Author Archives: Jack Metcalfe

About Jack Metcalfe

Freelance Marqueteur researching the classic period of marquetry techniques.

Visit to Heinrich Piening’s laboratory 2009

Following Heinrich’s visit to me in Leeds, in 2008, to test for dyestuffs on a selection of Chippendale furniture , he invited me to work with him in his laboratory to recreate the dyes. Schloss Nymphenburg is a vast Baroque palace in Munich, Bavaria, southern Germany, where Heinrich lives with his family, within the complex, and enjoys his work in his extensive laboratory and workshops. My dear and late wife, Gloria and I, rented a delightful apartment in the palace grounds. The arrangement was for me to work with Heinrich, for the first four days, while Gloria explored the palace grounds, finding hidden buildings and gardens, plus surrounding places of interest on the outskirts of Munich. Gloria and I started our married life in Schleswig, northern Germany, in 1959, when I was serving in the Royal Air Force, so Germany and its people hold a special place for us both.  It was June, and like the picture below, blue sky was the order of every day during our visit.


The purpose of the visit, for me, was to revisit the findings made on Heinrich’s visit the previous year. The images below remind us of two of the furniture pieces Heinrich tested. On the right is the Lunar table, made for

heinrich & jack 1jack & heinrich 2

Harewood House 1775, and now in private collection, and on the left, one of a matching pair of pier tables, held in the music room at Harewood.   I wanted to recreate dyed veneers for each colour identified, and Heinrich’s professional experience and creator of the Spectronomy system he used to identify the colours, made him the perfect teacher. This was, for me, a new area of learning and I was excited at the prospect of working under such a knowledgable man in the most well equipped surroundings.


Here we see Heinrich in his laboratory, mixing ingredients to prepare a ‘mordant’ of Alum. Alum (aluminium potassium sulphate) is perhaps the most common of mordants used in the 18th century. A mordant is a mineral compound used to make dyes stick to the veneers. Without such a substance, a dye would simply wash out of the material being used. Other mordants include iron, tin and copper. We began by soaking small sample of veneers, approximately 30mm square. We used small samples, so they would dry quickly, thus allowing us to complete all processes, in the time allowed.  To produce the full range of colours, we used a mixture of holly and maple veneers, so I could see, where applicable, the different colour contrasts produced between the two species.  Veneers were soaked in Alum, seen below in two (inert) glass containers, and left overnight.


The following day, we started mixing each of the dye colours from their respective raw materials, with Heinrich explaining each process as we progressed, and me making copious notes and taking many photographs during each session. The information will be fully documented in my book, “Chippendale’s classic marquetry revealed” explaining about dyes, mordants and moderators, necessary to provide the correct colour tones and maintaining the acidity balanced (pH) of the components under use.


Above left, we see brazil wood chips, taken from the Brazilwood tree, used to dye a red dye, and the result seen on the small veneer sample. Similar processes were carried out, providing me with the necessary background information and subject matter. The processes we produced included the following colours and dyes, red – madder, brazilwood and cochineal;  yellow – berberis, wig tree, weld, fustic and curcuma; purple – campeachy; blue – indigo; orange – kamala; and green – indigo, sulphuric acid, and berberis.  Each of these dyestuffs were identified on Chippendales marquetry, when Heinrich’s analysis was carried on a range of his furniture, in the previous year when he visited me in Leeds, Yorkshire.

During the penultimate day I was invited to give a short talk to Heinrich’s conservation staff , which, at first I thought would be problem with interpretation. To my rescue came a English intern, Joe, (sorry cannot remember her surname) studying under Heinrich, who had excellent knowledge of German. She took my picture slides and accompanied notes from me, and overnight, produced translations of the notes into German. These were handed out to delegates. The picture below shows me during my presentation of Thomas Chippendale classic marquetry work.  It was quite a contrast to the Röntgen marquetry the delegates had grown up with, and the comparative techniques created good discussion. Heinrich had, earlier that week, taken Gloria and I to the Munich Museum to see some of Röntgen’s marquetry furniture.

Lecture at Nymphenburg HR


Following the four days, Gloria and I explored Bavaria by train and coach visiting many castles and houses, which Heinrich maintained as a conservator. The highlight being Neuschwanstein Castle, a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds.






The visit lasted ten days in total, and we came home with a great sense of fulfilment and gratitude, and finding a talented scientist, conservator and a lifelong friend.













Marquetry Symposium Vadstena, Sweden 2007

Marquetry – Past and Present
2nd Scandinavian Symposium on Furniture Technology & Design
Vadstena, Sweden
May 10-12, 2007

The Marquetry Symposium in Vadstena was the second international conference hosted by Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design at Linköping University.  it followed the Upholstery Symposium held in 2005.

