There is a lot of confusion on the internet concerning the difference between Marquetry and Intarsia. I’m sure they are plenty of people whom have never seen these terms before, or are familiar with them, but never knew what they meant, so I thought I’d do a piece explaining these and related terms.
Veneers are slices of wood, usually thinner than 1/8 inches that are normally glued to wood panels either to form naturally looking wood grain, or placed symmetrically to use the grains of the wood to appear pleasing to the eye.
Inlay is an ornamental system of inserting pieces of contrasting veneers into cut depressions on a furniture face, or into a wood base. Colored veneers are positioned into the cutouts of a base article to form pictures or designs that form a smooth surface.
Parquetry is a type of inlay where wood veneer pieces are used for decorative Geometric effect. Parquetry is used as veneer patterns in furniture, and as block pattern for wood flooring.
Marquetry is an assembly of veneers applied on the face of the object usually over its entire surface. Inlay consists of veneers inserted into cutouts in the face of the object, most of which remains visible. The veneer pieces in Marquetry form decorative patterns, pictures, or designs.
Intarsia can be a wood inlayed, or can be applied over an object like marquetry. Generally Intarsia is inlayed decoratively onto furniture, but can be used as stand alone artwork, or used to cover an entire face of a piece. Rather than veneers Intarsia uses pieces of wood that are shaped and contoured to the desired design. Some wood pieces are used to raise or lower areas of the design to create depth. Intarsia requires a variety of assorted woods of different types and colors. The wood color, grain structure, and grain direction are what create an eye-catching piece. No stain or paint is used, only various species of wood providing the coloring and grain pattern. Because of this, Intarsia pieces are one of a kind; even using the same pattern the unique wood pieces give results that will look distinctive.
Much of the confused comes from the interchangeable use of wood term both as a design technique and as a woodworking technique. Inlay can be used as the finished design, or as the technique used to inlay the veneers. Parquetry uses the techniques of inlay, but the design techniques of Parquetry. Marquetry uses design technique from inlay, and the veneers of Inlay but not the inlayed woodworking technique. Intarsia does not use veneers, uses either the inlay woodworking techniques or the non-inlayed woodworking techniques of Marquetry and uses some of the design.techniques, but follows unique Intarsia techniques related to processing and use of contour wood pieces.
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