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  1. #1
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    Default Metal Inlay Into Wood - Resin/Epoxy with metal powder?

    I've been experimenting and have not yet achieved a satisfactory result.

    I'd like to be able to engrave shapes into wood and fill it with something that looks like metal once sanded and finished.

    I've read a bunch of different stuff on the net, as well as tried a few things myself. This is what I've tried so far:
    • Melting solder until it is a big liquid blob, waiting until it just starts to cool and becomes slightly less liquid, then jamming it into the engraving just before it goes too crystalline to be worked with. This so far has been the only method that achieves close to a real metal look in terms of its shine, but it also has the disadvantage of poor adhesion and burning the wood, requiring lots of sanding back. Also, the side-spill from the application gets stuck in the grain surrounding and is very hard to remove, resulting in lots of little speckles. Still, this has been the only method I have found that I can get a satisfactory shine from.
    • Casting Resin with aluminium powder from a metal foundry. The particles in the powder are very fine, but not as fine as the "silver powder". I have tried many different ratios, but found that the higher the ratio of powder to resin, the higher the shine from the finished product once sanded. Still, I have not been able to get close to the shine I'd like and it still just looks grey, rather then reflective. It is close to the finish I'd like, but not close enough. I prefer working with the resin, as I can use less catalyst to enable working on larger pieces for longer and I can use a syringe to squeeze it into the engraved channels with 2 or 3mm spilling above the channel, allowing it to fill properly once sanded.
    • Casting Resin with "silver powder" from an art supplies shop, which is still aluminium powder, but with much finer particles. I was pleasantly surprised initially, as the ultra-fine powder really did look silver on the inside of the glass walls of the jar and on my fingertips. When it was mixed in the resin, the resin immediately glowed and shone and looked sufficiently reflective. Once it had cured, it still looked very shiny. Sadly, the moment it was sanded it went grey and dull. I tried sanding it up to 1200, but the dullness remained and did not improve at any point. I was very disappointed at this as it had seemed extremely promising at first. I am considering now that I might do a 2 step process with the pre-mixed silver powder resin laid down first a few mm below, then a clear layer over the top. Hopefully this will allow the shine to stay on the first layer and the clear will protect it from sanding. The difficultly will be making sure that the clear layer is thick enough to not get sanded down.
    • Superglue and aluminium powder. I'd seen this recommended by a few people elsewhere on the net. I tried a few different methods. Filling the cavity with glue, then sprinkling the powder on top, pre-mixing the powder into the glue and filling the cavity with powder first then gluing over it. These all gave very inconsistent results which would have required several applications as there were many pits and bubbles after sanding back. The shine from the finished product was almost the same, or possibly even brighter than the resin, but still not shiny enough.
    • Selleys "Knead-It" epoxy sticks. OK, I didn't really expect this to work, but I thought I'd try it just to be thorough. It just looked dull and grey when finished.
    Now, I'm sure that some of you people in here have tried this sort of thing before and hopefully also succeeded. I've browsed and searched for ages in here, but could not find anything.

    If anyone can give me any tips on this, or possibly name some products to try, I'd be greatly appreciative.

    I've attached a picture of a test piece I made. I tried making a picture frame out of some old fence paling. I figured I'd try it on something small before I tried it on a larger piece of finished furniture. After much swearing and re-working, I eventually settled with solder.
    Unfortunately, when I turned it upside down to hammer in the frame joiners, large bits of the solder fell out. I ended up doing a dodgy repair with re-melting some parts, super-gluing others and using resin in some parts too. I had originally buffed up the solder lines with steel wool, but as this made no difference to the resin or the glue bits, I gave up and just sanded down the bits I needed.

    You can't really see it too well in the photo, but some parts have a different sheen depending on the method used. This gives a good example of the differences in the finish of the different methods.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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  3. #2
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    I have used a similar process with success. I bought a few bottles of silver craft flakes and minced it to dust. I then brushed a layer of polyurathane into the groove to hold the dust and then compressed it down. I repeated this process a few times until I reached the timber level.
    I found that a light finishing sand over the entire surface did not dull the poly and it looked for all the world like a polished steel rod embedded into the timber.

    I used to make '21st' keys and coffee tables many years ago. At the time it was very impressive.

    Don't know if this is any help, and good luck.
    Of course I'm brave, I'm afraid of NO man, and only a few women.

