Skin of the Sea Dog – Lost Art Press



Is a Sort of Marquetry or inlaid Work; whereby ſeveral thin Slices, or Leaves of fine Woods of different Kinds are applied and faſtened on a Ground of ſome common Wood.

There are two kinds of inlaying; the one which is the more ordinary, goes no farther than the making Compartments of different Woods; the other requires a great deal more Art, and repreſents Flowers, Birds, and the like.

The firſt kind is what we properly call Veneering; the latter is deſcribed under the Article Marquetry.

The Wood intended for Veneering is firſt ſawed out into thin Slices or Leaves, about a Line thick; in order to ſaw them, the Blocks or Planks are placed upright, in a kind of Sawing preſs.

Theſe Slices are afterwards cut into narrow Slips, and faſhioned divers ways, according to the Deſign propoſed: after this the Joints are carefully adjuſted, and the Pieces brought down to their proper Thickneſs, with ſeveral Plans [sic] for the Purpoſe, then they are glued down on a Ground or Block of dry Wood, with good ſtrong Engliſh Glue.

The Pieces being thus jointed and glued, the Work, if ſmall, is put into a Preſs; if large, it is laid on a Bench covered with a Board, and preſs’d down with Poles or Pieces of Wood, one End of which reaches to the Cieling of the room, and the other bears on the Board.

When the Glue is thoroughly dry, they take it out of the Preſs and finiſh it; firſt with little Planes, afterwards with divers Scrapers, ſome of which reſemble Raſps, which take off the Dents, &c. left by the Planes.

When the work has been ſufficiently ſcraped, it is poliſhed with the skin of a Sea-dog, Wax and a Bruſh, and a Poliſher of Shave-graſs: which is the laſt Operation.


or Inlaid Work, is a Work compos’d of ſeveral fine hard Pieces of Wood of different Colours, faſtened in thin Slices on a Ground, and ſometimes inrich’d with other Matters, as Tortoiſe Shell, Ivory, Tin and Braſs.

There is alſo another Kind of Marquetry made of Glaſſes of various Colours, inſtead of Wood; and alſo a third compos’d of nothing but precious Stones and richeſt Marbles; but theſe laſt are rather call’d Moſaic Work.

The Art of Inlaying is very antient, and is ſuppos’d to have paſſed from Aſia to Europe, as one of the Spoils brought from the Eaſtern Conqueſts by the Romans into Italy. It was indeed at the Time but a ſimple Thing, nor did it arrive at any tolerable Perfection before the fifteenth Century in Italy, nor did arrive at its Height till the 17th Century among the French.

The fineſt Works of this Kind were only black and white, which we now call Moreſco’s till John of Verona Contemporary with Raphael; but that Religious who had a Genius for Painting, ſtain’d his Woods with Dyes or boil’d Oils, which penetrated them.

But he went no farther than Repreſentations of Buildings and Perſpectives, which require not any great Variety of Colours.

Thoſe who came after him, not only improved on the Invention of dying the Woods, by a Secret they diſcovered of burning without conſuming them, which ſerv’d exceedingly well for Shadows; but had alſo the Advantage of a Number of fine new Woods, of naturally bright Colours, by the Diſcovery of America.

With thoſe Aſſiſtances the Art is now capable of imitating any Thing; whence it is by ſome call’d the Art of Painting in Wood.

The Ground on which the Pieces are to be arrang’d and glued, is uſually of well dry’d Oak or Fir, and is compos’d of ſeveral Pieces glued together to prevent its warping. The Wood to be us’d in Marquetry, is reduc’d into Leaves of the Thickneſs of a Line, i.e. the twelfth Part of an Inch, is either ſtain’d with ſome Colour, or made Black for Shadow; which ſome perform by putting it into Sand extreamly heated over the Fire; others by ſteeping it in Lime Water, and Sublimate; and other in Oil of Sulfur.

Being thus colour’d, the Contours of the Pieces are form’d according to the Parts of the Deſign they are to repreſent.

The laſt is the most difficult Part of Marquetry, and that which requires the moſt Patience and Attention.

The two chief Inſtruments us’d in this Work, are the Saw and the Vice; the latter to hold the Matters to be form’d, and the other to take off from its Extremes, as Occaſion requires.

The Vice is of Wood, having one of its Chaps fix’d, the other moveable, and is open’d and ſhut by the Foot, by Means of a Cord faſten’d to a Treddle.

The Leaves to be form’d (for there are frequently 3 or 4, or more, of the ſame Kind, form’d together) are after they have been glued on the outermoſt Part of the Design, whoſe Profile they are to follow, put within the Chaps of the Vice; then the Workman preſſing the Treddle, and thus holding faſt the Piece with his Saw, runs over all the Out-Lines of the Design.

By thus joining or forming 3 or 4 Pieces together, not only Time is ſav’d, but alſo the Matter is the better enabled to ſuſtain the Effort of the Saw, which how delicate ſoever it may be, and how ſlightly ſoever the Workman may conduct it, except this Precaution were taken, would be apt to raiſe Splinters, and ruin the Beauty of the Work.

When the Marquetry is to conſist of one ſingle Kind of Wood, or of Tortoise Shell on Copper, or Tin Ground, or Vice versa, they only form 2 Leaves, one on another, i.e. a Leaf of Metal, and a Leaf of Wood or Shell: This is call’d ſawing in Counterparts; for by filling the Vacuities of one of the Leaves, by the Pieces coming out of the other, the Metal may ſerve as a Ground to the Wood, and the Wood to the Metal.

All the Pieces having been thus form’d by the Saw, and mark’d in Order to their being known again, and the Shadow given in the Manner before mentioned, each is vanneer’d or faſten’d in its Place on the common Ground, with the beſt Engliſh Glue.

This being done, the whole is ſet in a Preſs to dry, and planed over and poliſh’d with the Skin of the Sea-Dog, wax and ſhave grave [sic], as in ſimple vaneering.

But withal with this Difference, that in Marquetry, the fine Branches, and ſeveral of the more delicate Parts of the Figures, are touch’d up and finiſh’d with a Graver.

Cabinet Makers, Joiners, &c. work in Marquetry; Stone-Cutters and Enamellers, deal in Moſaic.

The Builder’s Dictionary Or Gentleman and Architect’s Companion – 1734

–Jeff Burks

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