By Jameel Abraham
Picture a two-layer cake. Using a knife, cut a circle out of the middle while holding the knife perfectly vertical. You now have two cylinders of cake that you can easily pull out of the rest of the cake.
Now start again with a fresh two-layer cake, but this time tilt the knife handle in toward the center of the cake as you cut the circle. You now have two cones, each smaller toward the top of the cake, tapering to larger at the bottom. The top cone pulls out easily. (Feel free to eat that piece.) The lower and larger cone from the bottom half of the cake, however, you can pull up only so far before it wedges itself in the top layer’s conical hole. It fits so well, in fact, that it virtually disappears. That’s because it exactly matches the shape of the hole, because both were cut at the same time.
That’s how double-bevel marquetry works.
So how does double-bevel inlay work? Exactly the same way – but instead of using thin veneers, we’re using thicker wood, 1⁄8″ thick and up. This allows us to do inlay precisely and accurately in thicker woods that can in some cases be used themselves as structural members of a project, not just as veneer. The inlay can be as simple as an oval, or as complex as an elaborate fleur-de-lis. But oval is boring, so let’s get fancy and French.
Tools & Materials
This technique can be done by hand with a fret saw and angled platform, but it’s extremely difficult to maintain the correct angle. I recommend a modern scrollsaw; not only is it convenient, it’s the best tool for the job.
Get your saw tuned up and running smoothly, and wax the tables for free movement of your stock. You may also want a magnifying lamp or visor to aid in following your line. For anything up to 1⁄4″ thick (total) I use 2/0 jeweler’s saw blades. They cut slowly, but you can get incredibly crisp details with them.
First you need to gather your two materials. For this design I’m using pre-ban, reclaimed ivory (certified and legal of course) and rosewood. You can use any materials you like, but harder materials cut better, and denser materials hold detail better. If you want to start with more humble materials, any good-quality hardwood will work – and wood in wood looks great, too. (Holly is a nice light, uniform wood that works well.)
Pattern: Download the pattern used for the inlay in this article – Inlay Pattern.
Models: See the author’s progression of SketchUp scenes that lead you through the double-bevel inlay process.
Blog: Read the Benchcrafted blog for more from Jameel Abraham.
In Our Store: “Creating Veneer, Marquetry & Inlay” DVD.
From the August 2013 issue #205
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