Giving Woodwork a Decorative Facelift:
Amber Bailey reflects on the benefits of adding decorative metalwork to wood.
Natural glue for metal
Historically, fish glue has been favoured over animal glue for its higher adhesive properties. Sturgeon glue works better than conventional fish glue as it is essentially nature’s superglue. The metal always needs to be ‘toothed’ with an abrasive to allow a stronger grip than the natural smooth surface.
A craft particularly prominent during the 17th century involves veneers of metal (traditionally brass or pewter) and tortoiseshell or horn cut into a decorative pattern using a marquetry done (chevalet), then glued to a wooden base. I decided to try my hand at the Boulle marquetry technique made up purely of brass, pewter and copper. I didn’t anticipate quite how heavy the packet would be (the layers being sawn through are referred to as a ‘packet’).
Working with metal
A fresh idea
A client approached me with the intention of having a brass and red veneer emblem inlaid onto a box, thankfully being your average furniture restorer, I seemed to have stockpiled a number of antique boxes waiting to find a use. The chosen box was made of rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) and dates to the 19th century; it came to my possession in a fairly poor condition with any identification of its prior use long gone. It is largely plain and is likely to have been for jewellery or used as a writing box.
This always builds up a layer of tarnish, which after a little bit of cleaning with ‘0000’ wirewool or metal polish should be dislodged to leave a sparkling surface underneath. If it has been French polished this may need stripping off to bring back the metal brightness, although it will affect the surrounding wood finish.
Antique boxes can be easily picked up at your local antique shop.
For metal sheets and veneer: www.originalmarquetry.co.uk
Visit your local tool retailer and DIY store for all other equipment.