This video gives and insight into how this wonderful furniture is made and the extreme care and attention that is required to make a beautiful piece
Transcript of the video
Mother of pearl is often used as ornament in Chinese furniture. It is an ideal decorative material due to its iridescence and strength. The intense processes involved in mother of pearl inlay make it a highly cherished art.
Mother of pearl originates from the inside layer of oyster shells. Variation in colour and texture relate to the shells formation an contribute to its uniqueness. Tools and their preparation are an important to the quality of the final product. The fret saw which is used to cut the mother of pearl is hand sharpened by adding notches.
Complex designs are first sketched on paper. They are then glued onto the shells to be used as guides. The curvature, colour and patterns of the shell are taken into account to determine where each part of the design will be cut to minimise the arch of each piece. A hole is drilled into the shell where the fret saw is to be inserted. The design is cut as the craftsman moves the saw up and down against the shell. Each piece is then smoothed at the edges by a large grinder.
The final design is arranged by an artist onto the wood surface to be inlaid. Water based glue is used to temporarily secure the pieces so that it's outline may be precisely scribed. A small router is used to carve the traced outline. The craftsman must be careful to cut the only inside the lines to avoid a gap between the design and the wood. Each piece of the mother of pearl design is re-arranged into the carved silhouette. A hammer gently fits each piece into the wood. Light and even pressure is used to avoid cracking or breaking the pieces. Fine sawdust is used as a filler under the design to eliminate cavities created by the pearls irregularities. After all the pieces are fitted glue is spread around the edges to secure the mother of pearl. To remove glue and un-even surfaces the completed design is sanded until flush with the wood.
The mother of pearl can be etched and filled to make the design come to life. Master engravers use various techniques to achieve diverse line thickness and quality. They are then filled with ink matching the wood finish to accent the depth of the cut. A polish is applied after all details are added to seal the design.
Mother of pearl, a strong iridescent and elegant material, involves numerous steps in its production. Understanding the processes involved make us better appreciate the beauty of its art.