Friday, January 23, 2015

European kraft paper in America

I recently dropped a bundle of money to import brown kraft paper from France.  Why would I do this?

Because life is ephemeral.

People die, businesses disappear, products vanish.  Things that were once available are no longer there when you want them.  Some notable examples include Pierre Ramond’s “Marquetry”, which is no longer in print but can be bought used (the price continues to climb); cast iron glue pots, which are no longer made but can be bought on sites like eBay; veneer nails, which Patrick Edwards discussed in his blog here  

After taking Patrick Edwards’s classes on Boulle marquetry and the Piece by Piece method, I’m all in with French marquetry.  Previous to taking Patrick’s classes, I tried marquetry using a knife and the window method.  It turned out OK.  See the pictures of the dandelions and what I call the Hebrew box.  These were done with an X-Acto knife and a bunch of veneer tape.  
Dandelion picture done using a knife and the window method

Hebrew box - don't ask me what it says, because I don't know

I also tried the double bevel method on a scroll saw, but I was never able to control the cut very well.  It really wandered, and sharp turns were a challenge for me.  Then I sat down on a chevalet; by the end of the first week, I felt like I could control my cut.  The picture below was made using my chevalet and is mounted to the front of it.  I never would have been able to do this with a knife, but maybe others could.

Well, if you’re going to do Boulle or Piece by Piece marquetry, you might as well adopt the whole French method.  And that means assembling the pictures using kraft paper stretched over a board.  This is called an assembly board.  Patrick has written about this in his blog, and he and Patrice have made videos about it.  Visit their YouTube site at 3815utah. 

There are 2 critical elements to the assembly board: hot hide glue and kraft paper.  Hide glue is still available in the US; glue pots can be obtained off eBay for fairly decent prices if you keep your eyes open.  The kraft paper that the French use is another story.  It is a special kraft paper that is shiny on one side, dull on the other.  You use it by wetting the shiny side, which is somewhat resistant to the water.  It absorbs some of the water, but doesn’t totally degrade.  You then glue the board to the dull side of the kraft paper.  As the paper dries, it pulls tight across the board.  Voila, an assembly board is ready for a picture to be glued to it.  The kraft paper is also fairly strong, which is useful when you’re slathering hide glue on it.  The hide glue tends to pull on the paper as it dries; if the paper is weak, it will rip due to this pulling.

When I left Patrick’s first class, I thought I might be able to find a different paper that could be used.  Something available in North America.  I searched across the internet and purchased several different types of paper that I thought might work.  Most didn’t work at all. When I wetted them, they turned to mush.  One paper almost worked; it had a shiny side and a dull side, I could make an assembly board with it, I could mount pictures to it, but it is weak and tears easily, especially when the hide glue dries.

Apparently, Patrick was right when he said that papers in North America just don’t work.

Having seen so many things disappear in my relatively short time, and knowing how much has disappeared in the past, I thought about the European kraft paper.  It’s not available in North America (that I can find).  What if Europe suddenly moved away from it?  What if it, too, disappeared?  I enjoy marquetry and have found a method that works for me.  I decided I needed a stock pile, enough to last me.

I searched all over for a cheap way to get the European kraft paper.  There just wasn’t an easy way.  I finally contacted a company in France.  They had a minimum number of rolls they would ship to the US.  Geez, I really only wanted one roll.  But maybe other people wanted just one roll?

So I bit the bullet.  I now have several full rolls of kraft paper, the exact same stuff that Patrick Edwards uses, sitting in my shop.  Well, they’re standing really, like soldiers on guard. 

These rolls are 250 m (that’s about 275 yards) long, 120 cm wide, 90 g/m2, just like what Patrick uses.

I am making these rolls of European kraft paper available to the marquetry community at a great rate.  You won’t need to wire money to a company in France, hire a company to get the paper through customs, or store multiple rolls in your shop which are far more than you’ll ever use.  For $550 plus actual shipping charges, I’ll crate a roll and ship it to you.   Contact me with an address and I’ll find out the shipping charge for you.  

UPDATE: I will also sell lengths of kraft paper at $3/yard plus shipping.