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Fretwork and marquetry, D. Denning

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THE principal material used by the fretcutter is wood, and he should attain skill in cutting this before using others either more difficult to work or more costly. Among the other materials may be mentioned brass, and the softer metals, mother of pearl, vulcanite, xylonite, ivory, etc. Wood is the material for which most of the published designs are prepared. There is ample scope in this one material alone. He can choose wood nearly white, or, if he prefers it, black, for ebony is nearly so if not quite, or he can have wood dyed in a variety of colours. A few of the chief characteristics of the various kinds of timber most commonly used will be useful, as well as a few hints about buying wood, and the way in which it is specially prepared for the fretcutter.
Wood may be bought at the ordinary timber yards, but many of the fancy varieties are not always to be met with in this manner and it is rarely to be got of suitable thickness. Generally the timber merchant does not care to cut a board, so that the purchaser is compelled to take more than he requires. Naturally the prices at the timber yard are less than those quoted by dealers who will cut any size required. To do this means waste, for which the dealer must be recouped. Those who buy in large quantities will find that a considerable saving is to be effected by going to a timber yard for what they want. On the other hand, they will seldom be able to get the wood planed smooth at a timber yard, as it will be rough from the saw. This, however, is not a very serious objection, as if the fretcutter does not care to do this work himself he can get it done for him by any cabinet-maker. When purchas­ing wood it is necessary to be careful to select well-seasoned dry stuff, and if it is got from an open timber yard it is very likely not to be dry, although it may be thoroughly seasoned. Timber should




40                             FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
be kept in a warm dry room for a time before it is used, but on no account should any attempt be made to hasten the drying by placing it too near a fire. If this is done the wood is very apt to shrink, split, or twist. As it is not an easy matter to judge whether wood is seasoned or not, although there are certain signs by which an expert can generally tell, the best plan for the amateur is to deal only with a reliable merchant to whom the selection may be left. Wood specially prepared and sold by dealers in fretwork materials may almost invariably be depended on for being dry and well seasoned.
Boards are not always so flat as they ought to be. When a board is really badly twisted it will seldom be of much use wasting time over it, as it rarely happens that any improvement can be effected except by planing it down, and in the case of thin boards there is not enough stuff to allow of this being done. It often happens that a board has become rounded or convex on the one side and concave on the other. In this case it is often possible to flatten the wood without much trouble. Wood on being damped swells, consequently if wetted on one side that becomes convex and the other correspondingly concave, or to use the more usual workshop term, it is rounded on the one side and hollowed on the other. If the hollowed side be equally damped it will in its turn swell, so that the board again becomes flat, and if both sides are dried equally it will remain so in all probability. In practice it is not a good plan to damp wood more than can be helped, so the hollow side is rarely wetted, but the converse plan of drying the rounded side is adopted. This may be managed by placing it for a short time near the fire, but not too near or it may split or curl the reverse way. It is impossible to give precise directions, as so much depends on circumstances. Occasionally it may even be preferable to swell the hollow side by damping it, and very little moisture is required to effect what is necessary. Where there is plenty of sawdust about it is not an uncommon plan to moisten a few hand-fuls of this and to let it lie on the hollow side of the wood for a few hours. Boards may often be flattened by simply laying them down on a cold floor with the hollow side downwards, or by placing them against a wall. In every case the principle of swelling the hollow side or shrinking the rounded one is the basis on which boards are treated, unless it is necessary to plane them down.
Wood in such quantities as the amateur is likely to require is sold by the square foot, except a few varieties which are generally sold by weight. Wood being sold and quoted for per square foot


MATERIALS.                                        41
may mislead the novice by inducing him to suppose that if he orders a foot or any number of feet he will get a piece one or several feet square. The superficial measurement is taken in calculating the number of feet the board contains, thus a board 2ft. long by 6in. wide is only 1ft., the same as one measuring, 12in. by 12in. When ordering wood, more than the actual quantity apparently required must be got, as it is impossible to work it up without some waste. The amount of this depends on the job, and the cutter will soon learn to estimate it with a sufficient amount of accuracy. If more is got than is required for a special article, the odd pieces which are left over will very likely come in handy for making up some small thing, so unless very small they should not be thrown away.
The wood that is specially prepared for fretworkers is generally in certain definite thicknesses, and these are 1/8, 1/4, and 3/4 in. In addition to solid wood in these thicknesses, what is known as 3-ply wood is also prepared, each board being made up of three veneers with the grain of the middle one in the contrary direc­tion to that of the outsides. From this arrangement the 3-ply boards are less likely to twist or split than when in the natural state. They are also much stronger, and on that account are to be preferred to solid wood for fine, delicate work. The 3-ply is not obtainable in greater thickness than Jin. It is always sold planed and finished, ready for use.
While speaking of the thickness of wood, it is usual to speak of wood by its nominal thickness. This remark hardly applies to specially prepared fretwood, which is often sold at its actual thickness. When wood is got from the ordinary timber yard, the purchaser should be careful to explain whether the thickness he wants is the nominal one or the thickness " down," which means after the wood has been finished smooth by planing " down." The reason for boards not being of their nominal thickness may be explained in a few words. If an inch board, that is, one an inch thick, is divided into four, each piece is nominally Jin. thick. Actually these boards are less, as the saw cuts or kerfs have removed some of the wood in the form of sawdust. The wood being rough from the saw is further reduced in thickness by smoothing.
Wood is also sold in the form of veneers, which are very thin, so that they cannot be used by themselves, but have to be stuck on to a solid foundation or ground. Veneered fretwork is generally used in the form of inlays or overlays, both of which will be