The conference was chaired by Ulf Brumme, Chairman of the organising committee.

The aims of the conference are given below, in unedited text.

Since ancient times marquetry has been used to decorate furniture and interiors. Starting with basic but intricate geometric patterns in the Middle Ages, the art of marquetry had its peak in the late 18th century when craftsmen like Riesner, Roentgen and Haupt produced highly elaborate and artistic inlays. Even though the art and craft of marquetry has gradually declined ever since the Art Deco-period, we also find a living tradition, not least at Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design in Stockholm.

Restoration projects confront us with problems where at least part of the solution is hidden in the actual craft procedure. However, technical documentation on historic techniques and tools is scarce; so is research on timbers and other materials involved. A better understanding of the technical aspects is crucial also for the development of modern marquetry.

The aim of the symposium is to bring together both art historians, designers, craftsmen, conservators/restorers and conservation scientists. The interest in the symposium and the response on our First Call for Papers has been far beyond our expectations. The presentations will cover a multitude of aspects and is well inline with our ambition to include both historical, theoretical, technical and design related aspects in the programme.

Accommodation and speakers

Accommodation was in a now disused Monastery, which was, as expected,  basic, yet with a inner warmth, perhaps as a result of a lasting presence of past occupants. My dear and late wife, Gloria, accompanied me for the event, as we had organised a weeks holiday in Stockholm at the end of the conference.  A short mornings walk found us spending our days in the conference centre.

Twenty-four speakers were booked to offer their marquetry papers. I had decided my subject would cover a current project, which I had embarked on in 2003, with a retired furniture maker Ron Dickens. My paper was based round  the marquetry on the replica Diana and Minerva Commode, made by Thomas Chippendale in 1773. I had past experience of public speaking in my professional management life, but now I initially felt quite out of sorts, being among many academics with specialist experience and knowledge of their subject. My apprehension was soon dismissed, after I had listened to the early speakers, which were inspiring, but I realised my marquetry background, being taught on a one-to-one basis for eight years, by my late uncle, Tommy Limmer, was as good as any formal academic teaching.  I suppose I was also lucky not to be booked to talk until the second day, giving me time to get used to the room, the members, and their presentations.

Preliminary programme – All papers were presented in English

The conference was attended by approximately 100 men and women.

Thursday, May 10  08.00-09.00 Registration

09.00-09.30 Opening and welcome
Mille Millnert, Rector
Ulf Brunne, Chairman of the Organizing Committee

Speakers and subjects

09.30-10.00 Paper 1
Technologies and aesthetics: ancient Egypt to computers and lasers.
Silas Kopf, Private Marqueteur, Easthampton, Massachusetts, USA

10.00-10.30 Paper 2
Pictures in stone: Pietra Dure furniture in the Royal Collection
David Wheeler, Senior Conservator Furniture and Decorative Arts, Royal
Collection, London, UK

10.30-11.00 Coffee

11.00-11.30 Paper 3
Style and technique of the 16th century marquetries on the choirstalls in
the Elisabeth church in Wroclaw
Christine Cornet, Art Historian/Conservator, Fachakademie zur Ausbildung von Restauratoren für Möbel und Holzobjekte des Goering Instituts e.V., München,

11.30-12.00 Paper 4
Marquetry works in the Nordic countries 1560 – 1620: examples from Kalmar Castle and Frederiksborg Castle Stina Ekelund-Karlsson, Furniture Conservator, Rosenborgs slot, Copenhagen,

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.30 Paper 5
An exotic cabinet: the fusion of east with west
Nigel Bamforth, Head of Furniture Conservation Studio, Victoria & Albert
Museum, London, UK

13.30-14.00 Paper 6
Conservation treatment of the Amalia cabinet: a masterpiece of XVIIth
century Dutch cabinetmaking
Angie Barth, Furniture Conservator, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

14.00-14.30 Paper 7
The conservation of a late seventeenth-century floral marquetry cabinet, attributed to Jan van Mekeren, Amsterdam
Paul van Duin, Head of Furniture Conservation, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Iskander Breebaart, Senior Furniture Conservator, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

14.30-15.00 Coffee

15.00-15.30 Paper 8
Cornelius Gole and the manufacture of metal marquetry in late 17th century English furniture
Adriana Turpin, Academic Director, MA in the History and Business of Art and Collecting, London, UK

15.30-16.10 Paper 9
Marquetry made of mixed materials: the conservation project “Furniture in Boulle technique” at the Bavarian National Museum, Munich
Roswitha Schwarz, Senior Furniture Conservator, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum,
Münich, Germany
Stefan Demeter, Furniture Conservator, Technische Universität, Münich,

