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Fretwork and marquetry, D. Denning

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old book add of scroll saws and saw bench of Britannia companyold book advertisment of fretwork and carving tools

old book commercial of wood panels for fretworkersold book add of wood for carvers and fretworkers

    By D. DENNING.
             (Author of "Polishes and Stains for Woods," &c).
                   L. UPCOTT GILL, 170, STRAND, W.C.


old book add of Keyte tools manufacturer


In the ever-growing attention which is being paid to the cultivation of mechanical and artistic work as a hobby, it seems strange that Marquetry or Inlaying should have received such scant attention. It is, perhaps, because the methods adopted are so little known that this is the case. Fretwork is in itself rather too apt to be considered as a too trivial pursuit to be regarded seriously; but there is no reason why such should be so. Much beautiful decoration can be produced by it alone, while the more artistic and valuable Marquetry cannot be done till proficiency in simple Fretwork has been attained.
The endeavor in the following pages has been to give instructions which will enable the learner to dispense with ocular and oral demonstration, and it is not too much to say that careful attention to the directions will enable any one to acquire the necessary theoretical knowledge. Practical proficiency can, however, only be acquired by experience.
May 30, 1895.


old book add of artistic fretwork, marquetry, carving, painting and poker-work designs


I.—Introductory                                                                                                          1
II.—Necessary Took                                                                                                   4
III.—Useful Tools and Appliances                                                                   15
IV.—Machines for Fretcutters                                                                            22
V.—Home-made Tools and Appliances                                                    31
VI.—Materials                                                                                    39
VII.—Exercises in Sawing with the Hand-frame and
the Machine                                                                                                        50
VIII.—Advanced Exercises for Sawing and Machine
Work                                                                                                                 61
IX. —Cutting Angles and Various Outlines                                   66
X.—Designs for Fretwork, and How to Use Them                         73
XI.—Making up Fretwork Articles                                                87
XII.—"Working in Metals and Xylonite                                                  100
XIII.—Polishing, Staining, and Bleaching -                                 104
XIV.—Inlaying and Marquetry                                                        112
XV.—Plain Inlaying                                                                     115
XVI.—Easy Inlaying with Several Materials                                  123
XVII.—Marquetry Inlaying                                                                127
XVIII.—Making up Inlays and Marquetry                                          133
XIX.—Shading Inlays, Making and Laying Stringings                140 XX.—The Marquetry-cutters' Donkey: How to Make, and
How to Use It                                                                                               149


         CHAPTER  I.
It has been said that " happy is the man who has a hobby," and we feel almost tempted to add " especially if it is a mechanical one." At one time, and that not so very long ago, the man who chose a handicraft as a pastime would have been looked on as an eccentric individual. Now he can indulge his mechanical tastes to his heart's content without exciting more comment than if he applied himself to what are somewhat invidi­ously called the fine arts. To class fretwork among these may seem rank heresy to some of those who regard fine art as of the most limited application.
But is not fretwork entitled to be considered as such, a minor one if you like, but still decidedly an art ? Whether the result is artistic or otherwise depends on circumstances. If there are any readers who object to fretworking being considered as a fine art, they may be reminded that marquetry inlays are but the results of the skilful application of the fretsaw. Those who have not been accustomed to regard this art-craft as worthy of serious con­sideration will do well to visit the Jones' collection of inlaid furni­ture at the South Kensington Museum. In it they will find some of the finest specimens in existence, the work of Roentgen, Oeben, Riesener Boulle, or, as it is often written, Buhl, and other masters of the art.