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explained in due course. To the marquetry-cutter they are essential, as all marquetry is done with them. Veneers are prepared in two different ways, known as knife-cut and saw-cut. The former is very thin, though cheaper it is not so suitable for the kind of work under consideration. It is merely mentioned to put the purchaser in a position to know what kind of veneer to get. The ordinary saw-cut veneer is in every way better for working with. The value of most kinds of wood varies according to the choiceness and variety of its figure or markings. Some woods, however, such as holly, depend a great deal more on their purity of colour and absence of figure. These, however, are the exceptions.
Although any kind of wood may be used by the fretcutter, certain of them are more likely to be met with than others, and a short description of the principal will be useful. Only those which can be easily obtained, either from an ordinary timber dealer or from fretwork specialists, are mentioned. Many of them, being used in the construction of ordinary articles of furniture, can be obtained at a cabinet-maker's if there is no timber yard available.
Ash.—Coarse in grain, with large figure, without much variety. Hard and tough. The colour varies from a light yellow to a light brown. The Hungarian variety is very different from the ordinary, being full of figure and of a different colour. It is generally used in the form of veneers and is not a pleasant wood to cut.
Beech.—A fine, close-grained, hard wood, mostly of a light reddish-brown colour, though some of it is nearly white. It is a nice clean-cutting wood, and polishes well either in its own natural colour or stained.
Birch.—A similar wood, but with a much finer figure in the choicer varieties.
Cedar.—The ordinary variety is the material of which cigar boxes are generally made, and may often be confounded by the novice with mahogany, which it to a certain extent resembles. It is coarse in the grain, without much figure, and moderately soft. It must not be mistaken for the fragrant variety known as pencil cedar. This is a very soft silky wood without much figure, close grained, and pleasant to work, but is easily split.


MATERIALS.                                         43
Canary.—This, as generally sold for fret purposes, is a soft American wood often simply called whitewood, but of a yellowish tinge. It is remarkably free from knots and there is practically no figure. It cuts well and easily.
Cherry.—Close grained, hard, light reddish-brown in colour, and very suitable for fine work.
Chestnut.—There are two distinct varieties, one of them being the timber of the Spanish or eating chestnut tree, and the other of the horse-chestnut tree. The former bears a great similarity to oak. It works well and freely. The wood of the horse-chestnut has very little figure, is close and soft, and is of a light colour, much of it being almost white. On this account it is often useful as a substitute for holly.
Ebony.—Ebony wood dyed black is generally used instead of real ebony, which is not a pleasant wood to cut, being very hard and troublesome in other respects. Very little ebony is absolutely black.
Holly.—This wood, as prepared for the fretcutter, is chiefly American, and is of a beautiful creamy white, closely resembling ivory. It is hard and close grained, with little figure. This latter feature along with its colour are the characteristics which render it of value to the fretcutter. White chestnut, or the finer kinds of sycamore, may be used as substitutes. It should not be polished or varnished, as treatment of this kind destroys the purity of its colour. This being so delicate is apt to become dirty when handled during working, but may be restored by rubbing on a little whiting with a soft rag or cloth.
Lime.—Light coloured and in general features resembles holly, but is softer and not so white. American lime tree is often called bass or American whitewood, and under this name can be obtained at many timber yards. It is very clean and free from knots.
Maple.—A light yellowish-brown wood, hard and close grained, without much figure in the plain kind. " Bird's Eye " maple, on the contrary, is distinguished by the richness of its figuring. It owes its name to the peculiar configuration of the small knots which form the centres of the markings. It is generally used in the form of veneers ; it is not a pleasant or easy wood to cut with the fretsaw.


44                          FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
Mahogany.—This wood is too well known to need much des­cription. It is an admirable material for the fretcutter or any worker in wood, as it cuts well and cleanly, is susceptible of a very high degree of finish, and in the choicer sorts is beautifully marked. These, on account of their value, are principally used in veneers. There is probably no wood in which so much variety is found as in this, and there is a corresponding range in the prices charged for it. The plainest and softest is Honduras mahogany, frequently called baywood. Some of it is fairly well figured, but as a rule it is plain and of only a moderate hardness. It is very suitable for general use, either for fretting in the solid, or as a foundation on which to lay the more choicely figured veneers. Spanish mahogany is harder and of better figure. The term " Spanish " is of very wide application, and if some other kind which may not be strictly Spanish is equally as good in figure the exact place of growth is not a matter of importance.
Oak.—Though hard, this is by no means an unpleasant wood to work, and for many articles is to be preferred to any other. There are many varieties. Without detailing these, it may be sufficient to say that American oak as a rule is the plainest, while the better kinds are known as Dantzig, Riga, wainscot, etc. In colour oak in­clines from a, light yellow, almost white, to a dark brown, and is generally distinguished by dealers in fretwork woods simply as light or brown. The finely figured variety, known as pollard oak, is not suitable for using except as veneers. As oak is a wood that can easily be stained to a darker tint than the natural one, like coloured wood it is more useful than the brown. Light oak, being very easily darkened by ammoniacal vapours, should not be kept in a stable or where it is subject to such fumes. This tendency in oak is taken advantage of to darken it by what is called fumigation, a most useful process as the wood is not roughened as it is when a liquid stain is applied.
Olive.—Of a light yellow-brown colour, finely variegated with darker markings, is hard, fine in grain, easily worked, and takes a good polish.
Pine.—Though looked upon as a common wood, there is no reason why it should not be more largely employed than it is by the fretworker, for it is by no means without a beauty of its own, while it is both easy to work and inexpensive. As there are many


