Decorative Wood Inlay
By Zachary Taylor

Review by Mark Gezella September 2003

It's time to take a "virtual" trip. Come with me as we journey across the Atlantic to check out a book that hails from "Jolly Old England"...

This months selection is a slightly diminutive soft-cover that delves into the decorative craft of inlay. It is sectioned into many small chapters and leads off with some background about wood inlay; who applied it and how it was used in furniture and instruments in days gone by. It also references some tools used in early periods. An example is a shoulder knife; a long handled instrument with a knife blade on the far end steadied by support from an artisan's shoulder. It also briefly describes veneer manufacture such as rotary cut veneers peeled straight off the log. It then progresses into methods of inlay; tools, technique, suitable environment, etc. It wraps up with some exquisite examples of finished products; rosettes for instruments, decorated boxes with sunburst patterns (shaded by scorching in hot sand), etc.

The author, Zachary Taylor, has over 30 years of experience in this field that claims a history dating to early Egyptian culture. The Author offers his opinions early as he describes the "Ideal Workshop" in one chapter, but a good portion of the chapter is consumed by a description of his workbench. A good, hearty bench, yet oddly enough gets the focus of the chapter, contrasting with the title. Pictures in the chapter also seem to conflict with his intention, since most are taken outside. Makes you wonder whether he's constantly moving "hither and yon" for lighting? I don't think he ever really explains it. I guess you could assume outside sets are arranged once, then immediately disbanded to return indoors. Sometimes it seems like he wants to show off his garden as much as his bench!

It's also hard to read past the verbiage at times. Words such as prising rather than prying, ticketer rather than burnisher, cramping vs. clamping, plus the usual changes in spelling due to "old world" variations (colour vs. color)
pierce the flow of what would otherwise be a good instructional book...but the pictures are great!

The book illustrates some outstanding examples of inlay ranging from simple boxes to elegant musical instruments. He presents his own work along with those of others he holds in high regard. Mr. Taylor emphasizes precision in his work, coupled with tools that are "scalpel" sharp. He stresses use of the finest tools and materials as the means to accomplish precise detail sought in this type of work. His personal selection includes some highly specialized tools made by Carl Holtey.

Mr. Holtey is one of the most highly respected makers in the world of finely crafted tools. I've seen his work in other publications. They are extremely well made tools, but at a cost prohibitive to most of us woodworkers. The
Author has apparently had a long standing relationship with Mr. Holtey and persuaded him to create some very specialized tools. One is a channel cutter used solely for the purpose of purfling and corner banding. Another is a Norris pattern thumb plane altered to meet his requirements. Pretty impressive stuff!

The back cover identifies Mr. Taylor as a "...luthier, musician, lecturer and author...". He turned to music as both a performer and historian of sorts while still in school. He also builds instruments for performance and research. He is a member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen (presumably a Society in England) and was also magazine editor for a number of years.

The book is published by the Crowood Press. I'm not familiar with this name, consequently there are no additional publications I can suggest. However, if you find decorative inlay or marquetry of interest, I think you may enjoy prising, I mean prying this book open for a quick look! I really liked the pictures throughout. They were all sharp and colorful, with a "newness" that made them seem as if they were just taken.

This book is available for checkout in the Guild library.