16.10-16.40 Paper 10
UV-VIS-absorption spectrometry: a non-destructive method for dyestuff identification
Heinrich Piening, Senior Furniture Conservator/Conservation Scientist,
Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlischen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen, Münich,

Friday, May 11

09.00-09.30 Paper 11
Flower marquetry by Heinrich Wilhelm Spindler in the New Palace of Potsdam. Afra Schick, Curator of Furniture, Abt. Schlösser und Sammlungen Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Potsdam, Germany

09.30-10.00 Paper 12
Marquetry techniques in France in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Yannick Chastang, Private Furniture Conservator/Marqueteur, Sittingbourne,
Kent, UK

10.00-10.30 Paper 13
The reproduction of an eighteenth-century roll-top desk by Jean-François Oeben: veneering and marquetry
Bert Declerck, Private Cabinetmaker/Marqueteur, Outgaarden, Belgium

10.30-11.00 Coffee

11.00-11.30 Paper 14
Chippendale’s marquetry revealed
Jack Metcalfe, Private Marqueteur, Leeds, Yorkshire, UK

11.30-12.00 Paper 15
Georg Haupt Ebéniste du Roi, Swedish master in cabinetmaking 1770-1784: marquetry and engravings
Per Kortebäck, Furniture Conservator, Kungliga Husgerådskammaren, Stockholm,

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-13.30 Paper 16
Different materials: tools, treatments, visual exactness
Ulli Freyer, Private Furniture Conservator, Bern, Switzerland

13.30-14.00 Paper 17
From High Wycombe to Iran: the manufacture of micromosaic marquetry (Khatam) from Iran
Paul Tear, Course Leader Furniture Conservation Programme (BA),
Buckinghamshire University College, London, UK

14.00-14.30 Paper 18
Flowers from Holland: veneered antique Dutch furniture with later marquetry from the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Pol Bruys, Private Furniture Conservator, Haarlem, the Netherlands
Jaap Boonstra, Furniture Conservator, Amsterdam Historisches Museum,
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

14.30-15.00 Coffee

15.00-15.30 Paper 19
New From Old? Discoveries during the conservation of a ‘Boulle’ style
commode in the Wallace Collection
Jürgen Huber, Senior Furniture Conservator, Wallace Collection, London, UK

15.30-16.00 Paper 20
An exploration of the Marquetry of Francois Linke (1855-1946): costs,
suppliers and woods
Christopher Payne, Furniture Historian, London, UK

19.30 Dinner

Saturday, May 12

09.00-09.30 Paper 21
An overview of the continuities and changes in marquetry technologies and techniques.
Clive Edwards, Research Director, School of Art and Design, Loughborough
University, UK

09.30-10.00 Paper 22
The demand for decoration in Norwegian modernism: a political statement
Widar Halén, Senior Curator/DPhil.Oxon., Kunstindustrimuseet, Oslo, Norway

10.00-10.30 Coffee

10.30-11.00 Paper 23
Wood, no excuse! – the reproduction of a 20th century marquetry cupboard by Hans Wegner.
Kjetil Harket, Private Cabinetmaker, Oslo, Norway

11.00-11.30 Paper 24
A contemporary use of marquetry: traditional techniques in a modern context.
Rasmus Malbert, Private Cabinetmaker, Dals Långed, Sweden

11.30-12.00 Conclusions and closing remarks

The three day event was, for me, a thoroughly enjoyable experience and gave me the opportunity to meet like minded people with a common interest. Silas Kopf kicked off the talks, and he set the standard for the remaining three days. I had studied Silas for some time, not least through his well revered DVD on marquetry techniques. German conservators, Heinrich Piening and his wife Roswitha Schwarz, offered a special opportunity to forge a bond that still exists today. Heinrich’s paper on UV VIS Spectronomy was, for me, like opening pandora’s box and finding the one thing I needed more than anything for my current project. To identify the dyestuffs used by Thomas Chippendale and be able to recreate the replica Diana and Minerva Commode, knowing that the colours of the marquetry work were scientifically proven.  Also, another German speaker  Jürgen Huber, conservator at the Wallace Collection, has, over the past years offered valuable advice and support for my work. Christopher Paine of the BBC Antiques Roadshow programme, gave a paper on French furniture maker, with added marquetry, Francois Linke. I later invited Christopher to repeat the talk to the Leeds Marquetry Group, when I was chairman, at that time.   Frenchman Yannick Chastang, has been a constant inspiration, starting with his work while employed as a conservator at the Wallace Collection, London, then later self employed furniture and marquetry restorer. His articles regularly appearing in the Furniture and Cabinetmaker magazine, provide a welcome educational read.  One day I must get to his place in Kent and meet up again.