MATERIALS.                                        45
varieties of pine, it may be well to say that common spruce which is full of knots is not so suitable as the yellow or red pine, which can often be obtained in nice, straight-grained, clean pieces. If left " in the white " or unpolished it looks very well, and by be­coming darker improves in appearance with age.
Pitch Pine.—Pitch pine is a distinct variety, much harder and more decidedly figured than the ordinary kinds. As it contains a large quantity of resin it is not a pleasant wood to cut.
Rosewood.—Like the last and for the same reasons this is also somewhat difficult to saw, especially as it is hard and close in texture. In colour it varies from a dark red to brown with strongly marked darker figuring. Genuine rosewood is fragrant, but this characteristic is absent in many varieties, almost exactly the same in appearance, which have found their way into the market. If used for its smell the wood should preferably be left unpolished.
Sycamore.—A very clean, nice-working wood, tolerably hard, and varying in colour from almost pure white to a dirty brown tinge. It is close in grain, and when white is an excellent substitute for holly.
Satinwood.—This is a beautiful yellow wood, often finely figured with smooth lustrous markings after the style of choice mahogany, which it resembles except in colour. It has an agreeable odour, and though hard is pleasant to work.
Sequoia or Californian Red Pine.—This is the softest wood known, but it is not altogether a satisfactory one, as it easily splits, so that it is quite unsuitable for fine delicate work. In appearance it is not unlike pencil cedar, but has none of its fragrance. As a substitute for pine it may be used for drawer sides, etc., the backs of cupboards, and inside work generally. Its chief advantages are that it is very straight in the grain and free from knots. Being soft and cheap, it is a good wood for the beginner to practise with.
Walnut.—Black or American walnut is the most suitable for the fretcutter. It is hard but pleasant to work in, being generally free from knots and evenly grained. The beautifully figured variety known as burr or Italian walnut is used only as veneers.


46                             FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
Yew.—Yew is a finely marked, close grained wood, in colour varying from a pale yellowish orange to a reddish tint with dark small markings or knots almost black in colour. It is tough and hard and cuts cleanly.
This list by no means exhausts the kinds of wood that may be used or met with, and it might be almost indefinitely extended by naming those which are of comparative rarity or not so generally used by the fretcutter.
The appearance of polished or varnished wood is different to some extent from what it is when the wood is in the natural or unpolished state. As a rule the depth and richness of the colour is increased. In the absence of a polished piece, the appearance can be judged very closely by wetting the surface of the wood with water. While the gloss caused by this remains it may be compared to polish.
All kinds change in appearance with time, most of them getting darker " as the years roll on." A few of the more brightly coloured ones, such as tulip wood, fade.
In addition to those woods which have been named as generally used in the form of thin veneers, there are many others which are used principally in this state, and a brief enumeration of some of the principal will be useful. As veneers they cannot be used except for inlays or overlays, as they are not thick enough to form anything of by themselves. Both these forms of fretcutting will be treated of in due course, but it may occasionally happen that the cutter wants to do something in a choicer wood than he can obtain in the solid. In this case, the only way is to mount the veneer beforehand on a solid piece of the necessary thickness, and then proceed to cut it as though it were an unveneered piece of board. If the board is veneered on both sides it will be almost impossible, except by the closest examination, to see that it is not cut out of a solid piece. By this means a considerable saving in the cost of material may often be effected, and, as already sug­gested, it is the only way in which some veneers can be vised for plain cut through frets. In order that the edges may not betray the fact of a board having been veneered, it is necessary that the foundation and the veneers should be of the same kind of wood. Thus, if a choice Spanish veneer is being used, let it be mounted on a piece of cheap plain Honduras. The endeavour must be to have the foundation of the same colour as the veneers. If this cannot be managed, the edges must be afterwards stained. As the process of laying veneers is a difficult one without a


MATERIALS.                                       47
good deal of experience, the best way for the amateur to do in such cases is to enlist the services of a cabinet-maker who is con­versant with the work.
The following veneers are among those which are mostly used:
Amboyna.—"Very full of figure, something like burr walnut, only of a rich golden-brown in colour.
Box.—This is a yellow wood without much figure. Very useful for inlaying purposes.
Purple Wood.—The character of this is sufficiently indicated by its name. It has very little figure.
Thuja.—Similar to Amboyna, but darker and more coarsely marked.
Tulip Wood.—This is in rows or stripes of colour in various shades of red and yellow.
In addition to woods which are used only as veneers, the choicer kinds of almost all varieties are to be had in this form.
There are also a large number of whitewood veneers dyed throughout their thickness in almost all colours, and these are much used by marquetry-cutters. They show little or no grain.
Among the miscellaneous things which are used in plain fretcutting, the following are the principal:—
Ivory.—This is seldom used, except in the choicest specimens of work. It is hard, and should not be attempted till a considerable degree of certainty in the use of the saw has been acquired. An excellent substitute will be found named later on.
Mother-of-pearl is another material which is much used in small pieces in marquetry work. Judiciously introduced it has a most pleasing effect, but it is a most unpleasant material to saw. There is no good imitation made.
Tortoise-Shell.—This is a most effective material, but also an expensive one, so that an imitation which is easily procured is generally used instead. The real is unpleasant to saw.
Metal.—This is used principally in the construction of small ornamental parts, such as hinge plates, keyhole escutcheons, and


