The Art of Inlay

The Art of Inlay

Carpentry involves mastering techniques and styles. With modern technology and materials now available, many “old world” methods are no longer utilized. Most of these old-school techniques are an art all to themselves; not only in the beauty of the piece they produce but also in the quality, form and detail that goes into them.

Where possible we prefer to preserve these “old world” techniques. While we also utilize the latest technologies or methods we also know that the best pieces come from merging both the old and new.

One of the most used techniques we see this in is the art of inlay.

Commonly used in the production of decorative furniture, inlay is a technique where pieces of colored wood, metal or other materials are inserted into a depression in the surface of a piece to form pictures or detailed ornamentation. With the right materials and design, inlay is a great way to adorn woodworking projects.

Our Antiques Division is often asked to restore elaborate designs that were often inlaid into furniture. It is best practice when restoring or reproducing an antique that you keep to the same methods that were used on it in the first place. This approach ensures that both the historical and dollar value of the piece is maintained.

Not to be confused with marquetry and parquetry, inlay is it’s own art form. Marquetry is a similar technique that largely replaced inlay in high style European furniture during the 17th century. Marquetry is an assembly of veneers applied over the entire surface of an object, whereas inlay consists of small pieces inserted on the bed of cut spaces in the base material, of which most remains visible, and sit flush with the surface.

Inlays commonly use wood veneers, but other materials like shell, mother of pearl, precious metals, and even colored stone may also be used. In today’s world we’re seeing a subtler version of inlay in designs. Whichever style you prefer, consider us when you need expert insight on an old-world technique that continues to be used and appreciated.