Diamond Banding

Closely spaced clamps, alternated up and down for easy access, supply the pressure needed to secure the ebony and holly strips in firm contact.

In the Fold
Now comes the magical part. Rip the strip to separate the holly and ebony sections and fold them together like closing a book. Because the pieces were cut at the same time, they will nest together nicely even if the spacing isn’t perfect. Having said that, sometimes the fit will improve if the sections are offset by one V. This offset is also why the pieces were cut to 37″ long. You will lose some length, so 37″ will leave you with at least a finished length of at least 36″.

Now spread a generous coat of white glue on one strip and glue the pieces together between boards that are covered in packing tape to prevent sticking. To ensure firm contact between the holly and ebony, add C-clamps about every 21⁄2″. Normally, I don’t like to apply excessive clamping pressure but in this case I bear down on the clamps.

When the glue has dried, plane the holly away until the peaks of the ebony show through, leaving the triangular pieces of holly as infills in the ebony sawtooth pattern. I remove the bulk of the holly with a portable power plane before switching to a smooth plane.
A short plane is an advantage here because the strip will have likely distorted both from uneven removal of material and the moisture from the glue. Occasionally, I have to place a shim under the strip while planing because the plane wants to ride over a low spot.

Make a sandwich: Holly and black dyed veneers enclose the diamond banding, giving it extra strength and visual interest.

Plane the edges of the strip straight and parallel. It’s unlikely that the edges will have to have any significant amount planed away, but you have to check that the peaks of the ebony are at 90˚ to the strip’s edges. As before, a strip of holly is edge-glued to the ebony/holly strip.

The ‘Vs’ – Part Deux
Now it’s time to rout away a portion of the ebony to create the finished diamond shape and to create the second half of the holly that sandwiches the ebony diamonds.

When running the first set of V-grooves, a certain amount of variation in the spacing of the grooves wouldn’t be noticeable, but not so with this set. This time, instead of using the index mark on your jig, set the spacing by sighting the peak of the holly’s triangle showing at the bottom of the V-groove in your guide rail.

With repeated use, the V-groove in your guide rail will become enlarged from arbor runout and the slight amount of play necessary to have the router fit between the guides. This will make it difficult to accurately set the spacing, so after each cut, slide the strip back and check the alignment visually. You can make extremely small adjustments to keep the pattern intact. It is this misalignment that caused the horizontal shift seen in the original. Completely eliminating it

Before sawing, each strip of banding is planed to provide the best glue surface for inlaying. Note that the components fit so precisely that the shavings hold together.

isn’t possible or even desirable, but letting it get out of hand is to be avoided.

As before, rip the strips apart. Fold and glue them together. Then plane the holly until the peaks of the ebony are exposed. The only difference is this time the banding is fragile. If handplaned from end to end, the piece may buckle and fracture. To avoid this, plane from the center to the end. This means that when planing one end, you’ll be going against the grain, but with a finely set smooth plane this isn’t a problem.

Outer Veneers
Now sandwich the core with holly and black-dyed veneer. When the glue has dried, true the edges and glue a strip of scrap to one edge. This strip acts as a handle to keep your fingers safely away from the band saw blade while getting the best yield out of the banding.

Sawing the Bandings
The individual strips of banding are ripped off on the band saw to about .040″ thick. At this thickness the banding is easily handled, and up to 24 individual strips are obtained from a single 2″-wide stack. My saw is fitted with a .014″ x 3⁄8″ blade from Starrett. This thin blade reduces the amount of your carefully made banding that ends up as sawdust. Between each cut at the band saw, plane the edge of the banding to remove the saw marks and provide the best possible glue surface when the banding is glued in place.

Chameleon like: Change the combinations or the species for endless variations.

Despite precise work, the width of the finish banding isn’t predictable. The groove or rabbet that the banding will be inlaid into needs to be made under-sized and the banding held in place and one edge scribed to set the actual width of the recess.

It took approximately five hours to make this inlay, which yielded more 70′ of banding – a pretty good use of time by any measure. All that is left is to inlay the banding into your project and admire the elegant appearance this type of banding lends to a project. PWM

VIDEO: Watch Rob use his special inlay knife.
WEB SITE: See all of Rob’s free videos, as well as the DVDs, tools and inlay supplies he sells.
CLASS: Take a class with Rob.
TO BUY: “The Furniture Masterworks of John and Thomas Seymour.”
IN THE STORE: “Fundamentals of Inlay: Federal Table Leg” DVD.

From the October 2011 issue #192
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