Masters of the Craft

Masters of the Craft

Silas Kopf: Majoring in Marquetry

comments (7) September 26th, 2012 in blogs, videos

JonBinzen Jon Binzen, senior editor
thumbs up 56 users recommend

Video Length: 3:35
Produced by: Jon Binzen

Silas Kopf got out of college in the early 1970s and thought he would retreat to the woods of northern Maine and make simple, solid-wood furniture, perhaps with a Shaker flavor. He never made it to the woods, and certainly veered from the Shaker aesthetic. Over the past four decades he has specialized in building furniture decorated with marquetry.

He is self-taught in marquetry, learning mostly from a book and through trial and error. But ten years into his career he was deeply influenced by Italian Renaissance intarsia, a combination of inlay and marquetry practiced in the 15th century. Kopf traveled to Italy to see the work in person, which features convincing optical illusions. Kopf is now well known for his own trompe l'oeil, or fool-the-eye compositions.

Kopf later traveled to France to study marquetry for several months at the Ecole Boule, a school that teaches traditional furnituremaking skills. While there, Kopf was introduced to the work of Abraham and David Roentgen, German father and son cabinetmakers who built furniture for monarchs and the aristocracy in the 18th century. The Roentgens embellished their furniture with superb marquetry, but they were also known for the structural complexity of their case pieces, which incorprated hidden compartments and mechanisms that enabled the pieces to be reconfigured. Kopf's cabinet on the back cover of the current issue, with its many secret drawers, is a tribute to the Roentgens.

Kopf has written a book about his work and his influences, and has also produced a dvd describing his techniques for doing marquetry. Both are available through his website,

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Jere Osgood: Modesty and Mastery
Ulrika Scriba's Marquetry: Risk and Reward
Adrian McCurdy: Furniture Riven from the Log
Geoffrey Warner: Assembling a Life
Peter Shepard Turns the Page
Curve It Like König
Partners in Craft: Harold Wood and John O'Brien
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Adrian Potter: Thinking Furniture
Hank Gilpin: Exploring the American Forest
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Michael Hurwitz: Planks into Poetry
Brad Smith: Story of a Stool
Hank Holzer and Judith Ames: Labor of Love
Michael Fortune: The Clever Chair
John Cameron: A Musician in the Woodshop
Allan Breed: The Past Recaptured
Kintaro Yazawa: Joint Wizardry
Grant Vaughan: Subtropical Virtuoso
William R. Robertson: Micro Maestro


posted in: blogs, videos, slideshow, marquetry, masters of the craft, kopf

Comments (7)

subskipper subskipper writes: Stunning work, yet not overbearing. He is not so much a craftsman as an artist. I'd love to spend a day or two just watching him in the shop!
Posted: 7:39 am on October 27th

KimDodge KimDodge writes: Your cleverly assembled and illustrated storytelling nicely compliments Silas Kopf's fine marquetry furniture. Well done! - AKD
Posted: 2:10 am on October 6th

frankcello frankcello writes: I think Silas Kopf is one of the greatest furniture makers/artists alive today. I am not sure if most woodworkers realize the incredible skill that this man has. Just take the shadow line for example on his latest piece, that is not stain; it is different pieces of wood to simulate the shadow. Also note the door that is "open", it is lighter in color because the light is catching it. His work is truly amazing. I wish Fine woodworking would do a more in depth story on this master.

You may also find this video of interest.
Posted: 10:39 am on October 4th

cahudson42 cahudson42 writes: If you enjoyed this, you might also like to see the work of Matthew Werner:
Posted: 8:34 pm on September 29th

adriatico021 adriatico021 writes: At an extraordinary and elegant way, the real modern marquetry motifs based on traditional techniques achievements!
Your work is another beautiful page in the history of marquetry techniques.
Posted: 11:41 am on September 29th

DennisZongker DennisZongker writes: Very nice video and article, Silas Kopf is one of my favorite furniture makers. He has been a big inspiration to me and my marquetry. I want to thank you Jon for all your articles, you always publish a wide variety of craftsmen and different styles.

Posted: 9:12 am on September 29th

BStev BStev writes: Great story, but why do the images of his newest piece zoom by so fast while all the other images proceed more slowly. Had to watch the video a couple times and keep pausing it over and over on those newest images to see what they were.
Posted: 9:08 am on September 29th

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