48                              FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
only as an in- or over-lay. Thin brass and zinc are those most commonly met with, either plain or nickel plated. If preferred, the metal pieces required for any piece of work may first be prepared in the ordinary metal and afterwards nickel plated. If brass is used, it may be polished and prevented from tarnishing by coating it with a lacquer.
Vulcanite.—This is a hard, tough preparation of indiarubber, and may sometimes be used in preference to black veneer. It may be dispensed with in favour of the next material, which is pleasanter to work with.
Xylonite. —This material is one which mayfairly be considered as the most useful, after wood, which the fretcutter or marquetry-cutter can use. It is sometimes erroneously called celluloid. One great advantage which xylonite possesses is the fact that with it almost any material which can be manipulated by the fret sawyer can be imitated with the utmost fidelity. The only exceptions seem to be metals and mother-of-pearl. The imitation of ivory is simply perfect in its resemblance to nature. The same may be said about it as an imitation of tortoise shell, so that whenever it is desired to use either this or ivory, xylonite may be substituted. Among others may be mentioned various kinds of marbles, amber, coral, lapis lazuli, malachite, agate, onyx, etc. It is made in an almost endless variety of plain tints, both opaque and semi-transparent, so that the marquetry-cutter who is well provided with an assortment of xylonite in its various aspects is rendered almost independent of other materials. Not the least important advantage which it possesses for the amateur is the facility with which it can be cut by the saw, for it is absolutely without grain and soft. As it is also tough, the finest work can be done in it much more easily than with veneers, which are apt to split or break.
The ivory imitation is often retailed under the name of ivorine. The success with which marble and stones are imitated in xylonite renders it of peculiar advantage to those who wish to imitate Florentine mosaic inlaying, in which thin sheets of marble are almost entirely the sole materials, and are not very easily cut. It may be interesting to say here that much of the modern ivory (?) inlays that are seen owe their origin to this wonderful material, which apparently bids fair to oust the elephant from his position as sole purveyor of ivory.


MATERIALS.                                         49
Xylonite is manufactured in sheets of any thickness up to about 1in., the variations being reckoned by hundredths of an inch. The gauge most suitable for marquetry work in connection with ordinary veneers is 4/100, or 1/25 of an inch. For plain fretcutting, on account of the expense and the fact that wood may be used for large work, only small articles will be made entirely of xylonite. For these it is well adapted, not only on account of the high degree of finish which may be given to them, but because, the material being tough, such articles are not liable to be broken. From some reason or other this material has been almost neglected by the fretcutter and inlayer, probably because he is not aware of its existence or the facility with which it may be obtained direct from the manufacturers. To the professional marquetry-cutter the ivorine form of xylonite is by no means unknown, but naturally he does not give undue publicity to his knowledge. Except in very thin sheets, so thin as to be almost useless, xylonite is not obtainable through the ordinary dealer, but the manufacturers, The British Xylonite Co., High Street, Homerton, E., will either supply it direct or give the name of the nearest local dealer on application. Although we have spoken thus highly of xylonite, it-must be understood that we do not recommend it to the beginner.
In the course of future chapters the peculiar treatment of xylonite will be more fully explained in connection with its actual working.


Exercises in Sawing with the Hand-frame and the Machine.
THE learner may now begin to use his tools. He may at once try and make something, but any attempt of this kind will not result in anything satisfactory, and the wood may be considered wasted except for the valuable lessons which will have been learned. Perhaps the chief one will be that fretsawing is not so easy as it looks, and that the art must be learned by experience.
Instead of attempting to saw out a design at first, the novice will do well to practise a series of exercises in order to obtain command over his tools and to learn to saw with precision. This preliminary practice may not be interesting, but it will be useful, and is neither so tedious nor so prolonged as would be necessary in almost any other mechanical pursuit. Whether the beginner starts with a piece of real work or adopts the course recommended, there are certain matters upon which it will be necessary for him to be informed, and as far as can be we save him the trouble and waste of time which would be involved were he to experiment on his own account without a guide.
We will first of all suppose that the saw-frame is to be used, and not a machine, though many of the remarks are applicable to both. If the method of using it with facility has been acquired it will not be a difficult matter for the learner to use the machine.
The adjustment of the saw-blade to the frame is the first matter which requires attention ; there are several details which must be understood if the work is to be done efficiently. On examining a saw-blade, its teeth, in common with those of other saws, will be found to be sharpened with the points in one direction.
The cutting of the saw is only effected when the saw is being drawn through the wood so that the sharp points act. Drawn


