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how to do silver wire inlay.

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  • how to do silver wire inlay.

    Merle showed interest in silver wire inlay, so I have put together a small tutorial on how to do it.

    Where to get silver ribbon: Track of the Wolf black powder shooters supplies www.trackof

    Tools for the job: See attached photo.

    Chisels can be made from an old high carbon steel hacksaw blade and a few drawer handles. These should be between 1-4mm in width and, when held in the hand as per attached photo, should extend about an inch past the fingers. This gives you good control of the chisel and enables you to feel the blade flexing, as can happen with hard woods. In the event this happens, rock the chisel a little to help it slice down into the wood.

    Using the chisels: keep the chisel upright at 90 degrees to the work . See attached photo Start at the tightest part of the scroll with the 1mm chisel and change the size to wider points as you work toward the not-so-tight sections. This enables you to cut the groove quicker. Overlap the cuts a little so you have a continuous groove.

    There is a tendency to tilt the chisel slightly on the tight scrolls. Avoid this, as you can end up with a cone-shaped piece that pops out. In the event it does, just glue it back in again: not a major problem.

    Preparing the ribbon for use : The ribbon is smooth and about 4mm wide. I cut it in half to around 2mm to make it go a bit further. This works fine so long as you prep the wire well.

    File the edge of the wire so that it is V shaped: this fits tight into the bottom of the groove without spreading the wood fibre too much. A faster way is to run it over the edge of a bench grinder both sides. I do this in about 6 inch sections by pulling it tight and just running it over the edge of the grinding wheel. Takes no time at all to do both sides of the 1m length this way and it leaves a ragged edge that locks into the wood fibre.

    Next lay the ribbon flat and draw a coarse file down each side of the ribbon, so nice rough scratches run full length both sides. This helps the ribbon to lock into the wood fibre.

    Inlaying the ribbon : Once the groove is cut for the pattern (Do small sections at a time. In tight scroll work if you do too many cuts in a small area you can get breakouts. Doing one line at a time prevents this.) shape the ribbon by bending it around objects of approximately the right size. Cut one end on a slight angle so that it doesn't bind on the end of the groove. See photo.

    Start at the tightest end of the scroll. Then press the wire as far as you can into the groove. A little side-to-side movement helps it to go into the groove. See attached photo.

    Make a dowel and slightly round the end, and use this to tap the wire gently into the groove. Tap it in nearly all the way leaving about 5-10 thou proud. When you get to the other end of the piece you are working on, cut to length and cut the angle on the ribbon prior to tapping it in. See Photo.

    Adjusting the ribbon : The ribbon will sometimes not go into the groove leaving a nice clean line. This can be adjusted. Take a hacksaw blade and round the end. Press the round end up against the slightly proud ribbon and push it into shape. You will be amazed how much difference this makes. See photo.

    Tap it all the way down and sand the wire and wood down to 400 grit, stain wood if you want to make the ribbon stand out. See attached photo.

    And that is about it, I think. Have attached a couple of photos of different projects to show how this can enhance your work.

    Hope you can make use of this in your projects . Happy to answer any questions.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Glenn Jennings; 07-05-2020, 01:44 AM.

  • #2
    Thank you very much. Inlay of any kind is not an embellishment that is at all common here in the the WCI forums. I often add copper and abalone shell but the silver wire, I need to study.

    Wood choice: Can this be done with softer woods like the conifers? Anything less than gun stock walnut or instrument mahogany?
    Brian T


    • #3
      Hi Brian
      So glad you are getting something from this. It is a bit of a dying artform and I wanted to do my bit to keep the old skills alive before like so much they are lost to time.

      You can apply this to any wood. The demo was on MDF or medium density fibre board which is basically wood chip with glue.

      For very soft wood you might want to make an ultra small fine blade KNIFE and "slice" the surface of the pattern line before using the chisel to get the depth.