2                                 FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
From such high-class work as the beautiful marquetry referred to, to ordinary fretwork may appear a wide jump and too remote for them to bear comparison with each other. Practically, how­ever, they are the same thing, so that the maker of a simple fret­work bracket made from an old cigar-box need not despair of being in time able to form the most elaborate inlays.
Perhaps one great charm about fretworking as an amusement is the small cost at which it can be indulged in, as neither the tools nor the materials are expensive. The tools and appliances really necessary need not cost more than a few shillings, while a really excellent outfit embracing everything that can be of advantage in connection with the art may be obtained for a comparatively small sum.
Another attraction which fretworking has for many is the fact that no place specially set apart as a workroom is required. All that is to be done can be done in an ordinary living room without creating an upset. Though, if the fretworker has a room that he can devote to the purposes of a workshop, so much the better, but it is not indispensable.
There is among many people an impression that fretwork articles are of necessity fragile. That many things from the way they are executed are fragile cannot be disputed, but with proper care and forethought, both in the selection of material and in its disposition, there is no reason why this reproach should be a just one. Of course, as fretwork is ornamental in its intention, it would be unreasonable for anything which must be subjected to hard wear and tear to be much embellished with it. Due regard must be paid to the use of the article which is fretted. If this is done, fretwork need not be regarded as a flimsy method of decora­tion.
The objection has been raised to fretwork that " there is nothing in it," that the work is puerile, and so on. Those who say so can hardly be aware of the enormous number and variety of designs which are procurable. Some of them, it is true, are of a simple character to suit beginners, but others require much skill to do them justice. We are no longer confined to a limited choice of a few brackets, glove, handkerchief, and work boxes, and other trifles of a similar character. Designs for objects of both a useful and an ornamental character can now be got in an almost bewildering number, and they are constantly being produced. It is our intention to show as we proceed not only how to do ordinary fretwork, but after this has been thoroughly dealt with


to describe equally fully how the finest marquetry is produced. The tools used, the methods practised, together with every detail which it is essential for either the plain fretcutter or the marquetry-cutter to know, will be found treated in such a manner as is hoped will be intelligible to all, and form a reliable guide to both amateur and professional.


Necessary Tools.
A S was stated in the previous chapter, the tools absolutely required by the fretsawyer are neither numerous nor costly. To get a really full outfit of tools at the beginning is not at all necessary or desirable. Let them rather be purchased as they are wanted, or as it is found that their possession would be of advantage. To get a number of tools before they are required or before they can be used will probably result in the purchaser finding that he has got some things which he finds useless to him, and that, others would have suited his particular requirements better. In a word, he gains experience as he progresses and is thereby able to a great extent to select those tools which seem as though they would suit him best. In­dividual workers may confine themselves to some particular kind of work, or to a limited branch of the fretworker's craft in which some of the tools mentioned will be comparatively useless. For example, it is quite conceivable that some readers may only do the fretcutting themselves and get the fitting together of the parts done for them. They will then naturally have no occasion to use any but fretcutting tools, so that it would be simply waste to provide themselves with others, although these are necessary to anyone who prefers to make up his own work.
We strongly recommend only the purchase of tools of good quality. Inferior ones may cost a little less at the outset, but they are never satisfactory or pleasant to use.. As many tools or contrivances may be made at home by the amateur, we shall devote some space later on to a description of such, with sufficient details to enable those who have some knowledge of woodworking; to make them.



Saw Blades.The saws, or as they are so often called saw-blades, are thin narrow pieces of steel the ordinary length of which is from 4 3/4in. to a little more than 5in. One, the cutting, edge is serrated with the exception of a short space at the ends. The saws are made up and sold in bundles of a dozen. Most of them are of foreign production, but wherever they are made the saws are very much alike both in appearance and quality. In addition to the continental saws there are at least two well-known makes hailing from the United States which have very marked differ­ences from the others. In the European saws the teeth closely resemble those of ordinary saws, except that they have generally very little or no set. This "set," it may be explained, is the technical word signifying the slight sidewards bend which is given to the teeth and is necessary to allow an ordinary saw to pass freely through the wood without binding. Fretsaws being very narrow, the set is not required with them. Whatever the country of their origin, the size of the saw is known by a number. The standards vary slightly among different makers, but to so small an extent that there is for all practical purposes no difference. The numbers run from 000, which are the finest, to 12, the largest used for ordinary purposes. It is seldom that the three finest blades, viz., those known as 000,00, and 0 will be wanted, and the beginner at any rate will have no use for, them. The sizes 1 to 6 are the most useful, though those represented by the higher numbers 7 to 12 may sometimes be used with advantage. Good saws suitable for wood can be obtained for from 2d. to 3d. per dozen, though by purchasing them by the gross a considerable saving is generally effected. The larger-sized blades are rather more expensive and are not always easily met with. Although very much lower priced saws are to be had occasionally, they are mostly defective. Even in the best-known makes a uniform good quality must not be ex­pected, for it is rare to get a dozen blades without some of them being more or less imperfect. Very often it is impossible to detect the imperfect blades without an actual test of their cutting qualities, but a little experience will often enable the user to pick out the faulty ones without taking so much trouble. The sharp­ness of the blade may be fairly judged by drawing the edge between the fingers, so that the points of the teeth catch. Of course this test can only be applied by drawing the saws in their cutting direction. Occasionally it may be noticed that the blade has a twist. Such a saw is seldom of any use, but on this as on many other points experience is the only reliable guide. Sometimes,


