Ever since a kid, I've had a thing about woodworking. It started with shop classes in the 7th grade and continued throughout high school and college where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Arts - with the core training being woodworking.
The next 13 years was spent teaching woodworking at the secondary level, followed by several years partnering in a commercial cabinet shop. We liquidated that business in 1982, and I spent the next 27 years pursuing a sales career. After retirement, it was once again back to woodworking, focusing on boxes of all types.
In September of 2015 while attending the WIA conference in Kansas City, I had the privilege of meeting W. Patrick Edwards. Patrick is the founder and principal of The American School of French Marquetry (ASFM) in San Diego. While discussing the subject of Marquetry, Patrick related his attempts to market a chevalet kit. As a result of that discussion, and with much guidance from Patrick, I have started building and selling the kits, which brings us to the reason for this website.
A little historical perspective of the Chevy
During the golden age of Marquetry, one of the tools that evolved for making the masterpieces of the time was the carpenters wooden "donkey" or vise as pictured on the left. It was comprised of a bench with a foot operated vise to hold the marquetry "packet" as the marquetarian cut it with a small fret saw. It evolved over the years; with one of the latter improvements being the addition of a horizontal arm and sliding saw frame as shown on the right. Today we know this tool as the "Chevalet de Marqueterie" or "Easel for Marquetry". Although produced in quantity during the 17th & 18th centuries, the demand has steeply declined with industrialization and cultural changes. Consequently, these tools are no longer commercially produced. Today Marquetarians who wish to use the "traditional" marquetry saw have a limited supply of the original machines, and those that have survived can be in disrepair, or if in good condition can demand a premium. Other options are to either build one for themselves or hire a woodworker to build one for them. Building a "Chevy" is far removed from the delicate art of Marquetry, requiring commercial quality tools, timber working skills, and a substantial investment of one's time. Most artisans would prefer cutting veneers instead of timber; and this is where we come in. We have developed the kit for those who have neither the time, the tools or the inclination to build their own. Our kits are made from choice North American and European hardwoods, and include everything you need to put together a beautiful detailed replica of the originals that were made during the heyday of this remarkable tool.
I'm delighted to offer these unique saws in the spirit of the French phrase found on Patricks bio and blog site: "Ici nous sauvons le passe pour le futur" - "Here we save the past for the future". This tool played an important part in the history of Marquetry, and its modern day presence encourages today's marquetarians to keep the traditional craft alive, preserving and enriching the world of Marquetry.
Here is a photo of our "finished" chevalet. We build either a right handed or left handed model and size each kit for its owner. This tool is modeled after Pierre Ramond's drawings of the chevalet in the 1989 edition of his book "Marquetry" published by Taunton Press, and varies only in minor details of machining and finish.
( this particular photo shows a modified tool with an extended cross arm to accommodate a longer saw frame as requested by the customer ).
Shown here is the wooden part of the kit ready for shipment. All parts are machined, pre-assembled, sanded and packed securely for safe transit. Besides the wooden parts shown here, the hardware kit and assembly manual are included.
The traditional woods recommended by the ASFM are shown below. These woods are sustainable North American hardwoods that inherently possess the characteristics desired for the Chevalet: hardness, workability, strength, tight clear grain and flexibility.
joinery in our chevalet is traditional, involving mortise and tenon, (both through and blind), and dovetails, with tolerances that are carefully machined during construction to insure that each joint goes together snugly insuring a good glue bond.
All major frame members are laminated to eliminate any risk of twisting or warping. and as you can see, all the wood is top grade kiln dried and defect free.
The saw frame is also laminated to provide protection from warping or twisting. The attachment tabs on the saw frame are inserted with a "captured" half dovetail to insure they will never loosen from use.
Titebond II is the glue used to laminate all major frame components, to insure a permanent bond that is all but invisible in most cases.
All edges of the Chevy are eased to avoid slivers and or injury while working around the tool.
All parts are sanded to 150 grit to provide a surface that is finish ready out of the box.
Each Chevy is completely assembled with the hardware that comes with the kit to insure that you get no surprises when you assemble the Chevy. The pre-drilling and pre-assembly assist you in determining proper orientation when assembling.
We have spent considerable time developing an easy to follow illustrated assembly manual; and continue to improve it with feedback from our customers.
Here is the hardware kit originally offered by the ASFM. Early in 2018 We assumed distribution of the kit and it is offered here as part of your complete Chevalet kit, or separately if you wish to build your own Chevy. We have retained the machinist that the ASFM used, and assembled quality parts that consist of some commonly available parts together with the specially machined parts to make your machine operate smoothly and with great precision.
June 16, 2021: Note, I no longer use a through tenon for the rear leg / seat joinery. It is now a blind tenon.