      Just using the chisels in very soft woods creates slight dimples where the wood fibre is depressed down into the cut which detracts from nice clean lines. Sometimes if you "like sanding" you can remove them. It often falls in the too hard basket so prevention is better than cure if you know what I mean. Place the chisel in the cut for nice clean lines.

      You will probably want to get a head band with magnifying lenses to do this work. For rifle stocks I use a hobby microscope. Brilliant. I got it for engraving for rifles for which it is great but for inlay it is just brilliant cost about $750.00 NZ out of china.

      So many old skills are dying as mass production takes over. How many people know how to forge a file these days ? probably zero. Cant tell you how to forge one but I know how to harden one using a forge fire. Just an example.

      Hard woods make for nice lines but comes at a price as they are also harder to get the silver ribbon taped down into without damage to the ribbon. If it wont go reasonable easy then re-cut it till it does. Not as easy as it sounds.

      youtube has some good demo clips.

      I just made a steady for my new wood lathe, some of the wood was so hard the drill press was struggling to drill it. As bad as stainless steel. believe it or not.. Burnt the drill tip on 4 holes. So it is all down to appraising the material as you go.

      If you hit a snag doing it feel free to drop me a line and I will endeavour to sort a fix for you.

      Am surprised inlay is not common. perhaps I should do a demo piece showing what inlay can do to enhance aesthetic value of an item. I just did one on how to make dead boring wood look good. pyrography on veneer inlaid has a wealth of possibilities as does adding guitar binding strips inlaid into projects. And that is before you even think of going 3D with overlay. Possibilities are endless.

      cheers Glenn

      Last edited by Glenn Jennings; 07-05-2020, 03:07 AM.


      • #4
        Hi Glenn, if you want to know how to make a file, check out the YouTube channel Clickspring. In his Antikythera fragments series he has a video on case hardening and one on making precision files. Well worth a look, his workmanship and video production are top notch.


        • #5
          Hi Glenn , Boy you do Beautiful Work . On cutting the Slot in the Wood , do you Punch the Tool or use it as a V Gouge ? Could you use Silver Solder Wire? I now have a Very Good Idea on how to do Silver Inlay . You did good at explaining the procedure . Thank You . Glad to hear you made a Steady Rest for your Lathe . Merle


          • #6
            There's untold variety of decorative inlays in the carvings of the Pacific Northwest First Nations.

            Abalone is now a protected species here so all that's found is really old or black market from poachers which I would never support. Shell from NZ is much more brightly colored but I have a small stash of very old BC shell to use.

            Copper is a native metal here, nuggets like gold in the river gravels. This metal denotes wealth and prosperity. I like to use it for eyes in particular and body spots.

            If I can figure out where I hid the drawings on myself, I do have one formline project which might be very well set off with silver. Must search.
            Brian T


            • #7
              Thanks Glenn for the tutorial and for opening the broader topic of inset materials for enhancing our carvings. Like Brian, I have inset stones in Pacific NW style carvings. Perhaps the most interesting is a pocket watch that I inset in a relief carved scene including a grandfather clock.

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              • #8
                American made copper rivets are easy to find with the horse tack parts in an big farm store.
                I can grind and prune them down to suit my needs. Then drill holes in the carving for a press-fit.

                I did this fish in pine to see what the combination of paints would look like. Lots of spots so I used copper. Graphic was a Mangrove Jack, on the label of a bottle of Australian wine. So many bits popped off that I have become a Picasso with the wood filler (hidden by the paint).


                Brian T


                • #9
                  Dang you Glen. Most interesting, give some of us the itch. Well explained, thank you
                  . . .JoeB


                  • #10
                    Hi Steev : Thanks for the info I will have a look at that cheers!!

                    Hi Merle : Thanks for the nice words. Because the tips of the chisels are so small you can get tons of pressure on the point just by pressing down by hand pressure alone. On many woods you will hardly feel any resistance at all as you press the point down into the wood. Any metal will do to do the inlay with but if it's round like brass welding wire then you would need to beat in to a flat ribbon about 10-13 thou thick before you could use it.

