Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Peek Into "A Marquetry Odyssey With Silas Kopf"

Silas Kopf Wednesday I had the good fortune to spend some time with Silas Kopf’s class as they continued on day 3 of their marquetry odyssey. Since it’s kind of hard to describe all the cool things that are going on in that class using just words, I thought I might be able to do it justice if I included some photos to back up those words. Hopefully, this will help appease those of you who couldn’t be here in person. Since the waiting list for this class was extensive, I know that there are a lot of you out there in this predicament. It may not help, but after spending the morning with the class, I can honesty say “I feel your pain”. The morning certainly left me feeling very envious of the lucky 19 folks who made it in…

When I arrived at 7:15am, there was already significant activity in Silas’s benchroom, as a number of students worked on the projects they began on Monday and Tuesday. I quickly got to hear how the first two days had gone. Silas began by introducing the class to the double bevel method for sawing marquetry, using a simple jig (just a tilting platform with a throat to accept a fretsaw blade, see below) and a fretsaw. Later that day, he showed them how to clamp a marquetry panel using cauls and clamps. So lesson number one - it doesn’t take a big investment in scroll saws and vacuum bag systems to pursue the art of marquetry.

Simple Tilting Platform for Hand Sawing Veneers

Next I learned a little about the double bevel cutting technique, something that was entirely new to me. (Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!!!) At this point, I got intensely interested in the technique, and forgot to jot down some notes so let’s see if I’ve got it right. Essentially, by cutting the parts that are meant to be adjacent to one another together, as a stacked packet, and at an angle to the blade, you create two parts with complementary angles at the joint. This means that the first part will “drop in” to the second part. Because the bevels on the two parts complement one another, there’s no discernible saw kerf when you’re finished. However, there is a problem…

This technique was first developed when veneers were MUCH thicker than what we can get today. The thinner the veneer, the more extreme the bevel you have to cut on the adjacent parts. Problem - try and cut a small piece of veneer at a 20 degree angle on your scroll saw and you quickly realize that panel you were envisioning might not be doable. Silas’s answer is to add extra layers of veneer to the packet between the adjacent parts. These extra layers essentially replace the missing veneer thickness and restore your ability to cut at a much gentler angle. Problem solved!

After remembering that I was officially on the time clock, it occurred to me that I’d best move along and check out some of the work that was going on all around me. The first project the class got to work on was a simple vine with leaves motif. Notice the highlight along the edge of the top leaf? It’s details like this that take an ordinary marquetry concept to the next level.

First Project Finished First Project

Next up was the morning demonstration and today’s topic was the use of the veneer saw to cut parquetry to serve as backgrounds or embellishment for your panels. Not only did we discuss sharpening the saw (as right out of the box they are “useless”), we also delved into the technique for proper sawing. Using a a wooden fence, he demonstrated the correct technique. As you draw the saw back along the fence, you use the curve of the saw blade, slowly rolling the saw along that curve, while avoiding the teeth at either end. In this way, Silas was able to cut the strips for a checkerboard background in a matter of minutes. Next he demonstrated cutting stops at angle to create a series of rhombus’ to assemble into what’s known as a Louis Cube. Silas see’s parquetry not so much as an end in itself, but as an ideal background in which to set a marquetry design. And with another technique under their belts, it was time to go back and work on their individual projects.

Silas Sawing Parquetry The Louis Cube

Did I mention they’re all working on individual projects, too?? One of the benefits to a class with Silas is that you get lots of one-on-one time with him. He spends a majority of the class time moving from bench to bench and demonstrates as much to the individual, as he does to the class as a whole. One thing is clear, he’s not holding back anything when he shares his knowledge and experience. Because of this, those projects are quickly taking shape, with some real standouts well on their way to completion. Here are just a few samples of the work that’s going on our front benchroom!

Working Hard at a Floral Arragement A Dragon is Taking Shape The Family Pet

I guess you could say they’re inspired!

Example of Marquetry Lettering




I feel your pain. Every week I find classes that I'd be in if I didn't have a mound of IT work to do for the school. Luckily, I"m going to be sitting in on more demos and reporting back to you all. Now if I can just convince Doug I'm doing "real work"... :-)

Posted by: markwithak on July 24, 2013 at 10:19:00 am

Thanks for the post, I am not sure if you made my pain greater or eased it for having missed the class! I hope to have another chance to study with the master!

Posted by: Frank Strazza on July 24, 2013 at 2:05:00 am

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