The raw Hickory blank was one I purchased a few years ago, which was wax-dipped and about 11” in dia. by 2” thick. It was completely dry when I started. I mounted the blank from what will be the front with a faceplate ring and 6 screws. I think I used a 100 mm ring.
After truing up the blank, I cut the dovetail into the back for the chuck jaws to fit into. By the way, once I mount the piece into the chuck and start working on the front, it never leaves the chuck until the piece is finished (except for final buffing). This keeps the registration the same and provides a way to hold the piece in a vise for the inlay work.
I usually finish the back completely before starting on the front, including a coat of varnish for protection.
In this case, though, after I reversed the piece and began shaping the front, the large knot came loose and fell out, despite the fact that I had tried to stabilize it with CA glue. OOPS! Now, things get complicated quickly.
See the hole?
The next thing I had to do was to decide if the piece was worth saving. Since I had paid for the blank and I HATE to throw pieces away, I decided to fill it. First, though, I had to plan the inlay around the hole. See the rough sketch.
I finished cutting the profile for the front of the plate, and sanded it to about 100 grit to give a smooth enough surface to start the repair.
To accomplish the repair, I backed the hole with tape, then partly filled it with a mixture of anthracite and mica, then added CA glue to stabilize it for the back. Then, I filled the front side with hickory sawdust and CA glue to provide a reasonably consistent (and strong) base for the inlay.
Once the repair was cured, I sanded back and front to probably 220 grit. I use mostly 3” wave discs and an angled electric grinder. It makes the whole project go faster, and the results are far, far better than hand-held sanding pads.
Then I drew the pattern onto the blank, and cut the groove for the frame on the lathe with a cutoff tool. I decided I wanted to use large chunks of green calcite for the frame, which are almost transparent. So, I typically smooth the groove to 220 grit or so, prime it, and apply gold leaf (or imitation gold in this case) to provide a mirror-like reflective base that enhances the color of the calcite and catches the light and sends it on a round-trip back to your eyes.
Once the gilding was finished, I began cutting the inlay with a rotary cutter. I use solid carbide down-spiral cutters for a clean edge. You must do this VERY carefully, since mistakes in the inlay cuts are almost impossible to hide (unless you change the design!)
Here is the piece with the trunks and branches cut in. Notice that I had not yet decided to put leaves in. The inlay cuts for leaves should be added later, after the trunks, branches, and frame is basically complete, in order to prevent the different colors of minerals from mixing where I don’t want them.
OK, that’s it for now. I will show you how to start the stone inlay process in the next installment.
-- patience is a virtue ... in woodworking, cooking, and life in general