My goal in posting this was to give everyone an idea of how I went about making a Texas Star to use in inlay work. There is probably a better way to do this, but this way is safe and effective and requires few tools. I have seen it done this way once and wanted to attempt it myself. I did not snap pics of the build process but I was able to come up with some drawings in sketchup to illustrate each step.
Step 1: Layout
The first thing I considered is what wood to use. It is ideal to pick two woods of different color for a nice contrast. The inlay is going into a walnut table top so I decided on Curly Maple and Brazillian Cherry. Luckily I had some 3/4” stock on hand with appealing (to me) grain pattern so that is what I went with. With the stock clamped up, I marked out the cut lines at the appropriate angles 18° and 36°. Below is a picture of how this was done.
Notice that I am doing the layout on the edge of the board, not the face. This picture illustrates what grain orientation I was after. I wanted the grain to follow the length of each blade of the star. If I had a board with the straight grain on the face and not the edge, I could do this layout on the face instead. Either way works, it is just easier to do it this way I think.
Step 2: Saw Cuts
The next step is to make 2 saw cuts (I chose to cut on the outside of the lines) down the board about an inch. Each cut is displayed in red and blue in the picture below. It doesn’t matter which cut is done first, just try to make each cut as square as possible. To aid in sawing, I carried my layout lines down the face of the board as a visual reference to follow with the saw. Don’t worry too much if you are a bit off, there will be opportunity to trim things to fit later.
Step 3: Thickness Cuts
I wanted the thickness of my star to be about 1/8” so I cut each piece a little over 1/8” thick. A finished star requires 5 pieces from each wood (10 total). I cut a few extra pieces so I could be selective on which ones I used. If you didn’t saw deep enough initially to get the number of pieces you need, then clamp it back on its edge and saw deeper. I found about an inch or an inch and a half to be plenty deep. You will then have the rough pieces that will make up each arm of the star.
Step 4: Planing to Thickness
Unless your sawing skills are very good, you will notice that each piece is a little different thickness and all sides and faces are a little rough from the saw marks. To help with this, I chose to create a block to aid in planing the thin pieces. I grabbed some pine and the largest piece (pick the largest piece because all of the smaller pieces will fit within the mortise and you wont have to re-cut the mortises for each piece). Using a knife and chisels I created two mortises about 1/16” deep in the face of the pine board. Make your mortise depth shallower than the thickness of your pieces so they will sit proud of the surface to be planed. It is important to make another mortise the mirror image of the first so you can plane both sides of your pieces.
Step 5: Matching Pairs
Once you have the faces cleaned up, start matching pairs. I chose the ones that looked best together. You will end up with 5 pairs. It is a good idea to label each pair so you can keep them together. I chose A,B,C,D,E for my labeling.
Step 6: Glue the Pairs
It is important to make sure that each pair has a tight glue line between them. To accomplish this, I clamped my block plane up side down in the clamp and set the blade for a light cut. I then took my matching pair and ganged them together with the show faces facing outward and ran the edges to be glued along the plane blade. This method is sometimes used when clamping a panel up (although you are usually running the plane over the panel pieces instead of the panel pieces over the plane). It pretty much guarantees a tight glue line. When each pair is done, I glued them together using a rub joint and a flat board to make sure the bottom sides of each pair were in the same plane. You will be surprised how well a rub joint will keep the pieces together. Just focus on each pair for right now. Once you have 5 pairs, you can start putting them together.
Step 7: Fitting the Final Star
Now you can put the 5 pairs together to see how your star looks. Chances are they wont fit perfectly right away and you will have to adjust the inside angles to get them to fit. Use the block plane clamped up side down to trim each angle for a tight fit. I had to adjust the inside angle and take a little off the outside faces to make sure all of the intersections lined up well. It doesn’t take long to tweak. For the final glue-up, use blue tape stretched along the back to help hold the joint tight. I start by gluing up 2 blades, then add a third, and then fourth, and finally the fifth. Let each glue up dry a bit before moving on. Once the glue dries you are done. Congratulations, a Texas Star. Here is a photo of the one I made.
To make the star smaller or larger you will have to adjust the thickness of stock used or adjust your cut lines accordingly. With 3/4” stock, the star is a little over 6” tall.
I had fun making this and I hope this tutorial will help someone else. It really isn’t hard to do and looks mighty impressive. Now to finish the inlay…. Here is a picture of the star in contrast to the walnut table. I think it will look good.