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How to inlay wire??

Discussion in 'Shop Talk - BladeSmith Questions and Answers' started by garrisonknives, Jan 10, 2006.

  1. garrisonknives

    garrisonknives

    43
    Jan 10, 2006
    Hi

    I bought some silver wire and tried to inlay it into some ebony wood, but I found out that its harder than it looks and that I really don't know how to do it! :mad:

    I was hoping that somebody might know some tips and would be willing to let me in on it. Thanks!
     
  2. Karl B. Andersen

    Karl B. Andersen

    Jul 27, 2003
  3. jim moyer

    jim moyer

    Dec 8, 2005
    Some makers us solder. It is softer.
     
  4. Shakudo

    Shakudo

    216
    Jan 17, 2005
    why would makers want to use tin solder in place of real sterling or fine silver? i could see it used for practice ,but not a custom knife for sale.
     
  5. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    Bill Moran taught me how to do it.
    The wood needs to be fine grain,not too hard, and not brittle.Ebony is not an easy one to start on.Curly maple is a good starter wood.The wire is called jewelers wire,and is a flat strip about 24 gage and 2mm wide (get half-hard temper).You make a tool (or a set of them) from old hack saw blades.They look like small engraving tools.The blade is ground to the thickness of the wire,and about 3mm long ( to make a cut 3mm deep).Harden and temper the blade,and mount it in a wooden handle,and sharpen the edge.Make them in 2,4,and 6mm blade widths. 6mm is about as wide as works well. Sketch the design on paper,then re-draw it on the wood in pencil.Start making the cuts by pushing the tool into the wood,rocking it out,re-inserting it just down the line....and so forth until you have cut all that line.To insert the wire,draw it through a piece of folded 120 grit sandpaper to stiffen it and put a slight roughness to the sides.Using a very small mallet,tap the end into the cut and tap your way GENTLY along as it goes in.There is a lot more to it than this,but this should give you the idea.Bill Moran has a video on handles and wire inlay that shows the whole process well.
    Stacy
     
  6. Bruce Bump

    Bruce Bump KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 1999
    Stacy thats is very interesting. What kind of glue is used to help hold the wire in or is glue needed?
     
  7. jim moyer

    jim moyer

    Dec 8, 2005
    Silver solder, there are more than tin solders out there.:rolleyes:
     
  8. jim moyer

    jim moyer

    Dec 8, 2005
    I hope I don't get banged on this one. But if you undercut or dovetail your grove or channel for the wire and form fit it by hammering it in, glue should not be required.
     
  9. fitzo

    fitzo

    Aug 14, 2001
    In his video, Alan Eldridge mixes a drop of plain old wood glue into the water he uses on the wood to swell it. Just added insurance. Curly maple is an exceptional wood for inlay because the fibers are such that they will swell back up around the bezel wire and hold it so tight it can be hard to pull back out with needlenose pliers. That's why most all the old American inlay was on maple.

    Other woods, especially the oily woods like ebony, he suggests using something like super glue. Since the wood won't swell like maple, special care must be made to not overcut the channel when using bezelwire. Using the undercut technique that Jim mentions, rectangular, square or round rod can be used and tapped into the channel and expanded to provide a mechanical grasp. The chiseling technique would be more like engraving gold inlay and somewhat different from what one can use on maple. I can see where something like silver solder would lend itself to that style of inlay. Soft fine silver might work out nice, too. Or gold.....

    Centercross Videos is going to either sell Alan's video or make a new one. It's listed in their "future" projects. Alan used to sell a kit with a video, chisels, and silver wire. Perhaps someone has contact info for him??
     
  10. Shakudo

    Shakudo

    216
    Jan 17, 2005
    if anyone is using silver solder for wire inlay,they are paying at least 20% more for it than they can buy sterling or fine silver. also,there are not too many people who can anneal silver solder to a usable form for wire inlay,it tends to be very brittle.
     
  11. Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

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

    Aug 20, 2004
    There is no glue or anything used to hold the wire in.(Fitzo has some good tips,though).The blade on the tool cuts a slit the size of the wire.It springs closed on the wire.The roughened wire sides grip the wood tightly.You file/sand the wire flush with the wood when the whole inlay is done (no need to pound it all the way flush).If you look at the hawk of mine in the 'Knives 2006', you will see how it looks when done.Even my initials and the date are wire inlay.There are a lot of little tricks like filing the start end down to get it in the slit,and how to fair one curl into another,but most of it will come to you with some practice.If you get to the Moran Hammer-in,they teach a class on it (often taught by Bill himself).Many other ABS hammer-ins,and the school in Old Washington,teach inlay,too.(as well as Bill's video)
    As Shakudo said,fine silver and sterling wire are usually cheaper than silver solder strips.I use fine silver mostly,because it won't tarnish.Sterling is harder and won't mash up on you as easily.
    I've been meaning to try the new Argentum.Anyone used it for inlay yet?
    One final note.Undercutting inlay channels and hammering in square and round wire is an art in itself.It is done the same as engraved inlay in metal.It works with some wood,but can be very tricky.
     
