Inlay Experiments II

Yesterday I continued with my inlay experiment.  I sawed out the rest of the pieces of the Stickley design I’m using.  The part of the process I was most worried about was the sawing, which turned out not to be that big a deal.  I’m not saying that my cuts are great — they aren’t — but I can see where with a little practice I will be able to get the hang of sawing with a jeweler’s saw.

I was using a 3/0 64 TPI jeweler’s saw blade made by Flying Dutchman.  It’s .009″ thick and .017″ wide.  It cuts nicely, but I snapped bunches of blades, mostly trying to get the tension in my Knew Concepts saw frame right.  I have to say, I think the quick release mechanism needs a little more design work on that saw.  The tension adjustment also affects how much of the blade the saw will clamp — if you can’t repeatedly clamp that same amount of blade every time you can’t repeat the tension mechanism.  And the difference between “enough” and “too much” tension with the 3/0 blade is zero.

So I switched over to a #3 45tpi Olsen blade I had on hand — it doesn’t cut nearly as well.  I could tell the difference, it seemed to “catch” or “bind” much more easily.  I was surprised I could tell so much difference.  I did order a half gross of the #3 Flying Dutchman blades from Mike’s Workshop so I’ll have them on hand to try next time.

After sawing out all of the pieces I did a bit of filing to improve the fit between adjacent pieces.  Then I laid out a copy of my pattern, covered it with waxed paper and started super gluing the pieces together.  The glue I have is a little too thick — I need a lower viscosity superglue, something else for the shopping list.

Assembled inlay, pieces superglued together on top of waxed paper layered over a copy of the pattern.

Assembled inlay, pieces superglued together on top of waxed paper layered over a copy of the pattern.

Then I peeled the inlay off of the waxed paper and cleaned up the back with a razor blade.  It doesn’t look too bad.

Back of the inlay after gluing up and scraping off the bits of stuck waxed paper.

Back of the inlay after gluing up and scraping off the bits of stuck waxed paper.

I put a coat of shellac on the board I’m inlaying into, this was a suggestion from one of the videos I watched.  I glued the inlay to the base with Duco cement, scribed around it and then popped it loose.  I worked some blue child dust into the cut line.  But it’s not really clear enough — in part because the grain of the wood is picking up a lot of the chalk dust too.  Next time I’m going to put more shellac down to try to close up the pores in the wood.  It will get sanded off (or washed off) later in the process – it’s not the final finish, just part of the process.  I’ll try it without the shellac some time too, but the Sapele I’m using has a pretty distinctive texture that grabs the dust.

Then I started routing the cavity with my new tool from William Ng.  My first impression of the tool is mixed.  It’s beautiful and nicely made, but one of the two lights on it doesn’t work.  In fact, I don’t care for how the lights are designed, the internal mechanism seem pretty fragile.  The one that works isn’t very bright either, and they don’t stay positioned.

My other complaint is that trying to route to .100″ depth causes enough vibration that the depth screws come loose and the cut drifts deeper.  Routing to a shallower depth – say .080″ – seems to solve this.  I guess inlay is only set in about .060″ normally, so maybe I’m trying to do too much with the tool.  If I absolutely need to go to a deeper depth I’ll have to use my trim router to hog out the waste and use this just for sneaking up to the lines.

(I did email William, hopefully he’ll have some suggestions on the tool)

Starting to clear the waste with a 1/8" router bit.

Starting to clear the waste with a 1/8″ router bit.

The router base has a setup to connect an air line to clear the chips away — I need to get that set up before I do this again because it was impossible to see what I was doing.  My work height was wrong, the lighting was bad, the cut kept drifting deeper and the chips were in the way.  In short, excavating the cavity gave me problems.

The theory is that you should excavate the majority of the waste, leaving a small bit next to the scribed line, then go back (maybe with a smaller bit) and sneak up to the line using tiny passes.  Needles to say, I overshot the line in one spot and decided to scrap this part and re-do the inletting.  But even with the disadvantages above, in most places the edge was coming out nicely.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do this part of the process next time, I already prepared another base with a couple of coats of clean shellac and will glue the inlay down before I head over the hill for work.  Maybe I can try excavating again one night this week – but first I need to work out the lighting problems and set up some sort of raised work area so I can see what I’m doing.

I messed up the excavating, and will do that part over on a new blank

I messed up the excavating, and will do that part over on a new blank.

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