                    You can get sheets of German silver 16 thou thick which is a mixture of nickel and zinc I think from memory. reasonably cheap from Track of the wolf. $7.00 a sheet 8 inch x 4 inch This could be cut into strips and treated like the 13 thou silver ribbon. Would be a little harder to work but that could be a good thing when inlaying hard timber as you would be less likely to damage it when taping it into the groove. Track also have a lot of pre-cut inserts of all sorts of different shapes that could make good project inlays and they are as cheap as a Mcdonalds hamburger.The ones on special hehehe.

                    Added advantage of german or nickel silver is that it is very slow to oxidise I clean the rifles nickel inlays maybe once a year.

                    Hi Brian : a quick trip to your local metal recycling depot can score bits of different metals for inlay. I used a brass plumbing fitting to make the ferules for my 2 canes. A copper pipe scrap can be cut and flattened and cut to whatever shape you want. A quiet wander around the harware store can provide a wealth of goodies. For instance a cheap as made in china brass butt hinge can be cut up and shaped to make nice inlay. Metal scrap can be your best friend.

                    Hi Pallin : No problem. Glad to contribute to a forum I have got a lot from. Love the carving!! Took one look and my mind went right back to 3rd form at school as a kid learning how to do single point projection tech drawing. It has that unmistakable look. Love the pocket watch touch but there is no way my nice Hamilton and Waltham pocket watches are going to end up in one hehehehe. I have one from 1895 in mint condition.Is a beautiful thing.

                    I have a sneaky feeling Eschers white cat might be lurking in the window on this one hehehehe.

                    Hi Joe : hehehehe you can look on this as payback for giving me good ideas I have to try. hehehe Hey ! there is only one thing to do with an itch joe and that's scratch it. You think the hacksaw might be missing it's blade shortly ?? hehehehe.


                    • #11
                      Hi Glenn , A couple of Questions , No Glue is needed in the Slot with the Silver ? When doing the Bear , do you remove all the Wood under the Bear or just around the Edges like the Wire , and do you Glue it ? You got me thinking now . Ha,Ha. Merle


                      • #12
                        Thanks Glenn. Very informative. Doing Gun stocks are a goal. I have done a few practice ones. The wire inlay really adds a great look.
                        We live in the land of the free because of the brave!


                        • #13
                          Hi Merle: No glue is needed in the slot for the wire to go into. I tend to finish my projects with Birchwood Casey Tru-oil which is a drying oil that goes really hard. I think this assists in locking the silver into the wood fibres as well. Have Never has one come out or lift at all.

                          For the silver inserts like the bear the whole area is cut out to the thickness of the silver so the edges are flush with the wood. This keeps the line of work true. If the surface is curved I pick an animal that will fit the profile on the pieceYou will see the bears biody id centred on the top of the curve of ther stock. This helps to give the illusion of a 3D image a little. A small thing but it just adds to thething to make it pop a little if you know what I mean.

                          The underside of the bear is roughed up with a coarse file and the piece glued in with epoxy glue. I bevel the edge of the silver very slightly as this helps to hide the odd little waver in the cut on the outside edge and ensures a snug fit when pressed in.

                          Drill a hole in the centre under the inlay if you have the4 room to do it. This gives excess glue somewhere to go which is a benefit on bigger inlays. Otherwise you have to work the excess out to a small gap around the edge and if you have a real good fit that just doesn't work so the hole is a good thing. Also makes an epoxy pin to hold the inlay in.

                          HI Randy : No worries you are most welcome. Thanks for the kind words.


                          • #14
                            Hi Glenn Jennings i know this is an old post, but boy have you given me some new ideas... Thank you my friend.


                            • #15
                              I also use brass bezel wire for inlays. The bezel wire can be found at jewelry suppliers. It is also a good practice material, pretty cheap compared to real silver.

                              Another source of blades is modified XActo knife blades #17 and #18. I cut off an XActo handle, made a wood knob handle to hold the blade. The steel in the Xacto blades is of pretty good quality.