owing to defective tempering of the metal or to its having been accidentally filed too deeply between teeth, the blade snaps as soon as an attempt to use it is made. Such a defect is unmistak­able. Other saw blades in which there is apparently no fault are difficult to saw regularly with. They seem to wander from the line from pure "cussedness." Such a blade, however good it may be otherwise, is not worth bothering with. The novice, however, must be very careful about discarding a saw for any supposed eccentri­city of the sort, or he will be throwing all or nearly all his blades. away, for he will find that none of them will keep to the line at first. It would perhaps be better to say that he will not be able to keep them to it, for it will be some time before he can do very accurate work. At first the blade will seem as though it would cut anywhere but just where it ought. In the majority of in­stances let the learner console himself with the reflection that the most expert fretcutter found just the same difficulty with his saw-blades till he acquired skill in using them.
For metal fretsawing a harder blade than that usually employed will be found necessary. These saws are rather more expensive than the ordinary kind, about 4d. per dozen being generally charged for them. The beginner is advised not to attempt cutting metal, or indeed any exceptionally hard material, till he has made considerable progress with something easier to manipulate.
Among American saws the Griffin and Star blades have de­servedly a good reputation. Though not quite alike, there is a considerable resemblance between them and a marked difference from the ordinary saws in the construction of the teeth, which are very wide apart. We do not, however, recommend them for metal work. The saw known as the Hibernia is also popular. There is no difference between them and the Star saws. For all-round work either of the American blades may be safely recom­mended, either with the hand frame or with the machine.
In addition to saws of the ordinary kind, there are at least two fancy makes, which the worker is likely to meet with or to hear about as his experience widens, and about which he may expect some information here. As is very well known, an ordinary saw has only one cutting edge, and can therefore only cut in one direction. If, however, there were teeth on both edges, or what we call the back as well as on the front of a saw, it could be worked to cut either backwards or forwards as occasion might require. This idea has been embodied in the double-edged fretsaw blade. It is not one which we can commend and we have discarded it long ago. The


other out-of-the-way blade is a comparatively recent introduction. It is so arranged that it not only cuts backwards or forwards, but in any direction. It may best be described by comparing it with a piece of wire with teeth projecting in all directions, though it is really a saw of ordinary formation twisted in such a way as to present teeth in each direction. It is just conceivable that such a saw might sometimes be useful, though we have not found it so in our own practice. The difficulty of working it is one objection, it is impossible to cut out sharp corners with it. The slightest deviation in feeding the wood to the blade or a pressure sideways causes the blade to cut where it should not. With an ordinary blade only one edge cuts, and it will be quite as much as the sawyer can do to prevent it cutting unevenly, at least till he has acquired some skill. How much greater, therefore, the difficulty of gliding a blade which cuts equally in all directions 1 We would strongly caution the beginner not to use them as part of his regular outfit, till he is able to work the common blades so freely that he is competent to discern any advantages there may be in the others.
There is yet another kind of saw which we much like, but in the machine only, as it is too coarse for the small hand-frame. Fron this it will be gathered that the blade itself is only suitable for 3omparatively thick or heavy work. It is not one which is recognised as part of the fretworker's regular outfit, to which, however, it may with advantage be added for such sawing as has been indicated. We refer to a piece of an old fine band saw which has been repeatedly sharpened till it is very narrow. As such a piece of saw is not always to be met with, these who think it might come in handy sometimes are advised to watch their opportunity and get it when they can. The beginner need not lay in a large assortment of saws, and the sizes most likely to be useful to him are the medium. If he gets a few of No. 3 or 4 he will have sufficient to make a start with.
Afterwards he will easily be able to know what sizes are the best adapted to any work he may have in hand. At no time will he ever require to have a full assortment of all the sizes that are made. With two or three sizes carefully selected, anything that he is likely to attempt can be accomplished. The gradations in size are extremely minute, so that it is quite impossible to say that because a given number may not suit, that the next to it will do perfectly. There is considerable latitude allowable, and for all practical purposes it is sufficient to classify one's stock of saw-


blades into three lots, viz., large, medium, and small. For general purposes a No, 4 does very well, and it may be taken as the medium. It is generally better to use as large a saw as is con­venient instead of a smaller one, not so much because the large saw cuts quicker, as because it is stronger, and is not so easily broken. As the saw blade has no stability in itself it cannot be regarded as a complete tool without something to hold it rigid. This may be either a hand-frame or machine, one or other of which must form part of the fretsawyer's outfit. As there are many varieties of machines, some of the principal will be found described in a chapter devoted to them alone. The humbler hand-frame will be first described, as it will be well for the learner to be able to use it even if he should do most of his cutting with the aid of a machine.

