Author Topic: Wire inlay (photo added of cheek side of stock)  (Read 23828 times)

Offline Ed Wenger

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Wire inlay (photo added of cheek side of stock)
« on: March 22, 2020, 10:56:25 PM »
I was doing some wire inlay yesterday, and thought it might be a good time to show a method of wire inlay.  It’s a simple design, and although this is a European piece, it’s methodology would work well on American longrifles and fowlers.

First, let’s look at tools and materials.  The wire used for inlay work is not what we typically think of when imagining wire.  I would describe it more as ribbon.  When placed in the wood, we see the edge of the wire, which creates the design.  You can use round wire for inlay work, but need to first roll the wire flat utilizing a rolling mill.  Typically, silver and brass are the metals used for wire inlay work.  If using silver, it’s a good idea to use fine silver, rather than sterling, because fine silver doesn’t tarnish nearly as fast as sterling.

You can purchase sheet silver and cut it into strips about 1/8” wide to create a ribbon.  For American work, .008 - .010 thickness works well.  You can also purchase lengths of silver wire (ribbon) through online sources such as Rio Grande.  For European work, I typically use a slightly thinner wire.  Cloisonné wire works very well, and is what I used for this example.  It can be purchased as “dead soft”, or “1/2 hard”.  I typically use the 1/2 hard, but have used dead soft as well.  Either works very well, and is probably more a matter of personal choice.



The principal of wire inlay is to create an opening in the wood (without removing any wood), then placing the wire into the opening to create a design.  Water is then used to swell the wood back into place, securing the wire.

There are any number of tools that can be used to create an opening in the wood.  Old hacksaw, or bandsaw blades can be shaped and utilized for this purpose, as an example.  Shown here are the tools I utilize.  The ones with wood handles are made from 3/16” tool steel, shaped with a bench grinder, then refined with stones.  The tips are slightly rounded, and if viewed from the tip, have a cross section similar to a football.  I would say these particular tips are around .010 thick.  The shoulders are used as a depth gauge when stabbing in a design.  The two metal tools are old technical screwdrivers, sharpened to a very fine, sharp tip.  More on that later...  The tool between the two screwdrivers is a rounded stabbing tool that’s a little thicker, and is used to widen the opening in the wood, if need be. 



Now that we have our material and tools, let’s see about getting a design on the stock.  Obviously, you can simply draw the desired design on the stock.  For those who feel a little “drawing challenged”, you could print an existing design you like, then enlarge or reduce to fit.  You can also draw a design on paper, which could also be enlarged or reduced to suit, which I did for this work.  Simply place a piece of carbon paper under the design, then trace with a pencil, transferring the image to the wood.  There are also other transfer methods similar to what can be done for engraving, but we’ll keep it simple for this go around.  Here’s the drawing taped to the stock.



Here’s the design transferred to the stock (with one “element” in place).



Next, we’ll stab the design into the wood...  I’ll reiterate that we aren’t removing any wood during this process, just creating an opening for the wire by stabbing in the design, essentially “separating” the wood.





When I do wire inlay, I always do one element at a time, and install the wire before moving onto the next element.  I do that to support the surrounding wood, which helps with chipping out issues.  I never stab in the entire design, then go back and fit the wire.  In fact, if two pieces of wire are very close to one another, like a couple hairs distance, I’ll wet the wood with the wire installed and essentially “finish” that part before working on the next, close wire.  This will take some time, since the wood needs to be completely dry before working on that next, close element, but it will help immensely with chipping drama.

Before we place the wire into the opening created by stabbing in the design, we need to “prep” the wire so it will stay in the wood.  There are two methods I’ve been taught for doing this and both work very well.  The first method is to create grooves on both sides of the ribbon by pulling it across the edge of a single cut file.  Basically, the wire is grasped on one end with pliers, then a file edge is laid on top of the wire.  The wire is then pulled along the file edge, creating the grooves.  This is done on both sides of the wire.





The other method of “prepping” the wire is to create a series of nicks on the underside of the wire with a chisel.  This will create teeth, similar to what you would find on a saw.  The teeth will be slightly offset, creating an wider thickness where the teeth are created.  It’s probably hard to see in the photo, but these are the tiny “teeth” created by the chisel.




If you want the wire to stay in the wood over time, it’s really important that you prep the wire.  The grooves made with a file, or the wider area on the underside of the wire made by the chisel, create an anchor, that when the wood is swelled with water, will securely hold the wire in place.  Like I said, both of these methods work well.

Now that we have the wire prepped, and the design stabbed in, we’re ready to put the wire into the wood.  For designs that have a volute, or curl at an end(s), I like to file a tapper into the wire.  I feel this gives a more pleasing terminus to the wire, instead of just simply ending.



