The next step on the Blacker table has me worried. It’s the inlay on the legs. Now that I have the joinery done and fitting well, the leg ends shaped and everything otherwise ready to assemble it’s nice to know I have a fresh opportunity to screw things up.
I’ve done inlay exactly once before, it came out passable. The tricky bit was routing the cavity for the inlay to fit, and part of the issue was using a tool that had some design issues. More about that another time, but I’ve upgraded my inlay router base to one from Micro Fence and am very pleased with the new one.
So I decided to do another experiment with a similar design and the same materials as the Blacker table. It’s a vine motif with Silver vines and Abalone leaves. I don’t have a blow-by-blow on this as I’m still figuring out how to do this properly. If I can get to a level of comfort with the process I’ll try to document my approach.
I started by cutting out the individual petals and super gluing them to a piece of Abalone. I picked the least interesting of the shell pieces I had, and positioned the leaves so all four fit on one piece of shell. On a real project I’d waste more shell, using only the most interesting colors and shadings. In this case, I’d just use one leaf using that interesting blob of green in the middle.
I sawed these out on the Marquetry Chevalet, which worked OK, although I’m not sure that’s the best way as the piece of shell is small and hard to manipulate. I’ll need to try this with a jeweler’s saw and see which works better. I have something like 24 pieces to cut out like this, so I’ll get plenty of practice along the way.
I taped my vine pattern to the wood and routed it, and traced around the petals with a scalpel and routed them as well. I wasn’t happy with how the process flowed and want to try some other options for doing this. The main problem with routing the vines is getting a smooth shape, any little undulation shows up in the finished inlay. It’s theoretically possible to make a template for this, but I’m committed to doing this freehand so I’ll have to develop the control.
I had trouble at every stage, surprisingly the “dots” were the biggest pain in the butt, that will be easy to figure out. Trying to glue in 1/8″ long pieces of 1/8″ diameter silver wire was not fun. Next time I’ll make the holes deeper and maybe sharpen the tip like a nail so it goes in easily and can bite into the wood. Hopefully with a bit of practice I’ll get this figured out so it goes smoothly.
So let’s score this. A few wobbles in the vines, -5 points for lack of control. Gaps at the ends of the fines, -5 points for sloppy work. I had to sand everything flush to get this to look good, I’d rather the leaves were flush and the silver was just slightly proud of the surface, another -5 points for stylistic failure. But it works, and at arms-length it looks great, so although I guess I can live with a solid B+ for my first effort.