Building a Chevy!

Are you wondering if I’ve gotten into building cars? Well, here I have a story to tell, and believe me, it’s the furthest thing from building a car!

About a year and half ago I started a project to help me with my marquetry. I began building a nineteenth- century French tool called a Chevalet de Marqueterie, or chevy, for short!

The word Chevalet is French for easel; Marqueterie is French for marquetry, which means painting with wood; thus a Chevalet de Marqueterie is an “Easel for painting with wood”.

Chevalet de Marqueterie

This tool was really developed for cutting packets of veneer, thus enabling the craftsman to make multiple pictures with one cutting. I got the plans from a book written by Pierre Ramond from France. Fortunately the book had been translated into English! The plans were in the back of the book, quite technical, and all in millimeters!

I also must say that I received some help from friends: here in Texas (Alton Bowman), out on the west coast (Pat Edwards), and even back east (Silas Kopf). All the above- mentioned have at least one or more of these tools; they graciously offered their suggestions, loaned me notes, and allowed me to take photos of their personal tools. So I am ever grateful to each one of them.

The tool is made out of Hard Maple. It has a foot lever that is actuated by your heels, which operates a clamp that holds the veneer while you saw it. It also has a saw frame which rides on two adjustable arms. This allows the saw frame to cut perfectly straight, so you can cut multiple pieces which all turn out the same size.

In one sense, the chevy is a hand- powered horizontal scroll saw. The main difference is that you can actually control the speed of the cut and the pressure because you don’t have any vibration, which allows you to cut very fine pieces. If you were to do this on the scroll saw, you’d risk breaking the wood because of the vibration of the saw blade. The other advantage of this tool is that you can sit with your work right at eye level, so you can see clearly what you are doing.

On my first attempt at using the saw I made some marquetry roses. Here is a picture of some small roses I have been working on for a new piece that I am making. Stay tuned, as I will be writing about the construction of this new piece. The coins in the picture will give you an idea of how small these roses are!

My 9-year-old son is also enjoying using the saw. Actually, he is really getting the hang of it; I might have to hire out my sawing to him!

6 Responses to Building a Chevy!

  1. Luke Townsley November 2, 2011 at 9:33 AM #

    I’m impressed, but still not sure how it works.

    If I understand right, I’m thinking the saw arms are pushed and pulled from side to side manually by the operator much like a frame saw except that the saw frame is on a track to guide it. I can’t tell if the saw is moved while the wood is stationary or vice versa.

    Is there a video out there of this saw?

    • Frank Strazza November 2, 2011 at 2:14 PM #

      Luke, the saw is just how you describe, it rides on the rod and is moved with the hand, back and forth. The advantage, is that it keeps it perfectly straight so that you can cut multiple parts that are identical. Your heels adjust the clamp which holds the piece in place. Your heels are then released to release the clamp tension, enabling you to move the packet in a circle or whatever shape you are trying to cut out. Silas Kopf has a video for sale on his website that has a small section on using the chevalet. I have looked elsewhere online but I have not seen any. I guess I will have to put one out there!

  2. Larry Bevill November 3, 2011 at 6:14 AM #

    I know how excited you must be; both with the chevy and sharing your passion with your son. The roses are beautiful. Looking forward to seeing it next week. A demonstration is in order.

  3. Larry Chandler February 1, 2014 at 9:42 PM #

    Frank, great job as usual.
    I have been doing research to take my woodworking to the next level and had become intrigued by the “Marquetry Chevalet” and the beautiful resulting work of Edward. A further search found me at your Chevy demonstration sight. Now that you are becoming a Marquetry Master or at least Laymen, sounds like a class in the making? Since my commissioned projects have slowed down a bit, I thought the Chevy would be a nice challenge and sit nicely next to the Windsor Chair horse that you taught me to use and enjoy. You most likely also are using the hot sand method of toning the small pieces to accent the perspectives. Keep up the great work and let me know if you decide to have a class or need a helper.

  4. Jim Caton May 16, 2014 at 10:14 PM #

    What beautiful work. And what a fantastic tool. I’m just starting out, and I’ve been wishing I had a scroll saw. But now I know what I’ll be building over the winter–a Chevy! I came to this page after stumbling upon your federal hall table. Your work is a real inspiration to me, so thank you. I’m adding your Woodworking blog to my Favorites, and I look forward to learning a lot from it.
    Best to you.
    Jim in Michigan

    • Frank Strazza July 24, 2014 at 6:53 PM #

      HI Jim, Thanks for the comment! Let me know how the Chevy build goes. I have been a little lax in the blog entries but we are ramping things up now. I hope to have a a lot of good content over time, so stay tuned!