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Inlay Books ?

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Anonymous

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I'm looking for books and/or online tips etc about brass inlay in wood. I want to get into this area of woodworking but I can't seem to find anything specifically about the craft of Brass Inlay, any links or suggestions would be much appreciated.

Cheers,

Chaz
 

Scrit

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Hi Chaz

The only book I've come across to deal with inlaying (although not specifically brass inlaying) is William A. Lincoln's "The Complete Manual of Wood Veneering" (Stobart Davies, 1984 - ISBN 0 85442 040 1) which does contain a chapter on inlaying techniques. 400 pages of really good info on all aspects of veneering written by an acknowledged expert in the field. If your local library can get a copy it may push you off in the right direction. I'd also take a look at books on guitar making as the frets are frequently made out of brass inlayed into ebony fretboards.
 
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Anonymous

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Thanks for your reply, much appreciated. I'll have a look for that book.

Cheers,

Chaz
 
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Anonymous

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Hi Chaz

I’ve never tried to inlay brass so I can’t offer the benfit of my experience. Instead, you might find some of the comments lifted from books in my library of some use:

“The Marquetry Manual” – W Lincoln

"In the Regency period, brass motifs inlaid into rosewood or mahogany backgrounds enjoyed a popular vogue and is still one of the forms of marquetry widely practiced today for reproduction furniture and on chairbacks.

Brass sheet is hard, and most professionals use a composition bronze in the proportion of sixty to forty of brass and copper.

Robust grades 3 or 1, jeweller’s metal-piercing blades are used for this work. The brass and the rosewood veneer are held together with a temporary adhesive (such as rubber cement) for the sawing process, and are easily separated afterwards.”

“The Technique of Marquetry” – Marie Campkin

“It is advisable to cut [brass] to shape first and then let them into the veneer assembly by tracing round the outline, rather than treating them as a piece of veneer to be cut by the window method. Finishing may present some problems too as the surface of… brass might be scratched by the sandpaper, and it may be necessary to devise some means of protecting them.”



I’m sorry that they don’t shed much light on the subject.

If I was to try it myself, I think I would actually finish the piece and sand it down before inlaying any metal. I’d also give it a protective layer of varnish/lacquer/whatever. Then I would gouge out a channel for the brass. This could be done in a couple of ways; firstly, using the actual piece of brass as a template and working round it with a scapel, then removing the channel beneath the brass with either a scalpel or a gouge. Secondly, you could use a fine router bit in a router fitted with a collar and cut out the channel to a depth as thick as the brass following a template.

If you find the answer to your question elsewhere, do please come back and tell us – I’d love to learn “the proper way” to do this myself.

Yours

Gill
 
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Anonymous

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Chaz,
I had a look through Practical Veneering by Charles Hayward, The Practical Woodworker ed. Bernard Jones and The Handyman's Book by Paul Hasluck. All cover how to do inlay, but not brass unfortunately. I have a friend who has done quite a bit and I believe he finishes the wood first, and then cuts the recesses for the brass.
One of the handiest tools to use (assuming you're inlaying lines) is a scratch stock, or a small hand router such as the Stanley 271 is useful for larger areas. You may be steady enough with a powered router though.

Cheers, Jester
 
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Anonymous

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Thank you both for your replies. I am quite surprised by the general lack of information available especially about inlaying brass on the Internet, seeing as the Internet holds such a wealth of information, inlay of brass seems to be a well guarded secret. I've used no less than 100 search engines using every term possible and have come up with some excellent UK suppliers of pre-cut brass inlay as well as brass strip and sheet and brass rod but no hints or tips of any worth about the actual technique of brass inlay. I think perhaps when I do eventually find a decent source of information about this subject I'll write my own guide about brass inlay, put in .pdf format and post a link to it here so that anyone looking for this kind of info has immediate access to it for free! :)

Chaz
 
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Anonymous

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Hi Chaz

Can’t say I’m at all surprised that there is little coverage of metal inlay work. For a start, a lot of marquetarians enjoy the beauty of wood and shudder at the thought of sullying it with metal. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for synthesis – after all, Boulle produced some fine pieces with metal inlay. The impression I get, though, is it’s not popular.

It’s also extremely difficult to get right. Even if you can get both metal and wood polished, it’s difficult to maintain a finish. Furthermore, brass is renowned for its propensity to expand and contract with minor temperature variations - it used to be popular with thermostat manufacturers, I believe. This problem is bad enough for marquetarians to have to cope with in respect to the varieties of wood they use – chuck in a lump of brass and the difficulties escalate dramatically.

Perhaps the Ecole Boulle (9, rue Pierre BOURDAN - 75012 PARIS) might be able to help you, if you can speak French. I understand they have a close working relationship with Basford Hall College (Nottingham), Buckingamshire College (High Wycombe) and Leeds College Of Art & Design (Leeds) so perhaps assistance could also be found closer to hand.

Happy hunting – let us know how you get on.

