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Thread: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

  1. #1
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    Default suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to start basic inlay

    where to find good info to read/study up on the subject, basic tools for a home shop for a beginner (not to be a business type venture, but to learn basics and do a few here and there).

    ( regarding inlay work on headstocks and fretboards )

    thank you
    d
    Last edited by darylcrisp; Aug-30-2019 at 6:40pm.

  2. #2
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    I have never done inlay on instruments but I have on some woodworking projects. You want to learn and practice you could do what I did. I got a board I liked drew a design on it, bought a small frett saw and used a contrasting wood. I used a knife to cut the edges in and a bent nail sharpened up in a block of wood to ruff chisel it out. Then small knife blades to finish the cutout and cut the contrasting wood and glued it in with Elmers. A great learning experience. Do not try the nail thing it didn't work that well, actually it was quite bad but created a few small dings and ditches for me to learn to fill. Just a thought. I look at it like this, an inlay is just making your own puzzle design then making your own puzzle pieces and putting them together.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    There was a great article written by SL Mossman in the seventies. Google should be your friend. In a nutshell, glue the inlays lightly to the board, scribe around them carefully and rout them out with a dremel. Sand flush.
    Ymmv

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  6. #4

    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Hi Daryl,
    I imagine there's lots of good info on the web with photos/video of the processes involved. Two very important things to consider are magnification and lighting (especially if your eyes are old like mine) For magnification, I think most people who do very much of it use the visor style with flip down lenses like a dentist. Some even come with their own LED lighting. I really only do my peghead logo these days so I get by with the old fashioned extension arm light with a big 6" lense and the round fluorescent tube. I supplement with an inexpensive LED gooseneck reading lamp. The basic steps are:
    •print the design on white paper and glue onto the pearl with white glue
    •if the design is delicate with narrow parts, glue the pearl on a thin piece of wood with grain direction supporting narrow parts during cutting
    •cut out the design (jeweler's saw w fine blades) and clean up the edges with jeweler's files
    •soak in water to free the paper and wood from the pearl
    •on dark wood, use some white paint first and glue down the pearl with just enough white glue to hold it in position
    •scribe around the pearl and carefully remove it, route out the cavity with a dremel and base- the solid carbide cutters from Stew-Mac work great
    •have some sanding dust from the background on hand, glue in the pearl with epoxy colored with the sanding dust (or other coloring medium)
    •sand flush with a block through all the grits, the pearl will really start to gleam when you get to 1000 grit. -RB
    Last edited by Rob Roy; Aug-31-2019 at 7:23am. Reason: spelling

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    I guess I was a bit vague above but my point is you don't need a ton of tools to try and learn. I would almost bet you have almost all you need at home already to give a practice pice a shot.
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    Registered User amowry's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    If you like good old fashioned books, The Art of Inlay by Larry Robinson is a good resource.

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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Quote Originally Posted by amowry View Post
    If you like good old fashioned books, The Art of Inlay by Larry Robinson is a good resource.
    Thanks to everyone. Exactly the type info I wanted. I do stained glass, so I have a good area, some real neat workshop lights, and I do have some of the magnifying headpiece lens with built in lights, and the dremels.
    Amowry, thank you for the book suggestion, I love books and will order this tonight.
    I'll need to order a big bag of patience I'd say also,lol. Seems like everything I am drawn to has a definite long learning period, and requires big bags of patience and practice.
    Thanks again folks.
    d

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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Here's the desk light. Mr brother gave me one a year ago, I know have 6. The lighting is adjustable in intensity and it has different tones of light. The light head is variable in all kinds of positions, there's a USB dock on the side. Weighted perfect so it free stands without tipping over no matter where the head light is placed.

