One of the things I’ve always liked about the live edge pieces is the structural yet appealing bowtie inlays you’ll usually find. In the piece of walnut I picked up I was actually excited to finally give these a try. This will be the first time I’ve done any inlay work at all and I was a little nervous doing it on such a nice piece of wood. I figured no matter what I can always make the pieces a little bigger and try again if I really screw it up. So here are my first bowtie/butterfly/dutchman inlays.
I still have the pieces of Wenge kicking around in my shop and they have really come in handy for some cool accents on recent projects. I didn’t want to veer too far off the beaten path and keep the inlays pretty simple for my first try. I pretty much just winged the layout of them after reading a handful of info about the best way to make these. Key is to make them not too wide at the top and have a slight taper. Direction of the grain is also important because there will be some stress on them. These aren’t just for visuals but they do indeed keep the crack from splitting any further.
I didn’t take a bunch of photos of the process of cutting these out, mostly because I was so frustrated during the process and just wanted to get through it. I started by cutting them out on my bandsaw and then clean them up with chisels. My bandsaw cuts really rough and this wood was really tough to chisel cleanly so I had to take my time and make sure the edges were 90 degrees to the top so when I traced them out, they would be accurate all the way down.
There was also a fairly large knot right in the middle of the slab that I didn’t want to just fill with epoxy so I decided to place a bowtie there as well. This will be fairly close to the middle of the bench I’m making so I think it adds an extra touch to it.
Once they were all cut out, I placed double stick tape on the bottom of them and used my marking knife to cut them cleanly to the edge.
I marked them first with a mechanical pencil to get as close to the edge as possible. Then I followed up by using my marking knife and making a hard cut all the way around. This helped guide my chisel when I needed to clean out the inlay after using the router.
I used a small trim router with a spiral up-cut bit to clean out the bulk of the inlay. I started by drilling a hole with a drill bit just a bit wider than my router bit so I could start the bit seeing as the trim router doesn’t plunge like my bigger router. By the time I was done, I had completely torched my router bit. I took this in 3 passes but it still seemed to be quite overworked.
After cleaning out the hole with a variety of chisels, I had a pretty good fitting inlay! I had a couple very minor seams around the edges but I was able to cover it with a bit of glue and rub in some sawdust from the Wenge. I left the bowties a little proud so that I could cut them down. This really helped because as I was cutting them flush, the sawdust kind of just fell into place.
Here are the final three inlays glued in. You can see in this picture how proud I left them before cutting them down, planing them and then sanding everything flush.
This crack is not going to move!
Here is the final look of all of them. Very happy how nicely they turned out and I’m definitely going to do some more inlay work in the future after doing this.