old fretwork simple hand-frame

Saw Frames.—The hand-frame is indispensable to the fretcutter who must study economy, and we recom-mend even those who ultimately intend to get a machine to practise with the frame till they are fairly expert in using it. Very fair frames may be bought for 1s. each, or even less occasionally, and prices range up to several shillings, according to size and quality. A really excellent frame may be bought for about 3s. 6d. The frames are mostly made of steel, though, on account of their lightness, those made of wood are to be preferred generally. Taking the ordinary steel or iron frame, fig. 1 gives a representation of a cheap form. In it the saw
handle of and old fretwork hand saw
 clamps which hold the blades are fixtures and beyond opening to receive the ends of the blades they cannot be moved. In fig. 2 a superior make of frame is shown. In it
Fig. 1. Simple Hand-frame.
the saw-clamps are movable, so that within reasonable limits they can be made available for broken saws. The chief advantage, however, of having movable jaws or clamps is that they can be


turned to face sideways so that the saw can be made to cut in either direction and not merely forward from the back of the frame. By reason of this adaptability much larger pieces of wood can be operated on with a comparatively small frame to what would be required with fixed jaws.

scroll saw hand saw without blade

 Fig. 3 represents really an excellent form of wooden frame, and is the kind used by professional marquetry-cutters. It is both strong and light, so that it may be used with the minimum of fatigue, and having movable clamps is in this respect equal to the most expensive metal frames.

fretwork hand saw helve

For the benefit of those who prefer to make their own frames, directions will be found later on founded on the model of one we use ourselves. As the size of frames has been
Fig. 2. Useful Hand-frame.
referred to, it may be well to explain that this is reckoned according to the distance between the saw-blade and the back part of the frame. Thus a 12 in. frame will allow of a straigh
 line of that length being sawn from the edge of a piece of wood towards its centre, or by facing the saw sideways a cut of any length at that distance from the edge. A 12in. frame is a very useful size, and anything over 16 inches may be regarded as being rather too cumbersome, especially if it is of metal. The illustrations given may be taken as types of the frames principally used, but there are two others of a distinct variety which may later on with advantage
old scroll saw hand saw
be added to the outfit. One of these is the small frame shown in fig. 4, and known as a jeweller's bow-saw. It will be found very useful
helve of a hand saw for fretworkers
Fig. 3. Wooden-frame.
on account of its small and handy size, when sawing metal, which is seldom fretted in large pieces. It can be adjusted to almost


any extent to take small lengths of broken blades. It is more likely to be met with at the ordinary tool dealers than at the fretwork specialists. The same may be said of the ordinary
jeweller's bow-saw
Fig. 4. Jeweller's Bow-saw.
cabinet-maker's bow-saw shown in fig. 5. This is useful for thicker wood than could be conveniently cut with the ordinary fretsaws The blades used with it are strong and heavy. They are obtainable at any tool shop, and are sold at prices regulated by
cabinet-maker's bow-saw
Fig. 5. Cabinet-maker's Bow-saw.
their length, generally at the rate of about 1d. per inch. As the frames are entirely of wood, they may be classed among those tools which the worker can make for his own use, and a detailed description will be found later on.
Ordinary and Tenon Saws.—For sawing boards into lengths or pieces with straight edges and making up articles of