Yours

Gill
 
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Anonymous

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Thanks for all your help GillD, I've managed to track down a publication called "The Art of Inlay: Contemporary Design and Technique" which covers all types of Inlay including metal. It's available through http://www.amazon.co.uk and I hope this will at last shed some light on what I'm looking for. The more I read about the difficulties of inlaying metal into wood the more I realise I have a challenge ahead of me but it's one I look forward to at least having a go at and if it fails, it fails, if it's a success then that's great but whatever happens I will have learnt on the way.
I bought myself a hardwood and brass inlayed box. It is very much from the lower end of the quality chain, only a fiver, but it will allow me to study the basic technique used, no doubt, by those working in Thailand or Philopino sweat shops. The wood variety is not specified and the inlay work is extremely crude, roughly cut pieces of brass glued into oversized cut-outs in the wood surface and then the edges 'filled' with a woodfiller that doesn't quite match the original colour of the hardwood used. Some of inlay is quite good though so I'll carefully dissect the box to understand how the inlaying was done and with the help, I hope, of the book I will slowly begin to understand what brass inlay is all about :D

Chaz
 
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Anonymous

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Hi Chaz

I know that you're looking for techniques to help you inlay metal, but I found this link to info about inlaying mother of pearl. I haven't read it through properly yet, but it seems analogous to the metal process. Sean Barry is very keen on the Dremel router base attachment (as am I)!

http://inlay.com/inlay/pearl/pearl-3.html

Hope this helps

Yours

Gill
 
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Anonymous

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Interesting reading and a good link. It appears to be quite a task I've chosen to tackle but it should be fun to give it a go. :)
 
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Anonymous

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Well I finally managed to get the book I ordered titled "The Art of Inlay: Contemporary Design and Technique" . Before I comment on it, I don't recommend buying books from Amazon. It took nearly two weeks for my order for this book to arrive and when it did they had sent me the wrong book :roll: Eventually I got a reply to my emails and they told me to send the book back they sent in error but I'd have to wait another 10-14 days, not impressed but eventually the correct book arrived. Was it worth the wait ? No, not really. If you like pretty pictures of expertly done inlays then this book will suit you. There is a little section towards the end of the book showing you how to go about inlay work but it is more geared towards those who are already comfortable in this area of woodworking. If you can, go to your libray and see if they have it and decide for yourselves :wink:
 

AndyBoyd

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I inlay silver into furnture as well as mixing bronze powder with epoxy(This looks like brass you may want to try it - it's dead easy - rout your pattern, mix the brass powder (art shops have this) with Araldite Epoxy Resin and wap it in any old way you like. Then scrape it down or run it accross the jointer - dead easy and much easier than brass, even on large patterns - and what more no expansion problems. I knicked this ideas from Tim Stead:
http://www.timsteadfurniture.co.uk/index.htm who repaired holes in burr elm this way, very beautifully

I do inlay in the following way:

Silver
I purchase silver bars of the correct width from a local silversmiths stockists, or thin silver plate if I want thin inlays. Making sure the thickness is equal to the bits I have.
Cut your pieces to be inlayed first as then you know exactly the depth and width, I use a vernier calliper for this (but a micrometer works well too I just prefer a calliper) A belt sander is great thicknesser with 120 grit belt

I rout the lines by hand (practice this a lot on cheap wood that is simlar in hardness to your final piece, or off cuts). I mainly use a laminate trimmer but also recently have used a dremel with routing base. But originally I did it with my old Makita router! This was hard as it is difficult to control but after a little practice and adding a slippy base (PFTE tape from Axminster), and borrowing a speed controller to slow down the router, it worked well. I bought the laminate trimmer second hand for 10 euros and put in new brushes! and the dremel was a present, so in summary although they are easier to use I'd would not have bought them specially.
Sand the wood surface well before you rout to help the router move smoothly. I go to 400 grit

In general I draw the design on the wood (usually with a white pencil as I mainly use dark hardwoods). Do not worry if you wander off a little as long as you keep routing and do each line to be routed in a single run.
I put my 100mm waste extractor pipe close to the router as I have removed most of the routers dust extraction so I could see what I'm doing. The extractor sucks away immediately the waste, and helps tremendously.

Make sure your depth is correct as if you are doing it free hand you only get one shot at it. But if your using a template or straight line guides you can progressively make it deeper. If I do shapes I use a routing template guide bush and the shape made from thin MDF, then inlay is easy, Trend do a nice kit for this but you do get rounded edges so think about the design thy can be mostly avoided, by smart template design, and a way thin routing bit.

I have experimented with various glues and tried to overcome the expansion problems. I now file a little off the edges of the silver (actually on my belt sander) to make it a little thinner to give it room to move. And I now use a rubberised contact adhesive (I use a Dutch version of EvoStick) this also allows it to move without loosing the bond. But like most glues on some oily hardwoods it does not work. I got to this via trail an error

I fit all the silver once all the routing is done, I use a flat plate and a heavy item to press the silver flat with the wood and then just a final careful sanding of the wood. You can flatten the whole thing with a cabinet scraper metal and brass, by practice you can learn not to mark the wood. I only use oils or shellac finishes so those are easy to apply to the piece and wipe off the metal (I like the way the silver oxidises in my furniture)

I have tried a scratch stick and a Stanley router plane but my skill level is too low and my lines wander too much with the grain with these two methods.

I use very very thin router bits I get from Holz in Germany, but I believe Trend stock them. I have also heard of someone using those small second hand drilling bits you can buy via Axminster that come from Silicon Valley, problem is you do not know what you get when you buy 50!

And finally you need nerves of steel when you do it for the first time, I tend to sho the kids away as I swear like blue murder when I f*!& it up.

Hope this helps, feel free to post any more questions here
 
A

Anonymous

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Thanks for your great reply to a most annoying search for info on this subject. I'll definately give your idea a try and hopefully I will at last succeed in getting to grips with the art of inlaying.

Cheers.

Chaz
 
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