the other way its cutting powers are almost nil. Thus the direction in which the teeth point is a matter of considerable importance when fixing a blade. The cutting action should be during the downward thrust, therefore the teeth must point in that direction. In a machine consequently there can be no mistake, but with the hand-frame the beginner may ask whether the teeth must point in the direction of the handle or away from it. The answer will depend on whether the handle is to be above the work or below it, whether the sawing is to be done by pulling the blade down, or by pushing it from above. Both methods are practised, and as there are advantages belonging to both, the learner should practise them. In a short time he will probably find that one or other is more convenient for him, either from the position in which he usually works or from the nature of the work in which he is engaged. The pulling is perhaps the action more commonly adopted by amateurs, probably for the simple reason that most of the professed guides to fretcutting mention it only.
With the other more command is kept over the tool. In theory the line that is to be cut is worked to the saw, this being held in one position, as it is in the machine. In practice, however, this is not strictly adhered to, for it is a great convenience to be able to swing the saw frame about—there is greater freedom in working. When actual sawing is commenced the frame can be swung with much greater freedom when the handle is above the woodwork than when it is below. To fix the saw-blade, fasten one end in one of the cramps of the frame, then compress the two arms slightly towards each other and fasten in the other end of the blade. The previous compression of the arms will draw the saw-blade tight, but whether the tension is correct or not must be learned by experience. As the operation of fitting the blade may be an awkward one at first, the learner may be helped by pursuing the following course :—One end of the blade being fastened, place the end of the handle against the chest, and the opposite arm of the frame against the edge of the table or work-bench. The slight pressure requisite can now be easily given, leaving both hands free to fix, adjust, and screw up the other end of the saw, as in fig. 29. Generally it will be found easier to fasten the end of the saw nearest the handle first, but this small detail depends on circum­stances, and the worker must just choose that which he thinks best.
The exact degree of tension for the blade is a difficult one to decide, or to convey an exact idea of to the learner. As it is a
d 2


52                            FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
matter of considerable importance, attention must be paid to it, and a little observation will enable the novice to determine it for himself. The blade should be so tight that it gives a clear ringing sound when sharply released after being fingered like a banjo or violin string. If it is too tight it is very likely to break, so that
suited man fitting blade to saw-frame
Fig. 29. Fitting Blade to Saw-frame.
care must be exercised. If too loose it will be impossible to saw correctly with it. However unsatisfactory these somewhat vague directions on this detail may seem to be, unfortunately nothing more definite can be given. Naturally a fine thin blade will not stand so great a strain as a larger and coarser one, so that the learner should not attempt to use anything finer than the largest


of the sizes already recommended as suitable for this purpose. For preliminary practice they will saw with sufficient cleanness and save much waste from breakages.
The saws and the way to fix them being understood, the learner will be able to use them in cutting wood. It will be useless to go to much expense with the material, as odd pieces will do very well.
man with suit sawing with handle up
Fig. 30. Sawing with Handle Up.
Old cigar boxes, baking-powder boxes, and such like, which are generally made of thin wood, can be got from a tobacconist or grocer for little or nothing, and will answer admirably. All that is necessary is that the wood should not be hard and not more than 1/4in. thick at the most. Even this thickness is not recom­mended at the commencement, and nothing can be better than part of an old cigar box.


54                            FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
Let us assume that the first lesson is to consist of merely cutting-straight lines across. The lines should be drawn with a pencil, or marked distinctly by some other means. It may be thought a simple enough matter to saw across a piece of wood without these guides, but it is a job which an experienced worker would not attempt; and, moreover, as the art of fretcutting consists almost entirely in sawing accurately to given lines, it will be well to accustom one's self to do so from the outset. That the lines are all strictly parallel or even straight is of little importance. Let the lines be ruled across at distances of Jin. or so from each other, and with wood and saw prepared, the beginner is ready for work.
Lay the wood on the cutting-board so that the line near the centre of the piece is over the opening, the cutting-board being fastened to the table, then with the handle of the saw in the right hand, which it may be assumed is to be above the work, so that the sawing is done by a thrusting downwards, place the edge of the saw against the wood, the blade being as nearly perpendicular as possible. In order to steady the motion of the saw, the upper­most part of the frame should be against the worker's forearm and under it, as shown in fig. 30. The motion should be as much as possible from the shoulder, and not from the elbow. The first difficulty will probably be encountered at the first stroke of the saw, which, instead of entering the wood at the exact point where it is intended, will very likely make one or two false cuts, marking the edge of the wood. On this account be careful to make only light short strokes till the line is fairly entered on, when the pressure and length of stroke may be increased as much as is convenient. For obvious reasons, however, the pressure of the blade against the wood can never be great, and very little force should be needed to saw such thin wood as is recommended. The endeavour should be to saw with a regular even stroke at only a slow rate of speed and not with short jerky strokes quickly given. Just as much work will be got through, if not more, and with ease and comfort to the worker, than by proceeding at a quick rate. The saw of course will not cut closely to the line at first, and it may not be out of place here to say that a perfectly straight line is difficult to cut accurately. It may on that account be wondered why it has been named for the first lesson, but it must be re­membered that it is not so much for the purpose of cutting straight as to enable the learner to gain acquaintance with and obtain some command over the saw that it is suggested. To expect the beginner to saw to a straight line at first would be unreasonable


but if he attempts to do so he "will not at any rate be perplexed by having to turn the wood constantly in order to saw to the line, as would be the case if curved outlines were given. When sawing, the blade will give to a small extent either sidewards or backwards without breaking. The bending backwards from the pressure of the edge against the wood is almost unavoidable and in moderation
man with moustache sawing with handle down
,                    Fig. 31. SAWING with Handle Down
cannot be objected to. The bending of the saw sidewards shows that it is being improperly used, and though the fault may not be carried on to such an extent as to break the blade, it is to be objected to. The friction on the blade is increased to an unnecessary extent. Let it be remembered that it is only the front or toothed edge of the saw that cuts, and the less the sides rub against the