fretwork generally a small saw of the usual kind will be found very convenient. A tenon saw, as shown in fig. 6, will be found very useful, though it must be observed that this tool is perhaps not in­dispensable although it is alluded to among the necessary articles. Speaking generally, it may be said that the usual tools of the
tenon saw
Fig. 6. Tenon Saw.
cabinet-maker will be found useful at some time or other to the fretcutter who makes up his own work. This is indeed nothing but cabinet-making on a small scale. 'We have, however, not so much concern with these as with the tools which are either absolutely necessary or of special utility to the fretcutter.
Boring Tools.—These cannot be dispensed with. That which finds most favour among fretcutters is the drill, as with it holes can be bored cleanly and without risk of splitting the wood. The
ordinary drill for wood
Fig. 7. Ordinary Drill.
drills or bits are made in various sizes. The ordinary form is shown in fig. 7. Only one or two of them will be required, say one of medium size which will make a hole large enough for any saw to pass through, and a small one to use when the waste wood is not
archimedean drill-stock
Fig. 8. Archimedean Drill-stock.
big enough to allow of a hole being made in it with the large drill without damaging the design to be cut. To use the drill a stock of some sort is required to rotate the drill rapidly. Fig. 8 represents the common or so-called Archimedean drill-stock,


which can be got with two or three drills as low as 6d. Drills worked by these stocks are only cutting during the downward stroke of the small sliding handle. With another form of stock represented in fig. 9 the cutting is continuous.
A common bradawl or a gimlet may be used instead of a drill, but neither of them is so suitable on account of the liability of splitting the wood. There is also the objection that very small holes which are often necessary cannot be made with them. With a bradawl properly used the risk of a split as well as a hole resulting is comparatively small. The tool is such a useful one in making up fretwork that even if a drill is preferred the novice
continuous-cutting drill-stock
Fig. 9. Continuous-cutting Drill-stock.
ought to know how to use it. The directions are very simple. When beginning to bore see that the edge of the blade is across the grain of the wood and not parallel with it. The edge then cuts the fibres of the wood instead of splitting them apart. When boring with the bradawl the hole is not made by con­tinuously turning the tool round, as with a gimlet, but by a slight rotary movement with pressure. The use of the gimlet is so well known and so obvious that no remarks need be made about it.
For the purpose of slightly enlarging holes, as is sometimes necessary, the tool known as a broach is very useful, but it seldom forms part of the fretworker's outfit.
For making round holes, which form a part of many designs, the ordinary brace or stock and bits of the joiner are often better than the saw, i.e., it is easier to bore a large round hole than to cut it.
Cutting-Board.—Although fretsawing may be done with­out it, it is still so useful that it may almost be regarded as indispensable. If it is only to save the table from being accidentally injured with the saw, one should be got, but beyond this it forms a most convenient support to the "wood while being sawn and much reduces the risk of delicate work


being broken. In itself the cutting-board is merely a piece of board of convenient size to support the fret, or at any rate that part of it which is being worked on. In the front of it there is an opening, usually of a V shape, to allow of the saw working in it.
As sold usually it has a wooden screw or cramp to fix it to the table with, as shown in fig. 10. It will be understood that the
cutting-board is only useful with the hand-frame. Those who use a machine will not require it.
Files.—These are for smoothing down rough cuts and getting outlines correct. As skill is acquired the file will be less and less required, till at last its use may be almost if not entirely dispensed with. The files specially prepared for the fretcutter's use are both small and inexpensive. We may, however, caution him not to indulge in careless sawing with the notion that files will put everything right. It ought not to be necessary to " improve " on the work
Fig. 10. Cutting-board.
of the saw by filing each cut. It is often possible to use glass paper with greater advantage and more conveniently than files, though these must be used when the fret is in metal and when sharp inside corners have to be cleaned up. The most convenient way of using glass-paper will be found described later on.
Scraper.—This is a thin flat piece of steel used for the purpose of scraping wood perfectly smooth, and for small work will be found more convenient than the plane for finishing off. The chief difficulty in connection with it is the sharpening, for unless this is done properly the tool is almost useless. The effort should be to get a sharp square edge slightly burred over and not a. rounded one. This is managed by drawing a piece of steel, such as the back of a gouge or a scraper sharpener, along the edge, but those who do not know how to do what is required cannot do better than get a cabinet-maker or joiner to show them, as mere verbal description is hardly sufficient. It is specially useful for hard wood.


Screw-drivers.—One or two of these will be found necessary in making up work, as it does not always answer to depend on glue alone, and screws are often better than nails for fastening pieces together. The screw-driver is seldom needed of large size, indeed, for most fretwork a large-sized bradawl is better or at least quite as effectual and considerably cheaper.
Hammer.—It is not necessary to say more than that one will be required, and that one of small size will be the most convenient.
As has been said, many of the tools required by the cabinet-maker will come in handy to the fretsawyer who makes up his own work, and the most useful of these will be cursorily glanced at in the next chapter.


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