Wood, brass and amethyst inlay cast in epoxy resin

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BradyS

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I'm not sure if this is the correct forum to post work projects. But it seems the logical place.

This is my first such post, so I'll write a short intro about how I got into woodworking and what I actually do.

I'm a complicated breed of star gazing and pragmatism, having attended humanities, arts and social sciences altogether. You could say I'm a polymath but I'm not completely sure that is accurate. I am an artist at heart, my mind is shaped for sciences but the studies I graduated are humanities because at that time I was lazy. So for the last 15 years I've been a linguist and a technical translator (yes, in English).

Working with wood has always been a passion. As a kid I spent a lot of time at the countryside. One of our neighbours was a carpenter and I'd go there and stay with him mesmerized by the wonder of wood transformation. Then, my dad's youngest brother opened up the first private furniture factory in post-communist Romania. It sounds more pompous than it actually is. The factory with all facilities occupied about 2 hectares. They were taking in wood logs and process everything up to furniture for the end user.

I learned a lot there. But I was a child. I forgot a lot as well. About 5 years ago, I realized I wouldn't be able to work much more as a translator, it gradually became too consuming. It was the time when the internet started to be flooded with epoxy resin thingies. River tables mostly. That somehow relit my passion in this direction. It was then when I decided my professional reconversion.

I started investing. Initially, I bought cheap stuff. I was also investing in my house. After fiddling with the cheap stuff a bit I realized the errors of my way. And the fact that a person who knows more woodworking is able to work excellent with cheaper stuff for obvious reasons. I just wasn't that person. Moments ago I read an article about Peter Parfitt's work. It included advices for novices and it stated to buy the best tools one can afford and the best materials within the budget. This is what I started doing after my initial experience with cheap tools.

Much of my investment took place in real time, namely allocating as much as possible of my monthly income to buy the best I could find. Not the absolute best, don't get me wrong. But still best-in-class items.

All this time I would read a lot, do extensive research in everything woodworking, machines, tools, what to buy and what to avoid, etc. In 2021 I took on a crazy offer to assess a truck full of vintage furniture and give a price quotation for its restoration. I did that, then took a test piece to restore. I took it to a neighbor who is a master sculptor. He did the carpentry work, I did veneering and finishes. I forgot to mention that I graduated a vocational arts school where I studied restoration for a year or so. Next thing you know, the customer accepted my offer and I found myself having to restore that truck of furniture with (I can say) close to no experience, no shop and by far not enough tools. What I did was go back to my neighbor and ask him to join forces. My gain in this has not been much financial but priceless experience. We agreed I would start an apprenticeship with him, which I did.

I know I still know so little, but I learned so much in this one year and a half. The guy is a great sculptor, one of the best of his generation, also an ok carpenter (he hates carpentry, does it for the money). Unfortunately, like many here, he has lost his passion, is mostly bored and in a rush. Where I am very attentive to details and I take my sweet time.

Now the truck's content is almost completed. It's not precious furniture, but furniture that has sentimental value for my customer and he is willing to pay for its restoration. I wanted to share projects that I worked after reading several here. Unfortunately, I don't have enough pics for that. What I will share is my latest project. In a few of the pieces of furniture, our customer asked for an inlay cast in epoxy. I made some digital design proposals, he accepted the first one. My mistake was to use an amethyst texture. He chose and insisted on amethyst. For those of you who don't know, amethyst has very high hardness value, it is not used for inlaying. It isn't that big of a deal for this type of inlay, just that it slows me down badly. I have to select the tiny stones one by one to make sure they don't go beyond a certain size. Of course I only learned the challenges of amethyst after making the first one. Had to buy diamond sanding tools especially for this.

Ok, skipping other details, I'll say this: I haven't built a river table and probably won't. I don't like to copy others. During the last 5 years I realized I want to do mainly woodworking not resin working. I want to make my own pieces, not restore the work of others. And I want to do inlays, veneering and small pieces. Decorations, useful items like household stuff. Boxes, etc. What comes next we will see. I'm about to finish my investment in the coming weeks, build my shop furniture, complete my restoration contract and start my actual future woodworking business.

