This was a major milestone for me, in a couple of ways.
The most obvious was completing the inlay. This was a fair amount of work and a lot of risk to the end product. Every little twitch of the mini-router could have screwed up the end result. By the time I got to the 4th leg I was feeling reasonably confident of the process. On the first leg I didn’t feel in control routing accurately to the scribed line for the petals. As a result I had some gaps, and several petals required a lot of knife work to fit well. All things being equal, I’d prefer a perfect fit off the router, or at least a fit that ended up needing knife work to get a snug fit. By the last leg I was pretty close.
The non-obvious part here is that I didn’t get caught up in the mistakes, even when something went badly wrong I just fixed it as best I could and continued on. That’s a big deal for me, it’s all to easy to fall into the perfectionist trap where nothing is ever good enough.
So, here is the blow-by-blow without all of the analytical drivel.
The tracing is for routing the vines and general positioning of the petals. It’s not nearly accurately enough to route the petals directly. I used an awl to locate the dots, and traced a circle around the large 3/16″ copper dots to differentiate them from the 1/8″ silver dots.
Once the outline of the shell petals is knifed in I pop them off (that is the intent with using Duco — to provide a imperfect glue up so it can be taken apart). Then I go over the knife lines to deepen them. When I route the petal cavities I remove the waste to within maybe 1/32″ of the knife line (less than 1/16″ at least), then slowly sneak up to the line. As I get close to the line it tends to want to pull the last little bit off right up to the line. After the petals are excavated I route the stems freehand. It turns out that a little wiggle in the routed line isn’t visible once the silver is inlaid — it goes in straighter than the wobble in the line and looks fine. Finally I drill the holes.
I glue in the petals first, as they may require some tweaking of the opening to get the shell to fit. By the 4th leg I was either right-on or very close on all of them, only requiring a tiny bit of knife work on the tip of the opening where the router bit won’t reach. I bought a for-real scalpel and blades from Cincinnati Surgical, it works really well. The blade is much finer and more flexible than either an X-acto or Swann-Morton craft blades. I use “super glue” to glue the inlay into the cavities, then do a wash over all the parts with the same glue to fill any little gaps. I set the depth on the router to leave the inlay about .010″ above the surface of the wood. The hardest part of this is the short lengths of 1.32″ Silver wire, it is a little tricky to get it into the groove and cut to length. The dots end up being a little taller than the rest of the inlay at this point, which is not a big deal.
I leave the glue to dry for several hours, then use a Bastard file to level the inlay with the surface of the wood. Original G&G work would have been slightly proud of the surface I think, but with my glue-fill procedure that wasn’t an option. I filed until the surface was level, then sanded it through 220 grit.
The next step is to glue up the base, and then start on the table top. I guess I have a small boatload of Ebony plugs to prepare too. I should be able to get pretty close to having the construction done next weekend.