This week saw our professional course students learn the delicate skill of oyster work, which is a decorative form of veneering or parquetry.
It’s a technique that uses thin slices of wood cut in cross-section to form circular or oval pieces of veneer which, when placed side by side, create any kind of decorative pattern – for example hexagonal, diamond-shaped, geometric…or simply random.
We use laburnum on our professional course, but oyster work – or oystering or oyster veneer as it’s sometimes known – can equally be accomplished using other woods with distinct ring patterns such as walnut, olive, or yew.
The oyster needs to be shaped on the bandsaw or with a fretsaw or scrollsaw. Templates are used where the shapes are repeated, otherwise each oyster can be used as a template to mark out its neighbours.
The technique has been around since the mid 17th century and was first developed in England. Indeed, one of the first oystered pieces was constructed in about 1661 and is now at Windsor Castle.
While oyster veneers are not as popular as they once were, it’s a lovely technique with which to decorate furniture doors or drawers, and something our students can use to demonstrate their skill and professionalism to future customers.
Picture: One student who has really mastered the art of oystering with panache is Paul Hartman from Alberta, Canada who has embedded his laburnum veneers into spalted beech to create a beautiful and interesting pattern.