56                            FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
wood the better. Side pressure indicated by the bending of the blade means just so much lost energy. The saw-blade should be perpendicular, but to keep it so while sawing will not at first be an easy matter any more than the other requirements which have been mentioned. The cut will be made on the bevel, or on a variety of bevels within a very short space. However useful it may be to saw on the bevel or at a slope with the surface of the wood, it must be done with certainty and not at hap-hazard. In a succeeding exercise it will be found that the objections arising from the cuts being on the bevel will be more easily seen than in the present one. Nothing more need therefore be said at present about the necessity of keeping the sawblade perpendicular. When the learner has managed to saw a little in the way indicated it will afford him useful experience to reverse the position of the blade and saw with the handle downwards. In a short time he will be able to decide which suits him best.
cutting angles
Fig. 32. Cutting Angles.
The handle is grasped as before, but reversed in the right hand, with the frame resting on the forearm, as shown in fig. 31. The actual sawing and the precautions to be observed are as in the former instance. Probably the fretcutter will not be long before he discovers that the action is more constrained in this position than in the other. A good deal depends on the height of the table, on whether the sawyer is sitting or standing to his work, the relative heights of seat and table, and so on, as he will soon discover for himself. If he is standing to the work, the best way is for him to have the handle upwards. If he is sitting he may possibly find the other the most convenient. It may be observed that it will be better to stand than sit, as there is more freedom in working the saw, but those who take to fretwork as a recreation after they are tired with the day's labour may not be inclined to stand, and it should also be added stoop, more than they can help, and would not be able to indulge in fretsawing if they could not sit down to it.
Enough has been said on this point, and it amounts to little more than that it is a trifle more troublesome to saw sitting down


than when standing, but that equally good and accurate work can be done in either position. Experience will be the best guide.
The use of the treadle machine by the novice will be found later on ; as the exercises here recommended will be as good for it as for the frame. When the plain straight lines named can be cut with comparative ease without the saw sticking or breaking, i.e., when it can be got through the wood nicely, the learner may as well try something else, and it will not be long before he can do so.
The next lesson is straight lines also, but involves cutting angles in which the saw-blade is turned at the end of each straight cut. A similar piece of wood to that already used will do as well as anything and should be marked out with zig-zag lines. At first these should have obtuse angles, as A in the diagram, fig. 32, and gradually become more acute till they resemble b. The length of line from point to point is of little consequence. What­ever the length the angles remain. Whether the lines be drawn across the grain of the wood, or with it, does not much matter, in fact, if impatience does not prevent the learner from proceeding slowly, it will be well to practise in both directions. He will not be long before he discovers that there are trifling differences which are more easily felt than described.
The straight cut from the edge of the wood to the angle will be easy enough, but when turning the saw, or rather the wood, to work into the other line, a difficulty will be experienced. If an attempt is made to turn all at once, or by jerking, the chances are greatly in favour of the saw being broken. Instead of doing so, as soon as the angle is reached continue to work the saw up and down without, however, allowing it to cut further forward. Indeed, if anything it should be drawn back a trifle, just enough to ease it off from cutting. While continuing the sawing motion, turn the wood gradually and gently with the blade as a centre pivot, so as to bring the front edge of the saw on to the new line, when the cutting is proceeded with. The action of the saw wears a hole in which it can turn without breaking, and it is desirable this hole should be as small as possible. It is true that in ordinary fretwork the saw can sometimes be turned in the waste wood, so that it does not matter what size the hole is, but it will be better for the learner not to rely on being able to do so, as there are instances where it is not desirable, even if practicable. The wood is turned when cutting an angle, but as a matter of fact the saw-frame is generally moved or swung slightly also to meet the wood. When turning the novice must be careful not to bend the


58                         FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
saw sideways. The saw or the angle is to be the centre of a circle, and the wood turns on it. At first it will not be easy to avoid bending the saw and very likely breaking. After the turning at the angle can be managed, the next difficulty will be to get the saw to strike the line exactly so that the cut can be a perfectly straight one from corner to corner. Practice only will give the power to do this.
Curves may next be cut, and probably no better beginning in this direction can be made than by marking out semicircles or
cutting semicircles with the scroll saw
Fig. 33. Cutting Semicircles.
segments of circles at the edges of the wood, as suggested in fig. 33. As a start the circles should not be of less diameter than that of a penny. As skill is acquired the size of the circles may be diminished and be varied by curves of different formation. The sawing is exactly as described for straight lines. The wood should be fed regularly to the blade, which may also be turned as far as convenient. When cutting a circle, on no account must the cut ever be straight forward. What is wanted is an evenly curved line. This is not so easy a matter as it may seem, and
cutting lines and semicircles with the fretwork saw
Fig. 34. Cutting Lines and Semicircles.
circle sawing is valuable practice, as little irregularities are so easily discernible, far more so than on flowing scrolls or curves.
It will be a good exercise to cut a series of semicircles, as suggested in the diagram, fig. 34, where there are not only the curves, but the turns from one semicircle to the other. These are


managed exactly as in the case of straight lines, but more skill will be required. The lines may be varied by others in which the angles differ, and in which the change from straight lines to curves of different degrees will afford excellent practice.
By the time the various lines indicated have been cut, the learner ought to have acquired a considerable amount of skill in manipulating the saw, and should find no difficulty in cutting any simple piece of fretwork. At this stage the conformation of the lines is of no importance, as the object is gained if the sawing be done to them. In working out designs all sorts of curves and angles are met with, and till the worker can follow any of them with great accuracy he cannot consider himself a proficient.
Simply cutting the wood without lines to saw to does not afford the practice which is desirable.


