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gold inlay in wood

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by roberric, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. roberric


    Jan 16, 2009
    Do you think glue would hold 22 gauge gold-filled square wire securely in a wood handle? I know silver inlay in wood is usually done with silver strips not square wire, but I can't find any gold-filled strips and if you cut gold-filled sheet you expose the brass. And to buy a gold sheet just for a few strips is way too expensive for me. If it was metal I know you can dovetail the slot and pound the gold into it but I'm not sure that works for wood. I am thinking of routing a slightly undersized groove and gluing the wire into it. Is there a better way?
  2. Bill DeShivs

    Bill DeShivs KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 6, 2000
    Gold filled is not good for wood inlay. You will have to file/sand it flush and you will expose the base metal. Gold wire is available from www.riogrande.com.
  3. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    I just finished doing the wire inlay on a hawk handle in 10K gold flat strip (AKA - flat wire). It is not all that expensive (relatively).I use 26 and 28 gauge.It weighs a little less than 2 Dwt a 12" strip for 26 ga., and 1.6Dwt a strip for 28 ga. So, roughly it is $40 and $32 respectively, per strip. You should be able to do a complex inlay on a knife with 12" or two knives with a simple inlay.

    You can't use gold filled and get any good results. The core would be exposed in the sanding. Also, trying to cut out a tight fitting box channel and inlay square wire in wood would require superb skill.

    An alternative to gold would be brass, but I would either use gold or silver wire.

    BTW, I use gold wire for the "berries" in my inlay work, and silver for the vines most of the time. It adds some nice accent to the inlay (not that inlay needs to be made nicer).It is sort of a signature mark of mine.

    A couple other hints:
    Make sure the wire is annealed dead soft if it is 26 gauge or thicker. You can use 28 gauge at 1/2 hard , but full anneal is better if the surface is curved.

    Use two different gauges to get an effect of flow. 26 gauge for the scrolls and 28 gauge for the branches works well.

    Avoid heavy wire, as it looks clunky. 24 gauge can be used for some geometric shapes, but will not look all that good in most curves.It is a real trick to make compound curves with 24 gauge wire ( scroll on a curved surface).

    Taper the end of a wire to a zero edge where it will come off another wire (branches). It will show quite distinctly if there is even a few thousandth width at the end.

    Work slow, there is no need to pound the wire all the way flush in one blow. I feed the wire in and work it around the scrolls and when all is inserted half way, I start tapping the wire down to near flush. There is no rule that says you can't leave some sticking up to file flush later. This is especially true on compound curves. If you try and pound the wire into submission, you will either fold it or thicken it. Both will show ( ask me how I know this!).

    Simple is often just as good as fancy. I know I am the worst person to give this advise, but often a simple double scroll with a few small branches will accent a knife as good as a lot of scallop work and vines going everywhere.

    360 degree inlay is extremely complex ( inlay fully around the handle, as in a vine spiraling up a hawk handle). Even inlay on strongly curved surfaces has its problems. Try to avoid compound curves in inlay when possibler. A neat smaller inlay on the flatter area will often look better than a larger and fancier inlay that looks bad due to the curved handle surfaces.

    If there is a gap (especially common in the top of a scroll) after the inlay is done, it can often be fixed in the swell up . Wet the handle as you would at the end of the job (to swell the grain and lock the wire in securely) and use a stainless modeling tool (handle end of a small spoon will work) to push the damp wood tighter to the wire. Allow to dry completely,and re-sand the handle. If there is still a small gap (or a larger mistake) you can rub in a little matching wood filler , let it dry, and sand it down again. It may stain a little darker, but will be much better than a gap.

    When laying out the scroll work, start with the basic double scroll. Then add the next scroll if there will be more. Next add the branches, and finally the accents (berries, dots, etc.) Use a very thin mechanical pencil and use the eraser often if needed.

    Practice drawing the scrolls on paper a lot to get the feel of making the curves. The distance from the center to the line will be maintained between the lines as the scroll progresses outward. It should not expand. Restated, that is , if the distance between the center and the line in the first loop of a scroll is 3mm, then that 3mm distance should be constant between the lines everywhere throughout the spiral.

    Draw the design on paper in the beginning is good ( later you will just start and let it grow on its own on the handle), but don't try to transfer the paper to the wood. Re-draw it on by hand. You will be able to get the flow across the curves in the handle better than trying to make a two dimensional drawing transfer (and it will build your skills). Using paper to transfer the pattern to the other side is OK, but it is better to mark the key points ( the scroll centers and branch points) and just draw it on the opposite side (in reverse curvature direction,of course).

    In doing a long series of scrolls, it is often a good practice to lay out the first line as a long wavy line. Then add the spirals where they should be. This helps keep the main flow line from having odd bends and angles. Once it is all drawn up, you can blend the scrolls into the main line so it looks like the main line is diverging from the scroll, not the other way around ( It sounds more confusing than it is when doing it).

    Symetry is everything. Having two different size of scrolls is fine, as long as they are symetrically placed, or have some sort of flow to them, but avoid randomly places scrolls and accents.
    Think of the female shape, you could spot the difference in a womans breasts at a glance if one was a little larger or smaller, and if there was a third breast, or one eyebrow was higher, or the curves aren't all that curvy.......well you see what I mean about symetry.

    Don't sweat minor errors, the WOW factor of inlay usually overrides minor flubs. However, look over the inlay really good and see where you can improve the next job. Planning ahead will often avoid flaws.

  4. roberric


    Jan 16, 2009
    Thanks for the detailed answer Stacy. Where do you get your gold flat strip?
  5. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    I get it from Stuller , but they are wholesale only. You can order it from other suppliers ,like Rio Grande,from Muzzle Loading suppliers, or if you know a local Jeweler, have him/her get some from Stuller. Unless you have a HT oven ( to do it yourself), get it annealed soft.

    I just ordered 5oz. of 2mmX26ga silver wire (about 100 feet) in one coil. The gold I order in 12" strips. I like 10K yellow gold because it is just a little bit harder than 14K, and of course about 15% cheaper. The round wire I use for the scroll centers is 14 and 16 ga. and the berries are usually 18 ga.
  6. roberric


    Jan 16, 2009
    Is gold strip the same thing as bezel wire?
  7. fitzo


    Aug 14, 2001
    "Bezel wire" is what I buy for silver wire inlay. I order "half-hard" and then anneal with a match or lighter to soften for tight curves. Keeps long lines straighter.

    One source I've used is Hoover & Strong.
  8. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

    Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith ilmarinen - MODERATOR Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Aug 20, 2004
    Flat wire is the proper name for what we are talking about. However, it is called many things by different people.
    Bezel, bezel wire, bezel strip, flat strip, flat coiled strip, etc.


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