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Archives for April 2011

Decorative Inlay Patterns for Custom Hardwood Inlays

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all  come.”
Michelangelo…Italian Sculptor, painter, architect, engineer, and poet (1475-1564)

Inlay Design from the Duomo in Florence Italy

Inlay Pattern from Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

If you have been following this woodworking blog for anytime you know that there is quite a bit of attention devoted to creating wood inlay in the workshop. As woodworkers who love our work, we are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and fresh inspirations. Sometimes, we are able to capture insights from woodworking magazines, DVDs, or books on working with wood. However, on a recent trip I came across something very stimulating that I’d like to share with you, my viewers. These decorative inlay patterns for custom hardwood inlays are actually inlay designs from the facade of the Santa Maria del Foire Cathedral in Florence, Italy.

When you first see the this church it can be quite overwhelming as it truly magnificent and is just loaded with such a vast amount of finely crafted detail. What is even more amazing is the fact that entire facade of this Cathedral is wrapped in polychromatic veneers of marble. For the purpose of this posting on decorative inlay patterns for custom hardwood inlays, I find it best to begin with an extremely simple and yet elegant marble inlay design. The white marble is from Carrara. The green is from Prato and the red marble is from Sienna. (Carrara, Prato, and Sienna are all towns in Italy from which the marble is quarried.) Notice how the marble color combinations play off of one another. Also, take a look at how the interior mouldings of the rectangle and the square are mitered. As a woodworker, if you want to learn how to inlay wood, this design in marble is a great place to start.

Starting from the small square at the very center of the inlay pattern, notice how this white square is turned on its point and sets the stage for the direction of the overall inlay design. The rounded red cross follows this same direction as does the larger square. Here, the larger square with its mouldings and shadow lines adds a perception of depth as does the surrounding rectangle with its mouldings.

The overall inlay pattern may seem difficult at first. However, this is where we woodworkers take our time and enjoy the woodworking process. As you can clearly see, the inlay design is not hard once we break it down into its smaller components. However, my first thought is that it would be best to lay this custom inlay pattern out on paper and then take our measurements from there. By making duplicate copies of the overall pattern we can make templates available for each component’s pattern. From there it is just a matter of fitting the components together.

Marble inlays from the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

When creating wood inlay patterns we are able to utilize our veneers from an assortment of hardwoods. Here, we can experiment with different wood colors to see how they contrast or compliment one another. We can also pay special attention to the wood grain patterns as this may provide a positive influence to our custom woodworking inlay.

Keep in mind that once we have the overall decorative inlay patterns and individual component templates made, we can then create any number of custom hardwood inlays. From here it is simply a matter of production work and if we choose, we can repeat the inlay pattern throughout our wood project. As you can imagine, the craftsman of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral used this custom inlay and other inlay designs continually on the marble facade to create an astonishing work of art. What type of an affect could inlays like this have on our furniture pieces, fireplace mantels, and other wood projects?

Note: The installation on the front facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore began in 1876 and was completed in 1887.

Recommended Videos:
How to install Wood Inlay
Ripping Thin Strips of Wood Inlay on the Band Saw
Let’s Install Wood Inlay Bandings

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Santa Maria del Fiore…Duomo Cathedral of Florence, Italy

The Cathedral of Florence, Italy...Santa Maria Del Fiore

The Cathedral of Florence, Italy…Santa Maria Del Fiore

“All truths are easily understood once they are discovered, the point is to discover them.”
Galileo Galilei
…Italian philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician…(1564-1642)

The Santa Maria Fiore in Florence, Italy is an impressive sight. It is unlike anything that I have seen before because of its sheer size, its wonderful architecture, and its amazing detail. I first saw the Duomo (Cathedral Church) on a late afternoon in early April. The sky was pure blue and the low angled sun was shining on the front entrance of the church as hundreds of people were sitting on the various rows of steps which led to the cathedral. Most of the people seated on the steps were quite young and it was as if they were a part of something very unique and special. I have a feeling that many generations of people have been sitting on these steps all along for a number of centuries.

The first stone of the Duomo was laid in 1296. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the octagonal dome that began construction in 1420 and was completed in 1436. (Brunelleschi’s dome was a first of its kind.) Work on the facade started in 1871 and was finished in 1887.

Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy...looking towards the dome

Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy…looking towards the dome

One can not help but be attracted to the Cathedral of Florence, Italy and I immediately had the urge to go up close and touch the facade of this building. I needed to see the detail of the marble sculptings and to feel them. There is so much design detail from afar and the same applies when taking a close look. You have to see this structure to truly appreciate what it offers and even then it is hard to take it all in at one time. However, you quickly become resigned and accept the fact that you will simply absorb as much as you possibly can given the time you have available.

The building is enormous. It is 502 ft. long by 295 ft. wide. It is 295 ft. tall from the pavement to the opening of the lantern in the dome. It is 375 ft. from the pavement to the top of the lantern.

