The Black Rooster, My Latest Marquetry Project #1: Cutting Letters in Marquetry

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Blog entry by shipwright posted 01-06-2013 12:42 AM 4961 reads 2 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Black Rooster, My Latest Marquetry Project series Part 2: Sand Shading, Assembly and Some More Cutting. »

I am a lover of travel and of Italy in particular. Toscana is my favorite province and Chianiti my favorite region. When I built my first chevalet, my first attempt at marquetry with it was Il Gallo Nero, the black rooster that is a very old symbol of the region. It is also the logo symbol of the Consorzio Chianti Classico, the co-operative of growers who produce one of my favorite Italian wines. My first attempt may have been a little too ambitious and never actually reached a finished state although I still have the pieces.

Now I have a little more experience and knowledge of marquetry and thought it was time to revisit Il Gallo so here is what I’m working on. This photo is the logo that you will find on the little pink paper seal on the top of every bottle of Chianti Classico produced by the consorzio.

If you checked the blog in the link above you may have noticed that I didn’t try the lettering….. I wasn’t that crazy …............. then. Well now apparently, I am. I decided to start with a practice logo in plain maple veneer, a packet of only two layers, and cut the whole thing Boulle style to get the feel of how hard the lettering was going to be. When all cut I would dye the elements prior to assembly. Here are some photos of that process.

I was happy enough with the process to move on to the better veneers but I decided to cut the letters in classic style in order to get sharper corners on the serifs of the letters. In classic style there is a waste side that you can cut out into to make outside square corners. In Boulle style there is no waste side and you have to make the turn on the spot.

I was going to make four copies so I made some little mid cut checks on squareness of the blade to the packet. An easy check is to take the bottom piece, which in my case is a piece of 1/8” plywood “waster”, and see how it fits in the hole at the top of the packet.

Then you place the piece from the top layer in the hole in the bottom layer. If the fits are the same, you are as square as you can be.

In classic style the letters are cut from a different packet, all holly, from an identical copy of the pattern. The theory is that when you cut the background, you cut away the inside half of the line and when you cut the letters, you cut away the outside half of the line. When assembled, there should be no kerf. ..... not there just yet, but getting better. This is the stuff that Patrick will be covering in stage two at ASFM next month so maybe I’ll improve….. or not.

Here are a few more photos of the first packet being finished up. Other than the letters themselves the rest was cut Boulle style so it included two padauk, two bloodwood, four maple and four dyed black veneers. The letters are 1/2” high.

Here are the letters, complete with a few do-overs, another advantage of classic style. They are backwards because the face side has the paper backing on it and the assemblies are done face down.

These are the chosen letters along with their background “islands” taken from the other packet.

Next time I’ll get into the sand shading and assembly of the pieces.

Thanks for looking in. All comments, critiques and questions are welcome, as always.


-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

23 comments so far

View LeslieC's profile


151 posts in 2096 days

#1 posted 01-06-2013 01:00 AM

Your letters turned out great!

I am a graphic designer and love typography – the subtleties of curves and serifs which form each letter is artwork.

-- There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10097 posts in 4051 days

#2 posted 01-06-2013 01:14 AM

COOL delicate procedure….

I think my fingers would be too big for that stuff…

You sure make it look easy!

Thank you.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 3922 days

#3 posted 01-06-2013 01:20 AM

Paul you are just about a master, both in knowledge of the art and the actual execution. I wish we did not have to cancel our class AGAIN! Debbie is recovering well, a few more months and she should be 100% but may have to use corrective lenses for the double vision only time will tell. Keep up the great work.
I hope to be using my shop in a few months I steel away a few hours now and then to put up the ceiling, its getting there.

View tomd's profile


2155 posts in 3769 days

#4 posted 01-06-2013 01:26 AM

That is spectacular letter cutting. Your getting beautiful results. From now on I’m sending you all my lettering jobs. Seriously, your marquetry just keeps getting better and better. Wonderful work.

-- Tom D

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3159 days

#5 posted 01-06-2013 01:44 AM

You sure do some awesome delicate work Paul. In pic. #9 of the rooster just removed, it looks like about a 3/4” packet. Ist it really that thick? I’m also curious what you use to drill your starting holes for classic without having it show. Drill type? Bit size?

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View gbear's profile


512 posts in 4098 days

#6 posted 01-06-2013 01:54 AM

My fingers aren’t too big but I think my patience may be too small! :o(

-- gbear, Carmichael, CA

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3880 days

#7 posted 01-06-2013 02:28 AM

Wow Paul.
That is exceptional work. It looks great.

It has been six years since we were in Italy. I need to get back. We just love it.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3016 days

#8 posted 01-06-2013 03:31 AM

My wife and I have been to Italy and we loved it there so I know exactly how you feel! You do fantastic work and it blows my mind how detailed your work is!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2796 days

#9 posted 01-06-2013 03:41 AM

Rance, 12 layers of veneer and two 1/8” plywood wasters in the packet so I guess it was about 20/32, more like 5/8”. The holes for classic style can be as big as you like because they are in the waste material but I think you mean Boulle style, where there is no waste. I use a tiny bit from a set of micro bits I have. I think it’s a #27 but I really don’t remember. It’s the smallest one that a 2/0 blade will fit through. It has to be drilled in a drill press because the blade will break when it is tightened if it’s off square in that thick a packet.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View shipwright's profile


7980 posts in 2796 days

#10 posted 01-06-2013 03:53 AM

Steve, this one’s for you. This is a sculpture in Greve in Chianti.
The legend of Il Gallo Nero is here. It’s very interesting in it’s own right.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View Sodabowski's profile


2374 posts in 2831 days

#11 posted 01-06-2013 11:24 AM

WOW WOW WOW is all I have to say Paul :)

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Schwieb's profile


1857 posts in 3460 days

#12 posted 01-06-2013 11:33 AM

Paul, Thanks for the detailed explanation. I wish it was easy to translate that information into results. Your work is fantastic. I’ve not yet been to Italy, but I have been to Germany a couple of times and had a great time.


-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2802 days

#13 posted 01-06-2013 11:43 AM

Your marquetry is so intricate and precise. Carry on Paul.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2855 days

#14 posted 01-06-2013 11:48 AM

Paul the cutting is so fine what a skill you have
plus “patience”

-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3333 days

#15 posted 01-06-2013 01:11 PM

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with that fine lettering work Paul. The level of detail on such a small thin piece is just amazing. I can see the tremendous progress you have made since the first rooster, and in such a short space of time. The whole emblem turned out so great. I also find it encouraging that you use the classic method to do the most difficult part of the work. I hope you made and extra as a gift to the wine company on your next visit to Italy. I’m sure they would greatly appreciate it.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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