The 18th-century jigs of this French master belong in the contemporary shop.
by Donald C. Williams
I’ve often heard that confession is good for the soul, so let me begin with one here. Especially in my early years of “serious” woodworking, as I attended scores of woodworking club meetings, the “show and tell” segments were invariably dominated by impassioned presentations of sometimes intricate, usually elegant, often overkill jigs to allow their creators to go to almost incredible lengths to enable machines to do some task and avoid actually working wood with their hands, or rather the un-powered tools they were holding. During these rhapsodies I would inevitably roll my eyes almost audibly as I silently consigned these jigs, and probably their makers, to that portion of the cosmos labeled “Not Real Woodworking.”
I was in large part wrong to do so, and I apologize for being both a snob and an ignoramus.
I discovered the absolute necessity of esoteric sawing and planing jigs once I began moving into the world of marquetry and parquetry as recounted by André-Jacob Roubo in his monumental 1760s treatise “l’Art du Menuisier.”
While the breadth of his visual and verbal descriptions is well beyond the scope of this article, if you stick with me to the end you will be well along your way to creating a vast array of parquetry compositions almost effortlessly.
As Roubo tells the tale, the intricate designs he illustrated were the result of trained eyes and hands. But more importantly, precisely fabricated jigs were designed to render exotically skillful handwork almost irrelevant for the craftsman actually fabricating the parquetry pattern.
Blog: Get Roubo desktop wallpaper for your computer.
Website: Read the author’s blog at donsbarn.com.
Video: “Simple Parquetry Techniques,” from which this article was adapted.
To Buy: “To Make as Perfectly as Possible: Roubo on Marquetry.”
In our store: “Creating Historic Furniture Finishes,” by Don Williams, available on DVD and as a video download.
From the October 2017 issue, #234