I just finished the inlay on the top of the Blacker Serving table I’m making.
This went really smoothly. It’s not perfect, but it’s plenty good enough. I’m pleased that I was able to do all the processes end-to-end without any screw ups or stress. A good day in the shop.
The top has the same style inlay as the legs, a silver vine with silver and copper “buds” and abalone leaves. It’s similar to the original motif, although not an exact copy. The original looks like this:
Inlay in original Blacker dining table
I started by laying out the design I wanted in CAD. It’s not identical to the original, but it has the same feel. I labeled all of the petals in my CAD drawing and printed out three copies. Two get cut up to glue to the abalone blanks, and the third is used as a reference and to trace the layout to the wood.
The pattern is cut into individual parts and glued to the abalone blanks with super glue. I had one extra piece of shell when it was all said and done.
As on the legs, I’m using the Chevalet to cut out the petals, I’m more comfortable with that than using a jeweler’s saw for this step. I used the same technique as on the legs to handle the little pieces of shell.
The shell blanks are Duco’d to 1/8″ plywood scraps. The plywood gives me something to hang on to while sawing, and helps support the delicate shell. I used the marquetry chevalet for sawing, you could use a jeweler’s saw or maybe a scroll saw too.
The sawing went smoothly. One or two parts weren’t sawn exactly on the line, but nothing to fret about.
Once the shell petals were all sawn out it was time to do the layout for the inlay on the table top. The layout is done in two stages, first tracing the design onto the top using Saral transfer paper, and then knifing in the exact outline for each shell part.
The pattern is oriented on the top, with a piece of transfer paper under it. I trace the entire design. The tracing of the vines is used directly to route that part of the design. I mark the location of the “bugs” with an awl and then drill those.
The traced pattern is accurate enough to freehand route the vines, but not to route out the cavities for the petals.
To layout the petals, I duco-glue the shell cut outs in place, using the tracing as a rough positioning guide. Then I trace around each piece of shell using a scalpel. The incised line gives me an accurate line to route up to.
The knife lines are crisp and clear
All of the routing is done with 1/16″ and 1/32″ carbide bits, freehand
The shell, silver and copper is all super-glued in place. The petals and vines are .010″ proud of the surface. the “dots” are taller. It will all get leveled once the glue dries.
I start leveling the inlay with a medium file. This actually goes pretty quickly.
I made up these sanding blocks using scrap plywood and 120 grit sandpaper. It takes some elbow grease to get the last bit of glue cleaned up.
The inlay is sanded to 120 grit here. Once I do the Ebony splines on the ends I’ll finish sand everything to 320.