I first saw a chevalet in Sorrento, Italy about ten or eleven years ago. I was very impressed with the machine and the work being done by the master marqueters there but never dreamed that I would ever find myself building one. Well, retirement has it’s ways of taking you places you never thought you’d be going. After a working lifetime of more or less “creative woodworking” who knew I’d be this interested in persuing it in retirement?
Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I became interested in inlays and marquetry. First I built a few pieces of furniture exploring the use of router bushing inlay sets for something more akin to marquetry.
When I realized the limitations of that method I moved on to double bevel marquetry with a scroll saw.
Then I happened once again upon the idea of the chevalet and wondered if it might enable me to attain the fine cuts that seemed to be evading me on the scroll saw. After looking at the few photos and one short video that I was able to find on the internet and reading the few snippets I found here and there I decided to go for it.
How hard could it be?
There is a lot of mystique about old tools like this and it is very easy to think of them as diabolically clever creations that you should not attempt without some sort of plans or specialized training. The fact is that it is a jig that keeps a reciprocating blade in a single plane. It may have taken a great mind to conceive of the wheel, but once it was invented any fool could build one. So I decided to be the fool.
The chevalet can be broken down into two basic and completely separate devices. The first is a heavy, rigid wooden structure that the operator sits on and that supports the working parts of the saw. The second is the moving parts of the saw itself. The dimensions of the first part are more about the worker than the work. I chose to make mine as adjustable as possible to be sure it would fit my body size. Since this was a shot in the dark I chose to go on the cheap and use recycled wood from an old beam that I had lying around.
Here are some photos of the frame structure. This is the tenoned vertical post.
This is the main base piece where your toes go.
This is a dry fit of the basic frame elements.
And this one shows the arm’s first fitting.
Between the operator and the saw is a clamp mechanism to hold the veneer packet while it is cut. It is foot operated and again is not very dimension critical.
The frame part is rounded out by the arm and carriage base (my terms, I don’t know the real names) that support the working parts of the saw.
The big frame parts are about 3 1/2” x 4 1/2” and most parts are dimensioned more to suit your size than anything else. You can see that I left lots of room to raise and lower the arm and filled the space with graduated shims and two very shallow wedges to allow adjustment of as little as 1/8” up or down. Also the design allows for the arm to be shortened or lengthened to accommodate saw frames up to 30” deep.
Next time I’ll get into the trickier second part which is of course the moving saw mechanism.
Thanks for looking in.
Ask all the questions you like, I’m retired.
-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees. http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/