The Dome of Santa Maria del fiore in Florence, Italy

The Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

The complete exterior facade of the Duomo de Florence is wrapped in a veneer of marble. There is white marble from Carrara, red marble from Siena, and green marble from Prato. Moreover, the amount of marble used for the exterior finish is mind boggling when one considers the processes involved from the initial quarrying the stone to the final installation. Think about this. The marble is dug out of the ground, it has to be cut and dimensioned, and it has to be polished. Now it has to be transported to Florence (Firenze) where it will be fit and installed on the exterior walls at varying elevations. Just imagine the scaffolding involved, the hoisting apparatus used, and the skilled workforce to apply the marble facing. What we today witness is the finished product, however there was obviously a great deal more involved with the construction than what we are able to see today. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding as attention is given to every detail.

As someone who has had a career in the trades as a finish carpenter and is a lifelong woodworker, I truly admire and respect the craftsmanship of the men who made Duomo de Florence possible. It is simply a masterpiece as everyone sitting in the sunshine on the front steps knows.

Learn How Venice Italy was built on a Foundation of Wood

View the Decorative Door Knockers of Florence, Italy.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University


How Venice Italy was Built on a Foundation of Wood

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci
…Italian painter, sculptor, architect, and engineer…(1452-1519)

Upon visiting Venice, Italy with all its canals the woodworker in me became very curious as to how the building foundations were created. I also became inquisitive about the construction techniques of this old city along the Adriatic Sea. The city of Venice is made up of 117 islands that are linked together by water canals, numerous small bridges, as well as 3 large bridges of the Grand Canal. Venice is loaded with buildings of beautiful architecture that date back to the middle of the first millenium A.D. These buildings of grandeur are still very well preserved. So, what type of foundation supports this city built upon a lagoon? The simple answer is…wood.

Venice history dates back many years when people sought refuge. These people built upon the lagoon for safety from being attacked. In the lagoon there a collection of small island of rock and mud and it was here that these people started driving wood pilings into the mud and sand and into clay. The wood pilings became the initial foundation. However, there is another question to be answered. Where did the wood come from as Venice did not did have any forest? The wood was gathered in forest far away in the mountains of Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro.The timber was then transported by water to Venice.

Yet, wood rots. How could the Venetians use vertical wood pilings in the salt water for a foundations system without the wood rotting? The wood is not exposed to oxygen as it is submerged in the water and mud and as a result it does not rot. In fact the wood becomes petrified due to a constant flow of mineral rich water around and through it. As a result the wood becomes a hardened stone-like structure.

Once the all wood pilings are driven side by side into the mud of the lagoon as the initial foundation, they are then cut level where horizontal timber are laid. A stone foundation is then placed on top of the horizontal timbers. From there the building is built using wood framing techniques or brick. Who would ever have thought that the city of Venice with all its canals and gondolas was built on a foundation of wood?

Decorative Door Knockers of Florence, Italy

“Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish.”
Michelangelo…Italian sculptor, painter, architect, & poet. (1475-1564)

Enjoy the decorative door knockers from Florence, Italy. Many front doors have knobs, hinges, and knockers of unique design of cast iron and solid brass. It is here that we will feature some wonderful door knockers and one very special solid brass door knob.

Florence, Italy is considered the birthplace to the Italian Renaissance and is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Some of the worlds greatest masterpieces of art are housed in this capital city of the Italian region called Tuscany. Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Michelangelo, Bottecelli, Galileo Galilei, and Brunelleschi are just a few of the creative geniuses from Florence that have made huge impacts in their chosen fields. This wonderful city along the banks of the Arno River exudes beauty in its many museums, churches, palaces, parks, and art galleries.

The influences of the arts can be found anywhere in Florence and even when one is simply taking a casual walk along the city streets. It was here that I photographed the decorative door knockers of Florence. The woodworker in me could not help but notice the massive doors of many buildings that were embellished with fanciful antique door hardware. It was in short time that I came to expect unique and creative designs with the antique door knockers as they started to appear often to me along my walks. Who knows how old these door accessories actually are as their buildings are centuries old.

Note: A brass knob is also included in this set as it was too unique and special not to include in this grouping.

Enjoy the following… Which one is your favorite?

Door Hardware of Florence, ItalyUnique Lion's Head door hardware from Florence, Italy

Antique door knocker from Florence, ItalyAntique door knocker from Florence, Italy

Antique door knocker from Florence, ItalyCarved Lion's Head door hardware from Florence, Italy

Unique door knocker from Florence, ItalyAntique lion head door knocker from Florence, Italy

Antique gargoyle door knocker from Florence, ItalyUnique door knocker from Florence, Italy

Unique door knocker from Florence, ItalyBrass door handle from Florence, Italy

Watch free woodworking videos:

Let’s Build a Jewelry Box…Part 1

Wood Turning…a Segmented Fruit Bowl…part 1

Building a dedicated Miter Sled for the tablesaw

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Inspiration in Venice, Italy

Venice Italy

Venice, Italy is an amazing city that flourished many years ago. Today, one is able to visit this city that was built on the marshes along the Adriatic Sea. Visiting this city is like entering another world in thinking as well as the physical. To travel within the city one either walks or travels by water. Ether way one chooses to travel there is a new experience and inspiration waiting you as you turn the corner.

The craftsmanship in this city leads a woodworker like myself to wonder if our methods are in any way more advanced than the engineers and craftsman from years gone by. The works and the designs of this city definitely cause one to be grateful for the opportunity to be witness of the genius of man and man’s potential.

The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

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