Although veneering as a way of dressing up furniture can be traced back to Roman times, it came into popular usage in Europe and France particularly during the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715). These early veneers were hand cut from fine woods such as walnut, made into sheets and then applied with glue to a solid wooden carcass.
The use of veneering on furniture became progressively complex as the 17th century wore on, and parquetry and marquetry designs produced elaborate patterns. Parquetry was purely geometric in style, where marquetry could produce intricate pictorial designs. Cross banding techniques were also developed where right angled grain veneers were used to create borders, and stringing using ebony and boxwood created black and white lines to encase the cross banding. The principle woods used for veneering during the later part of the 17th century were ebony, laburnum and burr walnut.
As furniture manufacture became more specialised, the artisans themselves were divided by their skills. The veneering and decorating was entrusted to the ébéniste (from ebony) and the solid wood carcasses made by the menuisier, very much like the cabinet maker and joiner in England. However, eventually in France more skill was required from the menuisier and master carvers rather than the menuisier were employed to create elaborately carved legs on pieces.
Veneering and carving skills were eventually transferred to Britain from France, initially with the restoration of Charles II in 1660 to the throne, then through an influx of Huguenot craftsman escaping French persecution. Veneers were hand made until the 1840s when machine manufacture took over. These veneers were much thinner than the earlier handmade examples.
Beautiful marquetry and parquetry veneering can be found on period and revival antique tables in Preston, Lancashire, Cumbria and dealers throughout the UK.
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