Wednesday Woodworking – Louis Cubes, Parquetry or Marquetry?

Last weekend was the quarterly marquetry workshop and this month we’re building a box with parquetry on the top using the famous Louis cube design.  The name comes from France and the reign of Louis XIV because the pattern was very popular during that time.  The pattern is sometimes called, “tumbling cubes.”  Most of us who try to make the pattern call it a pain in the rear as you need to be very precise or you’ll mess up the whole thing.

Technically the Louis cube pattern is parquetry and not marquetry, even though you use the same materials and tools.  The difference is the kind of pattern.  Parquetry uses geometric designs.  Louis cubes, chess boards, herringbone, parquet, and other patterns based on geometric repetition are considered parquetry.

Marquetry is more free form and includes general artwork like still life, landscape, portraiture and even abstract designs.  Think of marquetry as “painting with wood.”  Marquetry is generally done with veneers while parquetry can sometimes be done with solid woods, often in flooring.  Herringbone and other geometric patterns such as parquet flooring is considered a form of parquetry.

So, I won’t mind if you call my parquetry “marquetry,” but if you call my marquetry parquetry I’ll have very strong words for you and we’ll have to repeat this whole lecture again.

Louis cubes is also a popular quilting pattern.  I’ve seen a number of well done quilts with this pattern.  Done well, the effect is stunning.  It’s also a great pattern to hone your  precision cutting and sewing skills as all the little diamond shapes need to be exactly the same size.  One very small mistake can throw the whole pattern off and ruin the effect.

Now for the pictures of the work in progress.  The box is done except for some sanding and I am about halfway through doing the parquetry.  I have all the little cubes cut and am now assembling them.

The cubes being assembled. I cut about 120 diamonds.

The cubes being assembled. I cut about 120 diamonds.

The little marks are chalk to tell me which is the right side up on the veneer.  Yup, veneer has a right side and a wrong side, just like fabric (please note the not so subtle comparison between marquetry and quilting) .  The knife is a surgical scalpel with a #11 blade.

 

 

Basic cherry box that will get the parquetry.

Basic cherry box that will get the parquetry.

The box is 10 inches long, 4 wide about and about 2 1/2 deep.

Instructor's sample. This is what it should look like.

Instructor’s sample. This is what it should look like.

Well that’s it for this week.  I hope to get some time over the weekend to finish this.

If you need me – I’ll be in the shop
Andrew

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I work in the high tech world doing software release engineering Then I got prostate cancer Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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33 Responses to Wednesday Woodworking – Louis Cubes, Parquetry or Marquetry?

  1. I just had to backtrack from you next weeks post to see how this was made. Fantastic how it looks 3D! I honestly wasn’t sure from the finished photo.

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  2. Andrew, this is going to be just spectacular. So intricate!

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  3. Wow. That does look like a pain! Best of luck with that!

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  4. pommepal says:

    A fascinating design. I look forward to seeing it finished

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  5. davidprosser says:

    It looks fantastic so far Andrew.. No doubt the finished product will be stunning. I envy you the steady hands.
    Hugs

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  6. Debra says:

    I’ve never understood the difference between parquetry and marquetry. This is really interesting! The box is really a gorgeous project and it looks very challenging. I hope you will share when you finish!

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  7. jfwknifton says:

    That looks really, really difficult, but I’m sure you’ll succeed with all your skill and expertise.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I want this box. Is it for sale?

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  9. artseafartsea says:

    Look forward to seeing the finished product.

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  10. authorjim says:

    You have to be a man of great patience. My mother used to make quilts that were called Tumbling Block with this same pattern but I have never seen it done with wood before. I am an amateur woodworker but I am doubtful about having the patience for something like that. congratulations.

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    • You’d be surprised what you can do when you put your mind to it. Not sure if it’s patience or stubbornness, I do like working with all the detail.

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  11. I love these, so like tesselations my students and I do in Excel.

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  12. PiedType says:

    That’s beautiful! Reminds me of something from an Escher drawing. I’d have trouble assembling it with the sort of 3-D optical illusion factor that’s at work — at least in my old eyes.

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    • I think Escher may have been inspired by this design. If you get close enough to the work, the 3-D illusion fades and you just see the diamonds. That’s the only way to work on it – stay close but back away from time to time to check.

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  13. Wow…you have such talent and skill! 🙂

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  14. I admire your ability to think in those planes and construct something like that….I am in awe….I would never have the patience for this hobby.

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  15. I love this pattern and look forward to seeing your finish product. An uncle of mine made a coffee table with this design back in the ’40s and it still looks good to this day.
    Ω

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