Also, I find it helpful to use a small radius to start the curl, which helps getting the wire into the wood.



Now we lay the wire into the design.  Start at the end where the curl was made and carefully lay the wire into the wood.  When you get to the end, carefully snip the wire with a good quality pair of cutters to size.  Since this design has a curl at both ends, I remove the wire, and file a tapper onto the other end like was done at the other end.





When there are two pieces of wire that are fairly close to one another, you have to be careful about chipping out wood between the two.  One way that I’ve found to mitigate this is to use a very sharp, slim tool to create the initial cut.  This is where I use the old technical screwdrivers that were shown earlier.  Gently cut into the wood a little at a time until they’re wide enough to accept the wire.  If you start to get a chip, or if one occurs, about the only thing you can do is use some form of “super glue” to anchor the chip back into place.  Also, in this particular example, I use a small hammer and gently slim the wire on the beginning end by tapping it slimmer.  This also adds depth, as the wire “grows” from slime to thicker.








***NOTE***  When the wire is inlayed into the wood, it’s very important that the wires top edge (the edge you see) be slightly above the surface of the wood.  That’s important because if the wire is below the surface of the stock, the wood will close over the wire when it’s moistened, and the wire will disappear.

Next we’ll talk about “dots” that are sometimes seen with wire inlay.  In this example, I’ll be using three sizes of wire.  In this application, we’ll use fine silver round wire, in 18, 20, and 22 gauge.  First the wood is prepared to accept the round wire by gently tapping a tapered punch into the wood to create a hole.  Be gentle and “wiggle” the punch a little after each couple of taps to prevent the wood from splitting.  I made this punch by shaping a handle from a small file.



Next, the wire is prepared by filing a point onto the end.  Then a couple barbs are raised by using a flat chisel.  It’s probably hard to see in the photo, but the small shiny spot on the wire is one of the barbs.  The wire is then cut to a length of about 3/16”, then placed in the hole, than gently driven down until it’s just proud of the wood surface.





This is a photo of more of the “dots” inlayed.



Now that we have all the wire in place, it’s time to secure everything by moistening the wood.  I like to put a fair amount of water on the stock.  Let the water soak in all the way, then repeat a total of three times.



After everything is pretty dry, the next step is to trim down all the wire so that it’s just slightly proud of the stock.  Depending on how deep you set the wire, depends on how much material you’ll have to remove.  You’ll want to get as much of the wire as you can down into the wood, but in all likelihood, there’ll still be some to trim down.  This will sound counterintuitive, but use a smaller flat chisel to do the task.  Silver and brass are very soft, and the material is very thin, so it will trim easily.  Just be very careful with the chisel, you don’t want to put a bunch of gouge marks into the wood around the wire.  These are two of the chisels I typically use.



Once you have everything trimmed down to just above the surface of the wood, you can use something like a piece of piano wire to gently shape the wire in the wood to take out flat spots, etc.  Again be careful, and have a light hand, but you’ll be surprised as to how much you can “fix” things.
After this, you have a couple choices as to how you want to finish this whole process.  You can use a fine file, and file everything down to the surface of the wood.  Or, you can use some 180 or 220 sandpaper on a backer to get it down close to the surface, then burnish with a burnisher.  If you use a file, make sure it’s very fine, then finish with sandpaper down to what you used on the rest of the piece.



I used sandpaper down to 320, then burnished with a metal burnisher.



After the burnisher, I went over the whole area with a grey scotch brite pad, then wiped it all down with a damp paper towel.  This is the completed design, along with the patch box.



Let me know if you have any questions...

             Ed
« Last Edit: March 31, 2020, 05:06:34 PM by Ed Wenger »
Ed Wenger

Offline Ed Wenger

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Re: Wire inlay (cheek side photo added)
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2020, 05:55:37 PM »
This is the tool I use to enlarge the staples design to accept thicker wire.  Like I said, it’s essentially the same as the other stabbing tools, just a little thicker at the working tip.

       Ed



« Last Edit: March 31, 2020, 05:00:28 PM by Ed Wenger »
Ed Wenger

Offline Ed Wenger

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Re: Wire inlay
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2020, 05:02:31 PM »
This is a photo of the cheek side of the sock, to date.

Ed



Ed Wenger

Offline Ed Wenger

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Re: Wire inlay (photo added of cheek side of stock)
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2020, 11:57:14 PM »
Thanks!  I used the book shown here for inspiration relative to the wolf head inlay.  All of the wire design was something I came up with.

I found the book on Amazon.  There are others as well dealing with Rococo, Baroque, and other designs.  Some carry over to American work better than others, but I find them to be helpful.  Best,

       Ed






Ed Wenger