Some advise about inlays

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Forum topic by RussellAP posted 04-01-2013 01:28 AM 2082 views 5 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3059 posts in 1826 days

04-01-2013 01:28 AM

I’ve done quite a bit of inlays. I’m not the best at it, but have learned a thing or two that I’d like to share. You can cut this and save it if you plan to do inlays.

Not everyone does inlays, or does them the same. Simply because you do it one way and I do it another does not mean either of us is right or wrong, the results should be the judge.

Always try different things with inlays, experiment on scrap wood, use colored sand so you don’t waste inlay.

So here is the list in no specific order of importance.

1. Buy a few inlay stones or powders, don’t just use one all the time. Having a variety makes things interesting.

2. Inlay is expensive and it comes in small quantities, order some tins with lids to keep them in and cut off the name on the bag and keep that inside the tin, and label the tin.

3. Take some old forks or spoons and use the handle end, I flatten mine out in my vise and then make a divot in it with a little troff so the inlay material can slide off in a controlled way right where I want it. Sometimes you can use your fingers but you waste a lot that way.

4. Always put your stones or powder on when the work is over some clean paper so you can catch what falls off and reuse it.

5. If you have a major check or void to fill, clean it up with some carving tools. You can get a decent set at Hobby Lobby for about 12$. you want something small for detail work. Get rid of all the loose material and the fibers that hang out in the check or void. Make it as smooth as you can but don’t obsess.

6. Small hairline cracks can be filled with brass, copper or aluminum powder quite nicely. They don’t stand out too much on cherry and woods of that color, copper is best for walnut cracks, colorwise.

7. Not all CA glue is created equal, or has the same thinness. I like the runny stuff. I get it all over my hands but it dries quickly and quick is good. The medium CA takes too long and takes a long time to soak into materials. The thin CA coats everything well and fast except powders, that takes patients.

8. If I have a small depression to fill, coat the depression with Thin CA, then you can line the inlay with black or white or any color sand..just flip it over to spill out the loose sand and you have a coating in the depression, you can fill it with anything and they inlay should have an outline around it of whatever material you used. I prefer black sand, fine grade.

9. If you line your depression with sand, you can inlay the stones anytime you want, but I do it while the glue is still wet if you can. just put the inlay material in the depression and flood with Thin CA. Wear a respirator and dont get the fumes in your eyes. Trust me on that.

10. For large voids you don’t have to buy a ton of inlay, again, black or any color sand will do the majority of the fill for you, just leave a couple millimeters for the inlay stone to set in the void and make sure you pile it up over the top of the board, you’ll need to have something to sand down flush.

11. I don’t care what anyone says, let it set for a full 24 hours before you sand it down. In a warm place. Not a hot place.

12. When you sand the inlay down, put some white paper under the work and gather up the power from your sanding. Bag it and keep it with the stone inlay material, It is good for filling tiny depressions in your inlay after the first sanding. There are usually some tiny holes that need a second procedure.

13. I have several colors of metal flakes, glitter, that I will sometime mix in with my stones to give the inlay a bit of flash. Don’t use too much and sprinkle it on last.

12. There is no way to keep CA from darkening your wood if it’s a light color like maple or cherry. You can try to mask it off, or wax it, but unless the wood is soft, it wont penetrate too deeply and will sand off with some effort and a few well chosen cuss words.

13. If you inlay soft wood, cedar, pine, or maple, do take the effort to keep the CA from getting on the surface of the work. It WILL ruin it. It penetrates so far you can’t sand it out. I don’t inlay such woods, but if I do, I use medium CA glue, it takes forever but you can be a lot neater with it.

14. If you have a void that goes all the way through, tape the under side with frog or masking tape. Get the thick stuff. When you fill this void you have to think backward to get the underside right. Or you can dig out a bit and inlay the stones in the depression you create with a grinder of some kind. I like to do both sides at once. Coat the walls with thin CA, you may want to do this before you tape it up. then fill the void with colored sand, what ever color you want to outline your inlay with. then dump out the sand. The void should be thoroughly lined with sand
Then start with your inlay stones and get an even layer at the bottom on the tape and just cover it with black sand and wet with CA. finish filling the void with sand flooding with thin CA making sure everything gets wet. Then put the inlay stones on the top making sure to come over the surface of the wood and let it all dry for 24 hours in a warm place.

15. Sand with a ROS and use the heaviest grit you have. 40, 80 both make it quick and take the inlay to surface level. Once you have it at surface level sand the entire piece until the CA dark spots are gone. This may take a while. CA soaks in from the void so it is inevitable that you’ll have dark spots. I throw caution to the wind and just sand them out. I’m sloppy, what can I say.

I hope this will help some of you with your inlays and maybe help a few of you decide to do some inlays. They aren’t hard, hell, I can do it.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

3 replies so far

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


2788 posts in 1949 days

#1 posted 04-01-2013 01:46 AM

Nice well explained advice. Having never done much with inlay I can see where I can improve my method greatly. Thanks for the post most informative, I will print and hopefully try this soon. I also enjoyed a good chuckle from a few sections.

it wont penetrate too deeply and will sand off with some effort and a few well chosen cuss words. = Amen
I like the runny stuff. everyone should glue their fingers together at least once, just because…
I throw caution to the wind and just sand them out. I’m sloppy, what can I say. we all are just few admit it.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View RussellAP's profile


3059 posts in 1826 days

#2 posted 04-01-2013 04:32 AM

Thanks, it’s just a messy and sticky job.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

23066 posts in 1878 days

#3 posted 04-01-2013 07:17 AM

Good advice. I plan to try some soon.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

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