is free to manipulate the work. The right hand simply pushes the saw back and forth, and the saw support keeps it exactly at 90 degrees to the work. There is even a place for the coffee cup and tool tray!!

If you are willing to get yours, you have few options. You can buy the plans and hardware from Patrick via email and sort your order or if you live in the US, you can get yours as a kit as per the picture below from a woodworker named David Clark who lives in Missouri. All contact details are in Patrick’s link. Lots of reading too. I suspect buying the kit and shipping to NZ will cost a small fortune though...

Click on the picture to watch the video

I am sure more than one of you interested in marquetry, would like to replicate this amazing unplugged tool - and if you are not, then at least you've hopefully learned something new.

Santé, Gaston

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