        Advanced Exercises for Sawing and Machine Work.

  In the preliminary exercises the saw approached the lines from an outside edge of the wood, but in an ordinary fretwork design most of the lines must be got at from the inside, i.e., there are pieces to be cut out.

  As a very simple example, let us suppose that a square, as illus­trated in fig. 35, or some similar figure, has to be cut out. The

cutting out a square with the scroll saw
hole for the saw must be bored within the four lines. In a small square it does not much matter where the hole is, but in a large one it may as well be near the place at which it is intended the sawing on the line will begin, the saw will have to be worked through the wood from the hole to the line of the design, and this cut it is desirable to have short. It would be creating an un­necessary amount of labour to make the hole near the centre of the square, and this remark applies to all pieces, whatever their shape may be.
Fig. 35. Cutting out a Square.
The question is, at which part of the design or line will it be best to commence sawing 1 Practically the choice lies between doing so on a straight line or in an angle, and though it can hardly


be said that there is any definite rule, it will be better for the beginner at any rate to start at one of the corners.
It may be supposed that the hole is drilled somewhere near a in the diagram, and the first thing to be done after drilling it will be to thread the saw through it. Fasten one end of it, as before, in the frame, pass the saw through the hole, and clamp up the other end. In doing so be careful to support the wood so that it does not rest on the blade, which if only thin and fine is apt to be broken otherwise. This precaution is always necessary with a heavy piece of wood, and even with light pieces is advisable. The wood is then placed on the cutting-board as before, and sawn through in the direction of the dotted line till the corner is reached, when the line of the design is to be followed.
As the saw might either be turned in the outer piece of wood or in the piece to be cut away, it may be necessary to say that it should be done in the latter, in order to get a perfectly sharp-cornered square opening.
The only other inside piece of wood which it may be necessary to cut in order to illustrate methods is one in which there is no corner for the saw to start its course on the design. It is well to practise cutting a round or oval piece of wood out. As a matter of fact, it is seldom necessary to cut a round hole with the saw, for it is simpler to do so with a bit of suitable size. It is, however, not everyone who has a joiner's brace and assortment of bits, and it is desirable that the fretworker should be able to saw a circle which is sufficiently accurate.
In this instance, as in the former one, the hole, or, as it is some­times called, the saw gate, must be made with the drill in the waste piece near the line, but not on it. There is, however, no corner or point to start from, so that the saw must meet the line at a place where the slightest defect in cutting beyond it would be detected. Care, therefore, is very necessary. As it is a very difficult matter to turn the saw just when it meets the line, the best way is to turn it a little before and work gradually on to the line, as sug­gested in fig. 36, where the direction of the saw from the hole is indicated by the dotted line. As the saw on the completion of the circle will probably break through the thin wood, the opening will not be perfectly regular on account of the small portion project­ing ; this can easily be filed away. It will be noted that the saw approaches the line very gradually.
Either a square or a round piece should fit in, not only in the same position as it occupied in the wood originally, but in any


62                             FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
other, and the learner may think that unless he can do this there is something defective with his work. Strictly speaking, there is, but he should not be discouraged on this account, as it is by no means easy to cut, say, a circular piece so accurately that it may be turned round easily in the opening from which it is taken.
In connection with these pieces, there is one very important matter which should not be overlooked. The necessity of a
cutting out circle with the fretwork scroll saw
vertical cut will be acknowledged if any piece of fretwork is to look clean and. sharp, and the learner may easily test the accuracy of his work in this respect. If the saw-blade is held so that it cuts on a sideways slant through the wood, the waste piece is larger on one side than the other, and the hole from which it is removed is correspondingly defective. Whether it is so or not can easily be determined by seeing whether the piece will go through easily either upwards or downwards. Let us suppose that the saw slants so that the waste is smaller on the lower side than on the top. It will then
Fig. 36. Cutting out Circle.
be possible to remove the waste by pushing it from below, but if pushed downwards it would not pass through. This slant or cut on the bevel is taken advantage of for simple inlaying, but in plain open fretwork it can in the majority of cases only be regarded as a fault. As absolute precision is not easy of attain­ment, it may be well to note that any divergence from the strictly perpendicular may generally be in the direction of undercutting without disadvantage. In many instances a slight undercutting in this manner may even be of benefit to the appearance of the fret, though the effort should decidedly be to get the edges perfectly perpendicular to the surfaces. Slight defects are not so ob­servable in thin wood as in thick.
So far only simple exercises have been described, and in con­nection with the hand-frame, but there are many typical examples of outlines and corners which will be constantly occurring in practice, and a few suggestions as to the best way of cutting them will be of advantage to the learner. Before proceeding to discuss these, a few remarks on cutting with the machine may be given, the exercises in connection with it being the same as those recommended already for the hand-frame. It must be understood that the


