Slab Coffee Table #2: How and WHY! I Inlaid Stars in Slab Top

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Blog entry by CharlieK posted 08-11-2016 11:10 PM 820 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Constructing the Carved Tree Trunk Base Part 2 of Slab Coffee Table series Part 3: Table is DONE and so are the videos! »

I don’t know why this video didn’t embed properly. I did it the same way I always have, but this time I got a black square. If you know why then please let me know!

At least the YouTube link works. Here is the photo, but you will have to click on the link below the black box to see the video:

Photo is not the video, click on link below black box to see video.

View on YouTube


I inlaid decorative black stars in my slab coffee table. This is one of those times when the reason why might be more interesting as the how. The how is good, too but the WHY is a good story all by itself!

The wood slab that I used for the table had a lot of worm holes in it.oh drawing stars and

I wrestled with what to do with them. Leaving them just as they were would have been a perfectly good choice, but I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I decided to fill them with epoxy.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t consider is that the surface of the slab was end grain. As a result, the epoxy bled beyond the worm holes. Rather than the nice distinct little dots that I had envisioned, I ended up with a bunch of ugly little blobs.

After thinking about it for a while I decided to disguise the, now blobs, by inlaying stars over them. I didn’t want the stars to look like I put them on with a stamp. So, to add interest I purposely drew the stars by hand to ensure that no two would be the same.

Then I scored around the edges with a small chisel and an Exacto knife.

Once I outlined the edges, I excavated most of the waste with a Dremel tool.

A Dremel is perfect for inlay work. Unfortunately, the Dremel base that I had was not. The base that I used is called a “Cut-Out” base and it is more suited for cutting holes in drywall than it is for very fine detail work. The problem is that it is difficult to make fine, or repeatable, depth adjustments. As a result, the excavations were a bit deeper than I would have liked. No biggie, but I would rather have used a higher quality base.

I used a small chisel and a detail knife to clean up the star recesses after roughing them out with the Dremel.

I masked the stars off with some really high quality “outdoor” masking tape.

I was a little leery off epoxy after the problems I just had with it so I decided to use something different. I have had very good luck with a water based grain filler called Crystalac, so I decided to use that instead.

I used regular Rit dye that I bought at the grocery store to dye the Crystalac and it worked great!

Crystalac works great for filling grain, but it is not intended for filling these relatively large recesses. The downside was that it tended to shrink back and I had to apply multiple layers to bring it level with the surface.

This is how the stars looked like when I removed the masking tape.

The good thing about the Crystalac is that is was very easy to sand down.

I am very happy with how they turned out.

The end result was not only good, but it turned out to be a real conversation starter!

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans

7 comments so far

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1692 posts in 481 days

#1 posted 08-11-2016 11:38 PM

Embedded video works, and the project looks very good, Charlie.

-- Mark

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1692 posts in 481 days

#2 posted 08-11-2016 11:39 PM

The YT link, however, just brings up the screen cap of your grinning mug.

-- Mark

View doubleDD's profile


5053 posts in 1461 days

#3 posted 08-12-2016 12:18 AM

You did us proud with the stars Charlie. Tedious, but well worth it. Great job.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View DocSavage45's profile


7645 posts in 2260 days

#4 posted 08-12-2016 12:26 AM

Saw the piece at the woodworking show. I hd the idea you were making the relative age of the tree. Now I know it was the teachings of my mentor MURPHY! LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View CharlieK's profile


459 posts in 3211 days

#5 posted 08-12-2016 04:33 PM

Embedded video works, and the project looks very good, Charlie.

- Mark Wilson

Funny, it still is just a black square on my end but the YT link works fine. I am using Chrome for a browser, maybe that makes a difference?

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

8084 posts in 2846 days

#6 posted 08-12-2016 05:18 PM

Great work, Charlie. It was worth the T&E. It looks great.
As a matter of interest, there’s a YouTube video that shows a guy inlaying a design into a guitar fret board. He uses the Dremel as you did and used Timbermate filler instead of ChrystaLac. He says it can be colored with anything from powdered dyes to Koolaid. After the filler dried, he dribbled a dab of thin CA glue on the inlay. His purpose was to harden it due to the wear that frets get.

I use Timbermate for filling holes and cracks. In my experience, it doesn’t shrink.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View jayseedub's profile


66 posts in 1383 days

#7 posted 08-13-2016 05:29 PM

I love it when mistakes turn into happiness!

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