Inlay Turnings


My homepage:

The following photo essay is intended to guide a novice to moderately skilled turner through the process of inlaying a contrasting colored material onto a lathe turning. The example used here will apply fine green glitter to a Yew wood pen body, but the same process could be used with other materials and on different projects, so use your imagination.

All of the photos shown below may be clicked on for a close-up view.

Some woods are better for inlaying than others...try to avoid woods that will "bleed" into the inlay, like Padauk. Turn your blank as you normally would, leaving it a little proud (large) for later sanding,

In this example, I'm using a Oneway 12/24 lathe, and utilizing it's 24 position indexing wheel to set where each inlay hole will be drilled.

This photo shows a very handy tool...the Oneway Drill Wizard attachment, mounted onto the lathe's toolrest. A common electric drill has been mounted in the Wizard. In this project, I'm using a 1/8" brad-tipped drill bit. The Wizard jig facilitates precision hole drilling, when used with your lathe's indexing feature.

Here's a back-side view of the Oneway Drill Wizard. If you don't want to purchase a Drill Wizard, or if your lathe does not have an indexing feature, you can still drill holes in your piece, and inlay as described below, but the results may not look as good. This inlaying process can also be used to fill voids and blemishes in your turning.

This photo shows a close-up view of the Wizard's drill depth-stop. In this example, we'll be drilling holes into the pen body about 1/16" deep.

To the left of the Wizard jig, you can see the 1/8" drill bit, snuggled up against the turning and ready to drill the first hole.

Before drilling the first hole, set and lock your index wheel to position # 1,turn on you drill and push the Drill Wizard jig into the wood, up to the pre-set stop's depth. For this project, there will be four rows of holes, so the index wheel will be rotated from the initial # 1 position to position # 7 to drill  hole 2, position # 13 for hole 3 and position # 19 for the 4th hole.

Now we're going to get a little fancy, drilling each row of holes in a spiral pattern. This is accomplished as follows: Un-lock your toolrest and move the Wizard jig slightly to the left. Then for the second series of four holes, set the index wheel to positions # 2, 8, 14 and 20. For the third series, the index wheel will be set to positions 3, 9, 15 and 21...and so on.

As you can see, we now have the four rows of holes drilled, with six evenly spaced holes making up each spiral arm.

Next, we'll add some ring-cuts using a thin parting tool.

Three decorative rings have been cut about 1/16" deep.

Thin parting tools like this Chris Stott model are available from most woodworking stores. Many turners make their own thin parting tool from used bandsaw blades.

Choosing your inlay material is are several possibilities; including fine glitter, crushed stone and powdered metals.

For this project, I'll be using a bright green fine glitter. My favorite brand of fine glitter is Createx. You'll also need thin CA (instant glue) and CA Accelerator.

Gently sprinkle your inlay material into the holes and rings, tapping the material lightly with your finger to insure that there are no voids.

Very gently, add a drop of CA to the outer edge of each hole and ring. The thin CA should flow into the inlay material naturally, through its capillary action. Be careful when applying the CA...too much will cause the inlay fill material to wash out of the holes and rings.

Once you have good flow of the CA throughout the inlay, apply a light squirt of Accelerator. You don't need much, so don't get carried away. Then rotate the piece about 70 to 90 degrees and repeat the process until all the holes and rings are filled and glued.

After all the holes and rings are filled and glued, a little clean up will be necessary. You could sand the excess CA and fill material off your turning, but a lot of sanding will be required; and some woods (Ebony, Pink Ivory, Yew, etc...) will crack if sanded (heated) too much. So its best to carefully clean the turning's surface with a sharp tool. I'm using a 1/2" round-nosed scraper in this example.

And here's the finished turning, sanded progressively from 120 to 600 grit, in 80-100 grit increments, and with one coat of Mylands sanding sealer applied.

A little Beall buffing, and we're ready for final assembly.

Have a question or comment? Send me an e-mail

Copyright(c) 2005 All rights reserved.