Eons ago, a friend told me his father was at home blind-fretting and in my youthful ignorance, I imagined his seeing eye dog had taken off after the neighbour’s cat and hadn’t returned.
When I later developed an interest in furniture, it transpired that blind-fretting is a method of incorporating decoratively-sawn panels of veneer in clock cases and furniture.
Fretting is the technique employed by cabinetmakers, marquetry cutters, clockmakers and jewellers of sawing intricate shapes in base and precious metals, wood and tortoiseshell etc. using a very fine blade in a fret saw (either handheld or mechanical). When the process is employed to create a series of voids, it is referred to as open fretwork.
Blind fretwork consists of open-fretted veneer glued onto a solid ground (figs. 1, 2 & 3).
The terms fretting and carving are often erroneously interchanged and describe entirely different processes: The table in figure 4 has an open-fretted front frieze and corner bracket, and carved legs.
The silver table in figure 5 is profusely decorated with open fretwork with the exception of the tops of the legs where the pattern is carved in low relief in order to accommodate the mortices for the frieze rails’ tenons.