In the meantime, I salute those of you who have read my entire post! Thank you.

The subject of this post is a 19th century nightstand, of unknown origin but I suspect it to be Austrian, probably a limited production run. It's part of a bigger set. The wood is part ash, part spruce with ash veneer. The actual restoration I we made one year ago, but I recently added the inlay. First picture shows the initial state. The recess had some textured paper (from a vintage magazine) under a sheet of glass.

Everything began with a compass and an exacto knife. The small rounded decor are actually thin dowel slices cut at the scroll saw. The center piece (under the veneer flower on top) has a laser cut template base, the only part that is not handmade here. As for the rest, maths and a lot of attention and care. In order to bring the flower to a color similar to that of the nightstand, it is not stain that I used but shellac. Finally, I did not polish the resin to a perfect glass/mirror finish as I wanted the inlay to look a little weathered. Too perfect would have been too new looking imo. The images are self-explanatory for the rest.

Apologies for such a long post. Promise I'll make the next shorter.

Looking forward for feedback of all kinds.
 

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Curious why the choice of something like Amethyst which has slight sparkle and translucence , if the idea was that it was to be encased in resin where most of that interplay of the light on the facets of the crystals will be lost.
 
Curious why the choice of something like Amethyst which has slight sparkle and translucence , if the idea was that it was to be encased in resin where most of that interplay of the light on the facets of the crystals will be lost.
It wasn't a choice but a stupid act in a hurry. When I designed the inlay options submitted to my customer, I had very limited time at the pc so I grabbed the first free texture I could find. My customer of course wanted precisely this one. When I designed the images I havențt thought for a second that he might choose that.

And yes, touché. This wasn't exactly my first inlay but the first successful one. The first is another piece where I still need to cut the inlay out, repair it and remake the inlay. I learned the hard way about the translucence thingie. I knew about the hardness and that it's gonna be bad and messy but somehow I didn't realise that, once I poured the resin, the amethyst would almost vanish.

Luckily for me, and it's a great load of luck, there is this type called chevron amethyst which is not translucent or transparent in any way.
https://cdn11.bigcommerce.com/s-shg...on_Amethyst_lg_1124__57918.1658756473.jpg?c=2

Also, the inside of the recess is painted purple to help a bit with the contrast.
 
Could have been worse, I used to have a customer who bought me large blocks ( 1 - 2kg ) of Corindon / Corundum Al₂O₃ each month, so that I could make "ruby sculptures".At the time "ruby sculptures" were very expensive per caret , and he had the luxury retail outlets in the Côte d'azur to sell them.Hardness right up there next to diamonds? only way to work the stones ( corindon /corundum "mass" has a mixture of minerals ,hardnesses ranging from 4 or 5 to 9.5 ) was with diamond tools and abrasives, grinders with diamond discs etc, back in the days before diamond tools and abrasives became cheap like today.

Paid very well, but was very hard work roughing out with angle grinders with diamond discs , sometimes 8 to 10 hours non stop ; and then moving up through the abrasives before polishing with diamond dust.

He died suddenly, I have around 5 kgs of the corindon / corundum still, I intend making some smaller sculptures from it for us when I have the time, but it can cleave and shatter unexpectedly making the pieces that one can make from it become ever smaller.

Actually, I quite like the stones in your link, sliced , lapped and polished they could be interesting as inlays without resin.Combined with silver wire perhaps ? It would allow you to amortize your investment in the diamond sanding tools etc.

I would suggest if you are using brass framing strips again on this type of "inlay" that at the corners you mitre the strips rather than butt them, it adds "a touch of refinement".

If you are looking to start out on your own, bear in mind that some of the now unavailable woods due to CITES restrictions, bans etc a can be found in second hand furniture stores as damaged or "old and worthless"..rosewood and mahogany head boards and such.I've found a few in charity shops here in France , antique dealers tend to ignore them unless they look like they can sell them on very fast without investing any time or money in them.

