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Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

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  • Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

    Hi membership,

    I usually, do tree branch carving, but I'm "branching Out." I dodn't know how to do inlay using Mother Of Pearl from clam sheel or abalone and I have both. I have made shell jewelry before (hard-work) anyone have any pointers of how to do inlay. I want to put some Pearl in some Oak pistol grips, I have the basic grips carved, but need some what to do next help. So, how do you go about ding pearl inlay into wood/Oak?

  • #2
    Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

    I've never inlayed material like "pearl", but have inlayed wood and brass/silver. All can be challenging for the first timer, solid material can be hard to do if you've never done it before. With wood, once in place, you can sand the surfaces so they are even. With a solid material, you need your surface to be about where you want when finished, sanding after install can make or break the project. I can't give every detail here because of space and time, but lots of people will file a slight bevel on the inlay along the edges, then place inlay where you want it, take small diameter pencil and trace around the inlay. This will give you some guide lines, the undercut bevel should give a shape the same size as the inlay. Put inlay back in place, lightly clamped (if possible) and now use small and sharp exacto knife to trace around inlay like you did with pencil. Remove inlay, and then remove material within that area the thickness of your inlay, try placing inlay into the area and remove whatever is holding up the process whether it's under or along the edges of the inlay. Glue it in with a clamp to hold in place, don't let any metal from whatever you use as a clamp to touch the glue that will ooze out, that will leave an ugly black stain. Next comes sanding. I don't know how "pearl" is when it comes to sanding, but I usually will have the inlay just slightly below surface, so I can sand surface to the inlay using sandpaper backed up with something firm to hard, your hand/fingers are a poor tool to use to keep things flat. This isn't even close to everything for info, but should be enough to play around. I would practice on some material similiar to what you want to work with to get a feel for this before you mess up your grips. A curved surface gives a whole new challenge to inlays. Good luck and have fun

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    • #3
      Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

      I think Robby pretty well covered what you need to do, Good Job Robby!!

      Couple of things to be considered. I have inlayed mop and other shell material. The advice about the bevel cut on your shape is spot on. The critical part is cutting the bed for the inlay piece. CRITICAL!! AND, I always catch the mop/shell dust during the final sanding/shaping/filing/bevelling and mix the dust with the epoxy. If there are irregularities in your base material (wood) the dust laden epoxy will slightly fill the gap. Optimum of course is a perfect fit. I am not that good. Real close..not perfect.

      My suggestion is don't make your first attempt with inlay on a piece that you have spent bunches of time with. You also need to know how the shell will act in conjunction with your base material. Practice with a couple of basic shapes, round, square, diamond, etc....in the same material as the piece you wish to use. (if you want to inlay in oak?? don't practice in ebony) Too many variables. The neat thing about starting with a circle/round shape??? Circle templates to mark your shell and drill bits exactly the same size for cutting the bed. Then you can discover how best to get everything level/flush and sanded ready for polish.

      When working with ANY shell?? DUST MASK IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. LUNGS AND CALCIUM DUST DO NOT GO TOGETHER WELL AT ALL. Best of luck, please post a pic when you are finished??
      jerry

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      • #4
        Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

        Leatherwood,

        I would use a different wood from Oak for your handgun stocks. When I started making them back in the 1970's my first few pairs were from Oak, and even after carefull fitting and finishing, I had problems with frame rusting and warping.

        Your inlays will be a real challenge as the work surface is probably going to be concave (slightly rounded) and as you fit and finish the shell material it will thin the edges changing the lustre/color and weakening the edges.

        If the HG is heavy recoiling and the inlays are not REALLY secured with a CA glue, they may work loose.....

        Good luck and keep us posted on your results

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        • #5
          Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

          There is a book called "The Art of Inlay". It will tell you all you need to know. Youcan find it on Amazon used at a good price. The artwork in the book is stunning.

          Dan

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          • #6
            Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

            Thanks all for the great advice. I've cut my Oak from a felled Oak tree two years down & stored like fire wood. I'm using only hand tools, saw, hand files, sand paper and then a dremel will be used.

            It took a couple of days to get the cut I wanted, 4" x 1 1/8 and tall larger and thicker than I need, but gives me "Mess up," room. Then I've been filing and getting the two pieces near the point of shaping the grips. So, about a week so far just in wood prep.

            I have my own whole clam & Abalone shells and have worked with them in the past in sterling inlay and hand shaped jewelry.

            Yes, I have a ways to go and its Very slow, but I have lots of patience. PETE? Does the hardness and non-flex character of Oak cause the weapon frame to warp when its hot and colling down like, after firing? Also, Rust, is that caused because Oak retains moisture even with gloss covering (not sure which type I'll use yet..,?

            I'll post progress if my sanity remains in contact and yes, I do everything the hard way, ha, ha.

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            • #7
              Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

              Leatherwood,

              I "think" the potential for rust has to do with Tannins, or acidity of the wood, but cannot remember for sure. Somebody else here may have the technical answer.

              You should have no problems with thermal expansion of the wood during use, if it got that hot you would be dropping it like a hot coal.

              Be CAREFUL working to the edges of the inlay cavities when routing them out Aok can get weird with the fuzzy edges and chipping.

              Good luck with cutting out the inlay pieces from raw shell, that is a heck of a lot of work, and please keep us posted with pix.

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              • #8
                Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

                Friends of the wood carving Art, you are very generous and I appreciate all you share with me. I'm going very slow. Also, yes, cutting shell by hand is a killer, so is carving Oak by hand, but, hey, that was how "they," did it right? Have some pics now of where I[m at, but guess I have to load them to photobucket or somewhere as I can't use the URL to load the pic.

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                • #9
                  Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

                  I hope this image process works, I'm add the image location so, it should right?

                  This is the plastic grip for a 1911-A 45 and the Red Oak grip I have been working on. I'm focusing on the wood piece as if it were the entire project and it is almost. Cut, file sand and sand, by hand. Don't they call Oak the Iron Wood? When the time comes, I do the design on the grip/s and the shell cuts. I haven't figured out how to use the saw dust yet, but will.

                  Anyone have recomenadions for some some good stain (Dark I'm thinking} and good gloss finish material?

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                  • #10
                    Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

                    This is the actual White Oak branch and the work i've done on the Grip block. The wood has no preservatives, chemicals, ect in it. Its slow work, just about my speed. Then I start on the inlay effort with MOP clam shell and or Abalone.

                    I'm open to all comments and just wanted you who have commented to know, I appreciate it and I'm working it.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Doing Mother Of Pearl Inlay in wood ?

                      I wanted to let you all know that I'm doing future posting regarding the M.O.P. inlay effort in the Works In Progress Forum. Thought I'd better post there now than be told to, ya reckon? I'll still needing some help on the actual inlay part, but I have been reading and working. Thanks for your help and don't vanish now, ya hear?

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