Following the conference, Gloria and I took the train to Stockholm, and enjoyed a pleasant weeks holiday in the capitol city. We were both thankful for making friends, in particular meeting three from Germany, following our first year of married life in Schleswig, northern Germany, when I was serving in the Royal Air Force. Because of that, we both held a special affection for Germany and its people.  Ulf Brumme conducted a very successful and enjoyable conference, and I know he still teaches woodworking skills at the Carl Malmsten Centre of Wood Technology & Design at Linköping University.

The event gave me a broader insight of the people, some like me, sole craftsmen, or historians, and some belonging to well known institutes. The breadth of international links I established in three days, multiplied enormously as a result of this gathering, and Ulf Brumme and 23 talented speakers are now good friends.


Chippendale replica pier table

In the past few months I have taken on yet another Chippendale marquetry project. The Chippendale Society have asked me to build a replica table top belonging to a table  that was originally made for Harewood House in 1772, for the then circular dressing room. The dressing room was subsequently removed during remodelling of the house, some 100 years later.  The table was later discovered in a damaged condition and eventually, in 1976, sold at Christies at auction, and purchased by the Chipp


Kind permission by the Chippendale Society

endale Society. It  underwent a restoration programme, by the late David Hawkins, yet in recent years some of the veneers have changed colour due to exposure to light and ultraviolet radiation. It was decided by the Chippendale Society to make a replica copy, both of the marquetry top and the exquisitely carved legs and plinth. Completion by the 2018 tercentenary exhibition, which takes place in the Leeds Museum, is our target date.


Kind permission by the Chippendale Society

This table is the only one made by Chippendale, which is painted on the frieze and legs. The picture here clearly showing the original blue, red and pink paints, set behind the delicate white carvings. Ian Fraser, Honorary Conservator Chippendale Society, will make the replica base and legs.

The marquetry top is unique, in as much as the background veneer is ripple sycamore treated with iron sulphate and logwood (Campeachy) to turn the veneers into silver/grey ‘harewood’.   (See small sample piece below). The original colours of the exquisite marquetry have been mapped by German scientist conservationist, Dr Heinrich Piening, using his now familiar UV VIS Spectonomy analysis. Heinrich performed the tests at

2016-04-13 15.32.15Temple Newsam House, in November 2015.   When all the coloured veneers needed are to hand, my work will commence. I have already secured the ripple sycamore veneers, and will shortly treat them with iron sulphate and logwood in a large fibreglass dye bath, borrowed from Temple Newsam.  The two dyes were identified by Heinrich during his tests on the original harewood.  Iron sulphate is both a dye and a mordant (taken from the French mordante – to bite), which allow dyes to stick to the material. Logwood on its own produces a purple dye, but reacts quite differently when merged with iron, as the above result shows. The majority of the original marquetry is ‘inlaid’ into the harewood background, allowing me to replicate the technique using my inlay knife and hammer.

The table top, seen below, shows a central panel, with matching end panels to right and left.  The centre panel has a central stylised acanthus arrangement, radiating left and right, and surrounded by a circular garland of laurel leaves, which link into acanthus leaves and ‘C’ scrolls to each side, terminating around acanthus flowers.  The acanthus flowers are unique, because they are created in marquetry, using veneers sliced from the Berberis bush. I have been able to source this timber locally, and now sliced into veneers, in readiness for the marquetry work. The natural colour of Berberis wood is yellow, and was regularly used as a source of dye in Chippendale’s time.

Chip Soc C.1976.2 e

Kind permission by the Chippendale Society

The panels right and left mirror each other, and consist of oval fans, each surrounded by swags of laurel leaves, then surrounded by a decorative banding. At the four corners, small oval fans are surrounded by stylised acanthus leaves and flowers. Red, pink, yellow, green and purple dyed veneers, plus blue and green stringers, form the colourful creation Chippendale was recognised for. The whole assembly is divided and surrounded by tulipwood cross banding. The design colours, echo Robert Adams architectural design for the room, showing matching themes to the circular walls and ceiling. Its one of the most ambitious creations of his illustrious career, and a great honour and challenge to me.  Engraving to the marquetry work, adds beauty and finesse to its decorative  brilliance, and my replica will receive this professional addition, artistically and skilfully added by a local engraver, Malcolm Long.  Our designer only used engraving on the most prestigious commissions.

The table has a curved back and matching curved front, made to fit against the circular dressing room wall, which it was intended for. Cut-outs at either end were made (after delivery) to fit around two mirror frames.  This on-site alteration suggests the two wall mirrors were installed after completion of the table. Our replica will have the same features.