  12. fitzo

    fitzo

    Aug 14, 2001
    Do they make the Argentium in bezel wire, Stacy? Got a source? I saw some plate in Rio Grande, but not bezel wire. Pricey.

    I think we have slightly different technique, Stacy. I learned from Eldridge's video and he definitely recommends the wood glue-water mix. I have tried both his tip of using the mix and done it with plain water. I haven't had any problem just wetting with water to swell the maple. I was pretty shocked the first time I had to yank a piece out with pliers at just how truly tight it was held in there. there is no better wood than curly maple to inlay wire.

    For added contrast, one can use two or more guages (thicknesses) of bezel wire, and also mix in brass or gold. Eldridge also demos ending each wire end in a tiny pin inserted in a drilled hole and carefully "set". Pin work itself can be very decorative, as shown in Bill Buxton's work.

    One other tip that Stacy mentioned but didn't elaborate on is tapering the ends of the wire, either to terminate a run or also to double up against other runs of wire to make an "offshoot" in a "vine". You can hold the wire against a little block of wodd and stroke toward the tip with a file or coarse paper (120).

    It takes patience, as getting a smooth line is everything. After trying both hard, half-hard, and dead soft wire, I find I prefer the half hard, too. It doesn't wrinkle in the channel as readily. When one gets to a tight curve, gently heat the silver with a match or lighter and it will soften just that section to make the bend.

    Alan Eldridge I think has more made his name in rifle inlay than the knife world, but I think he is very well known down South and may be a frequent demonstrator at Batson Symposium. Not sure...
     
  13. fitzo

    fitzo

    Aug 14, 2001
    To clarify something about "gluing"; after all the wire and pins are inlaid, the wood is wet liberally. A drop of yellow wood glue is dropped onto the water and the resulting goop is smeared around all the wired areas. It's allowed to dry thoroughly and then the sanding starts.

    I don't mean to leave any impression that it is meticulously glued into the channel.
     
  14. Mitch Edwards

    Mitch Edwards

    21
    Jul 29, 2005
    :thumbup: Allen Eldridge can be contacted @ [email protected]. Yes, he taught for 7 years on wire inlay and he knows his stuff. He does offer a package for getting started with wire inlay. He lives in Texas at the present time. He is also a very helpful person if you are having problems with your wire inlay. I would highly recommend his work if you have something that you would to have an inlay job done on. I would send him an email requesting whatever information you need and I'm sure he will send a response back.
     
  15. fitzo

    fitzo

    Aug 14, 2001
    Thanks, Mitch. Sorry I spelled his name wrong...:(
     
  16. Bruce Bump

    Bruce Bump KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 2, 1999
    Thanks guys for all the info here. Its really helpful. I had Jay Hendrickson do a project for me that came out great but I want to try it myself sometime.
     
  17. garrisonknives

    garrisonknives

    43
    Jan 10, 2006
    whoa thats a lot of information....I can't wait to get home and try it. I think I might try to practice a little bit before I try it on a real knife though. Thanks!
     
  18. fitzo

    fitzo

    Aug 14, 2001
    garrisonknives, practice "off knife" is highly recommended. It is very easy to botch up, and crappy, crooked inlay will ruin the knife. Learn to work on a flat surface, first. Getting the wire to work on a curved handle is a later challenge. Have fun! :)
     
  19. Dan Gray

    Dan Gray

    Jun 25, 2001
    cool
    any one have other info and places tro get info
    I'll add this link to the how to make knives site :D
     
  20. longline charlie

    longline charlie

    28
    Jan 12, 2006
    hello Pard

    I am new to this forum but would like to help. Wire inlaying in wood is not actually round wire. It is flat wire about 1/8th of an inch wide. and a few thousands thick sharpen on one edge. You must cut a groove in the wood deep enough for the silver to fit down into so you make yourself a chisel out of a bandsaw blade about 1/4" cutting edge. You will also need a narrower one to make turns with. You drive the chisel into the wood and then slightly wiggle it back and forth to open the wood sligtly and move over an 1/8" or more and do it again following your drawing you have on the wood. after you get your line up to a stopping point, go back and reopen your wood slightly and insert the silver wire, sharp side down into the wood. You tap it down into your grove up to the interection and cut it off. After you get it tapped down into the grove you wet it and let it dry. The wood will swell b ack together and then you sand off the top of the wire to the level of the wood. I am hot aware that they used glue to hold it in if done properly.
    You can get the wire from Dixie Gun Works and Brownells might sell it but I would guess you could easily find it on Google.
     

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