Workmanship of Screwing Up

Yesterday I wrote about the workmanship of risk (or the workmanship of screwing up as I like to call it.)  It’s a topic that has been on my mind as I started in on the inlay for the Blacker Serving Table I’m making.  This project is a bit of a stretch for me, I’ve done inlay twice before, both as sample projects that didn’t matter.  Now I’m doing a real project, with a very real risk of ruining a part.

The inlay process is simple enough.  Make a cavity and stuff some contrasting material into it.  It’s the making of the cavity where the risk comes in.  For the petals on the vine motif I’m doing I have cut out Abalone shell that I’ll inlay.  To create the cavity I’m using a micro router to freehand the opening using 1/16″ and 1/32″ bits.

Inlay router from Micro Fence

Inlay router from Micro Fence

When I first did inlay I tried using a router base from William Ng, but wasn’t satisfied with it.  The screws to set the depth didn’t hold when routing and the depth would drift deeper.  I returned it and eventually got this tool from Micro Fence.  It can use a variety of Dremel-like tools for power, I’m using my Foredom flax shaft tool.  I like this tool a lot better, it holds depth properly, is easy to adjust and has a real plunge mechanism unlike the Ng tool.

But the point of showing it is to demonstrate the risk of the operation.  Most of the work is done using a 1/16″ bit and freehand routing the cavity that the inlaid material will sit in.  If it’s too small the material won’t fit, if it’s too big you have ugly gaps around the inlay.

I spent a couple of hours staring at this tiny bit through 5x magnifiers while routing out the legs.

I spent a couple of hours staring at this tiny bit through 5x magnifiers while routing out the legs.

The very first leg I tried on I lost control and made a bad cut for the silver vine, which is also freehand routed.  It wasn’t the end of the world, although it felt like it at the time.  Luckily I was able to move past that and finish the inlay in the first leg, here it is sanded flush and (mostly) ready for finish.  It’s far from perfect, but when it’s part of the table, has finish applied and is viewed from three feet away it will look great.

First leg done

First leg done

The silver wire is 1/16″ and 1/32″ thick square Argentinium Silver — a Sterling Silver alloy that is tarnish resistant.  The dots are 1/8″ round silver wire and 3/16″ copper round bar in drilled holes.  I learned some tricks doing this first leg, and I’m working on the other three legs right now.


Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Workmanship of Screwing Up

  1. Paul K. Murphy

    Very cool. Nice Routah.

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