ADVANCED EXERCISES.                         63
action is precisely the same, and the only points of variation are in the peculiar difficulties incidental to each mode of working the blade.
As each machine has special features, the following remarks can only be taken as of general application, but those who attend to them will have no difficulty in adapting them to whichever machine they may prefer.
We may begin with the point last referred to in connection with the hand-frame, viz., perpendicular cuts. Perhaps the best way to arrive at what is desired and give the learner a proper appreciation of the difference between cutting on the bevel and perpendicularly will be to cut first on the bevel in an exaggerated manner. This can easily be managed by fixing the tilting table at a considerable angle. The wood is then sawn from the edge. A cut having been made, the wood is to be turned over and another cut made near the former one. The two cuts instead of
being parallel will diverge from an imaginary centre line to the same extent, as shown in fig. 37, which shows the edge of a piece of wood so treated. Having seen the effects of a cut on the bevel, try and adjust the table for a perfectly true straight cut.
test for verticality of the scroll saw fretwork blade
Fig. 37. Test for Verticality of Blade.
If the table is true, the cuts will be perfectly parallel, or what is the same thing the saw will enter one when the wood is turned upside down.
When putting a blade in the machine, it is generally better to fix the lower end first, as the upper end can be now readily fastened after it has been passed through the hole in the wood. The hole should be as large as it conveniently can be. The smaller the hole the greater the difficulty in putting the blade through.
When sawing, keep the wood with just sufficient pressure against the edge of the blade to allow of proper sawing. If the pressure is too great the saw will very soon be broken. With the idea of pre7enting excessive pressure, or reducing the risk of the saw being broken, some machines have a small roller for the back of the saw to work against, while others have a piece of metal with an angle to act as a guide. The effect is to increase the friction on the saw, and except in theory we cannot admit that they prevent breakage or are of any benefit.


64                            FRETWORK AND MARQUETRY.
In machines with movable arms the side play caused by these working too easily on their pivots is apt to cause irregularity in the sawing. This therefore should be looked to, but if they are fixed too tightly the labour of sawing will be unnecessarily in­creased. Another important matter is to see that the saw-clamps are on the same straight line. If one is fastened so that the saw has its teeth straight to the front while the other one twists the saw to the left or right, the work can hardly be accurate and neat. As the clamps on all machines can be adjusted, care should be taken to make them right if they are not so. If both clamps are fixed so that the saw cuts a little to one side, that is, if instead of the wood being fed directly towards the back of the machine it must be fed slightly to the right or left, as the case may be, no great harm will result, for all the sawyer has to remember is the direction and extent of the " bias ." Speaking generally, the more accurately the clamps are adjusted the better will be the quality of the work which it is possible to do on any machine. These may seem very trivial points to call attention to, and at first the novice may not appreciate the advantages of accuracy. As his skill increases he might wonder how it is that sometimes true sawing cannot be done, and be inclined to blame the machine instead of simply its adjustment. As a rule machines are sent out fairly adjusted, and it may happen that there is no need for any alteration. On the other hand they are not always so accurately fitted as might be, and the purchaser of one will labour under no disadvantage by knowing what to do in case of need. A good way to test the accuracy of the saw stroke is to bore a hole, through which the saw will pass easily, in a piece of wood i and work the machine slowly and without cutting the wood. The relative positions of the blade to the edges of the hole at different parts of the stroke can easily be noted and corrected.
Another point to be noticed is whether the blade, looked at sideways, is perpendicular. This depends on the clamping up each time rather than on the adjustment of the machine, and for most work is not a matter of much consequence ; for fine accurate sawing, however, the saw should be fixed as nearly perpendicular as possible. In case our meaning is not clear, let it be supposed that the lower end of the blade is fixed as near the front of the clamp as possible and the other close to the back of the top clamp. The lower part of the saw will press against the wood, but the pressure or cutting action will diminish as the saw is depressed, till by the time the end of the downward stroke is reached there is a space


ADVANCED EXERCISES.                           65
between the teeth and the wood with which they should be in contact. In practice the contact of the wood against the teeth is more or less maintained by the worker, but the cutting cannot be so regular as it should be. Unless working very slowly, blades will be broken, and a very unpleasant jerking is experienced by the worker. In cutting corners or angles, any irregularity such as that mentioned will be more distinctly detrimental than with straight lines or curves, and, principally in machines which have movable arms, or when working without the presser foot, do not use this to press the wood down to the table. It should allow the wood to pass freely and easily under it, while preventing the wood from being jerked upwards. In its absence the fingers must be used for the same purpose, and if the saw has been properly adjusted and fastened they will have very little to do in this respect.
This bending of the saw sideways is a mistake which the beginner is very apt to make, especially when cutting corners.
When working a machine it is better not to run it at a great rate of speed, in fact it should be worked slowly till considerable skill has been acquired. When corners are being cut it is better to reduce the speed considerably and to " ease off " generally with little or no pressure of the wood against the blade till the wood has been turned.
The position of the operator in regard to the machine and the work is not unimportant. A chair of the ordinary height is rather too low a seat for the sawyer to work without unnecessary fatigue, greater ease is gained by having a higher seat. As a high seat conduces to the comfort of the fretsawyer, so does sitting squarely in front of the blade conduce to accurate cutting. If he sits with his head to one side of the saw the difficulty of closely cutting to a line is increased.
The treadling may be a slight difficulty at first, but it is soon overcome, and nothing much can be done till the action is almost unconscious on the part of the worker. It will be found con­venient to have one foot in advance of the other instead of both side by side with the instep over the axle. The former is the natural and common-sense way, but some sawyers adopt the latter and complain of its inconvenience.