In Moscow, the extraordinary parquet floors of 17th–18th century Russia remain as popular as they were during the time of the czars, says Saint Petersburg-based hardwood flooring contractor Alexey Ledenev. While these days a CNC is typically used to reproduce the elaborate style, the older hand-cutting technique is still used by some—including Ledenev, who cut each piece of this 860-square-foot Moscow project using a band saw and a jig saw.
The species, which include oak, merbau, maple, cherry, padauk, purpleheart, wenge, Karelian birch, walnut, rosewood, sycamore and zebrawood, were selected primarily based on color, as no stain was used. Ledenev, who learned the trade restoring similarly complex floors, used to keep track of how many pieces he'd cut for such projects—but "sometimes there are so many that there is no point in counting," he says.
When the pieces were cut, Ledenev glued down straight strips in the center of the plywood subfloor and drew out the central flower pattern on the strips. "When you are working on a large project with a symmetrical repeating pattern, the most important thing is the markup," Ledenev says. "It often takes much longer than the installation itself."
Ledenev and his brother cut out the shapes with a jig saw and glued in the corresponding puzzle pieces. They then worked outward, installing a border and four jutting corners that had been pre-assembled in Ledenev's workshop. Ledenev then sanded and applied three coats of semi-gloss finish. The entire project took four months to complete and represents centuries of craftsmanship that Ledenev intends to carry on.
"There is no professional education for this type of work in Russia," says Ledenev, who left his marketing job in 2007 to become a wood flooring apprentice. "So this technique is also interesting because it is passed on from master to master."