    https://www.amazon.com/TaoTronics-TT...985295013&th=1

  14. #9
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    I learned the pearl inlay cutting more or less myself after reading few online articles and here are my most important bits - mostly learned the hard way.
    - buy best quality blades you can, bad blade can explode in middle of cut and ruin your piece
    - change the blade immediately!!!! when you feel it doesn't cut as easily as before as it will start heating up with friction and explode as above. Best quality doesn't equal most expensive - I found recently that cheap "LUX tools" blades from OBI (EU version of wallmart) work much better than some very expensive blades I had. You can use wax to reduce friction from time to time.
    - I found out that for most of the inlays you don't need the extra fine blades and coarser blades work actually better (longer). Use fine blades for details where large won't get.
    - if I am going to cut intricate logo with many curls or tight curves I chamfer the back of blade (with fine diamond file) and polish it up with 1200 grit paper (just few strokes up and down with folded piece of sandpaper). That makes the blade follow curves effortlessly = less friction = more blade life. I actually chamfer the back every time I change the blade.
    - never ever try to force the blade into curves. Only when the blade is in the move down (cutting) and without too much forcing into cut (sometimes I back out in the cut and start cutting gently with side of blade into the curve)
    - hold the pearl piece down to the cutting platform at ALL times and especially when you are lifting the blade up (teeth should not be in contact on the up stroke - just generates heat and destroys blades), hold the piece as close to the blade as you dare.
    - I place my inlay close to one edge of blank and start cutting the side closer to the edge of blank - I try orient the inlay in a way that any fragile inside curve cuts will get cut first - if you cut the outside first they are way easier to break away during the inside cut.
    - I cut the inside of closed loops just before I reach the outside cut with saw.
    - I glue layer of strong paper on the underside of the blank with thin CA (flood it). This adds tremendous strength as a laminate layer impregnated with hardened glue. I also draw or print the design on a piece of paper and glue it to the surface of the blank with thin CA (hold it in place with pointed piece of wood and soak it and iron down with waxed paper).
    - Use platform with as small hole as possible
    - Clean up the cuts with fine diamond files
    - Soak in small jar with some acetone for release of the paper
    Adrian

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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    If you're cutting the shell, use good ventilation and a proper dust mask. The dust can make you very sick. Been there, did that, when I was young and foolish. And there's a reason jewelers saw blades come in packs of 10.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    If you're cutting the shell, use good ventilation and a proper dust mask. The dust can make you very sick. Been there, did that, when I was young and foolish. And there's a reason jewelers saw blades come in packs of 10.

    Any dust is harmful but the pearl dust warning goes back to the days when they cleaned the pearl with arsenic. They don't do that anymore.

    A past thread with some heavy weight luthiers discussing this can be found here. One of my favorites is Tom Ellis in post 37.

    Along with all that Dave Nichols at www.custompearlinlay.com gives classes in pearl inlay.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  20. #12
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Everything Hogo said. I did one thing different I used water to keep the dust of the shell down when I cut it. Very light mist but I think it helped lube the blade as well. I never thought to bevel the blade a bit. I will be trying that. Have any of you tried one of those any direction twisted blades?
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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Everything Hogo said. I did one thing different I used water to keep the dust of the shell down when I cut it. Very light mist but I think it helped lube the blade as well. I never thought to bevel the blade a bit. I will be trying that. Have any of you tried one of those any direction twisted blades?
    I've got a pack of the twisted blades but I think thay would be useless for thin shell pieces. I bought them for f-hole cutting in larger instruments.

    I found out the chamfer when I used quite expensive blade that had fine teeth but somewhat longer profile (that can be good as it won't break as easily as tiny blade where teeth go past half of its thickness) and after 1" of cut the "kerf" (there's no real kerf, just induced wawines of the blade) lost bit of its edge and the trailing back edges of blade prevented from cutting into tighter curves which drove me mad. I knew that engravers sharpen the points with relieved edges so they won't damage the cut they just made when they cut into tight curves so I did the same to my blade - just few strokes at 45 degrees (on tightened blade) with fine diamond file to reduce the sharp edge of back and few strokes of sandpaper along the back of blade to smooth out the file marks and there was a world of difference in cutting performance.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    I can confirm that the spiral blades don't work in pearl, and they are too imprecise for what you'd usually want to do anyway. Fun to use in a nice scroll saw in wood, though!

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  26. #15
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    Let’s face it, the best answer for this is.....
    Practice, the first ones will be rough and it will improve with every subsequent endeavor! Not getting discouraged is the MOST important thing.
    Oh, and sharp tools!
    Full disclosure, the last thing I inlayed was a pork loin.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  28. #16
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    The first ones are rough is an understatement! I think I went through 8 blades on the first two inches of cutting the first time I tried to cut shell. I was horrified I got almost nothing done and used all my blade stash! This all happened in the span of about 30 minutes! I was in such a foul mood my wife started mixing margaritas! I don't generally drink but this time I had two!
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  30. #17
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    John, jewelers saw technique is not mastered in eight blades or the first dozen pieces. Don’t ask.
    I’ve seen lots of blade pieces in a bin after a day in a jewelers shop, they are rather like film used to be for photographers.
    How do you tell the difference between a pro and an amateur? Size of the wastebasket!
    Old joke but, still holds some truth.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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  32. #18
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    Default Re: suggestions/thoughts for someone wanting to learn inlay work

    thanks to everyone for the continued information, excellent stuff and exactly the things I need to hear/know/research.

    d

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