Nice execution on the central motif, repeated in various sizes that could become a "signature" for you ?
 
I like your work very much the leaves in the centre look superb in with the stone very well done, my only comment would be the brass corners need to be mitred.

I would love to see some more images of your work and I agree you don't need to copy you have a good design eye so please keep them coming.
 
Actually, I quite like the stones in your link, sliced , lapped and polished they could be interesting as inlays without resin.Combined with silver wire perhaps ? It would allow you to amortize your investment in the diamond sanding tools etc.
Can you show me an example of what you mean? I'm not sure I understand where the silver wire comes into play.

I would suggest if you are using brass framing strips again on this type of "inlay" that at the corners you mitre the strips rather than butt them, it adds "a touch of refinement".
I like your work very much the leaves in the centre look superb in with the stone very well done, my only comment would be the brass corners need to be mitred.
To be honest that is how I intended to make them. I tried cutting the mires both by hand I by scroll saw. Just couldn't get the angles right. I'm a complete novice with brass and metal cutting. I have the Proxxon 28092 with Pégas blades for brass. I just lack the skills in this area. Also, something that made things worse was that the edges against which the brass strips are fixed, are not straight. None of the edges is straight and I didn't want to modify the original structure too much. The bows and bends would require me to offset the angles to some degrees that I don't know yet how to calculate.

I would greatly appreciate any advice on the matter.

can be found in second hand furniture stores as damaged or "old and worthless"
That is an excellent idea. I already thought of doing that but only for cheaper wood. I haven't thought of rare wood even for a second. Thank you, sir!
Although it would probably be harder to find such pieces here. During the Habsburg occupation in Romania, a lot of the quality furniture was taken to the Empire. Which now makes it harder to find quality items locally at all, not just the deteriorated ones. But it's definitely worth a try. I wouldn't even exclude getting it from abroad as I have access toa very price effective carrier.

Nice execution on the central motif, repeated in various sizes that could become a "signature" for you
That is a good idea, much appreciated.

I thank you all for your feedback and opinions. This is my first time of displaying my work in a professional environment. Moreover, displaying it to people who actually do this kind of work and understand both the process and the artistic side. It is hard to get authentic feedback here. The feedback from close ones is biased byt their feelings, the one from strangers is biased by their lack of understanding and the feedback from local professionals is biased by their 'fast work, quick money' mentality which unfortunately dominates our markets.

So, again, thank you. I try to have no expectations as a rule of thumb but, if I were to have, your opinions would have exceeded all of them.
I will post more as I make them but for the time being this is the only design that will repeat in other pieces from this set.
 
Can you show me an example of what you mean? I'm not sure I understand where the silver wire comes into play.



To be honest that is how I intended to make them. I tried cutting the mires both by hand I by scroll saw. Just couldn't get the angles right. I'm a complete novice with brass and metal cutting. I have the Proxxon 28092 with Pégas blades for brass. I just lack the skills in this area. Also, something that made things worse was that the edges against which the brass strips are fixed, are not straight. None of the edges is straight and I didn't want to modify the original structure too much. The bows and bends would require me to offset the angles to some degrees that I don't know yet how to calculate.

I would greatly appreciate any advice on the matter.

A simple way is to make a block at 45 deg like one in the image, does not need to be as fancy as these just be able to reproduce the angle.
You could use a saw to rough cut then finish with a file on a block.
The four in the image are double ended to cover 8 different deg's.

Keep up the good work.

IMG_20211008_1319489.jpg
 
A simple way is to make a block at 45 deg like one in the image, does not need to be as fancy as these just be able to reproduce the angle.
You could use a saw to rough cut then finish with a file on a block.
The four in the image are double ended to cover 8 different deg's.

Keep up the good work.

View attachment 157829

These are wonderful! Apologies for replying so late and thank you very much for the visual aid. I will definitely borrow this design.
 
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