  4. #3
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    r5e, I would experiment with clear duco-finish as well. Thin it down a fair bit, because it goes off quickly otherwise, but it can be polished to infinity, but lay it down in thin layers for a good build-up. I would guess that if you applied about 10 layers or so, it would take around and hour to complete and it will flex a little with the timber.
    A professional panel beater could probably give far better advice than my suggestion as far as laying down the laquer.
    Of course I'm brave, I'm afraid of NO man, and only a few women.

  5. #4
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    Thanks Toyboy, that gives me a new idea to try. Where did you get the silver craft flakes from? I'm guessing that they'll probably be the same as the silver powder I've got, but if there is another source, I'd be interested.
    Also, when you say you compressed it down, I'm guessing that you put enough powder over the top of it to completely absorb into the polyurethane (and pressed down on it to make sure it soaked in) so that it was dry on the top with some powder left over? I guess I can experiment a bit with this, it sounds promising and not too far off what I've already been trying.

  6. #5
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    White shellac should do the same job too.
    Regards, Bob Thomas

    www.wombatsawmill.com

  7. #6
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    Yes, the flakes come in a small plastic container about the size of a cigarette lighter from almost any craft shop. I wonder if specialist duco paint shops still sell metal-flake for adding to paint. Hmmm....interesting.

    Yes, I sprinkled the dust into the groove/laquer and compressed with paddle pop sticks or whatever fitted into the groove, until it was dry on top and then refill with poly, until the final application which was around 3 or 4 coats of poly. (I can't remember the exact number. I just played it by....ear??? You know what I mean.)

    I nearly forgot to mention that the final layer of dust was not as fine as the initial applications. I'm not sure quite why I did it that way. Thinking back, it may have been to get more 'sparkle'. I remember I only experimented a couple of times before I got it sorted out, and boy it looked good.

    I might have a fiddle with some sparkle stuff and try to re-create my earlier successes.

    I'll keep you posted on my progress and between us, I reckon it won't be difficult. This can be our secret on this forum.

    Note to everybody. Do not read this.
    There! That'll keep it secret.
    Of course I'm brave, I'm afraid of NO man, and only a few women.

  8. #7
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    As you've found, melting solder isn't a perfect solution. Packing it into the cavity like you did can help to recover cooling shrinkage. Have you tried dental amalgam? Packs the same way, and doesn't involve heat.

    Sanding up to 1200 is still too coarse. On entire polyester resin castings, I've gone to toothpaste and then Brasso for a crystal finish. NASA research found India ink to be best for polishing aluminium fuselages (for better fuel consumption). For inlays, these could be troublesome because of possibly staining the adjacent wood. Many woodturners use fine metal powder packed into the cavity, then drench the packing with CA glue. A somewhat expensive product called "micro-mesh" is finer than 1200 IIRC.

    Joe
    Of course truth is stranger than fiction.
    Fiction has to make sense. - Mark Twain

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by r5e View Post
    has the disadvantage of poor adhesion
    I haven't tried this but I can remember reading somewhere that drilling small holes in the grooves for the inlay (if the grooves are wide enough) can help lock the metal in place.
    Graeme

  10. #9
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    Based on the work in your photo, have you tried sterling silver wire? I've just started researching this method after seeing a presentation by turner Jimmy Clewes. The wire comes dead-soft and half-hard. It also comes as thick as 10 gauge. Here in the states it's available from jewelry supply stores, and several have websites. I'm guessing there are also some in Oz.
    AKA "The human termite"

  11. #10
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    Thanks everyone.

    @ Tomboy - I'm in the process of trying a couple of different powders in polyurethane presently, a few days until I'll have time to report back with the results.
    @ Joe - Dental amalgum... I actually have a friend who is a dentist and I asked him about resins, but he didn't suggest this, so I'll ask again.
    I have already tried the fine metal power and CA Glue (or "Super Glue") option, but I had tried packing in the powder after the glue, I may try the other way around.
    @ bookend - Yes, I had put a series of little holes all along the cavity I'd engraved to hope that the metal fitted into them to aid adhesion. It did help a little, but not quite enough, as the metal does not really bond to the wood, especially when it burns it a little on the way in.
    @ griffithpark - I had thought of the wire and I may still investigate this option, but I had also thought I'd try some bigger shapes, as well as thin lines.

  12. #11
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    SWMBO inherited an burl veneer english sea chest which has brass strip inlay all over it. According the family archives it is at least 140 years old and it easily looks that old or even older. It looks like the inlay is just strips of brass pushed edge on into the timber. A couple of the strips have come out and I'd like to put them back in but they seem to go back in too easily and feel as though they are going to fall out again. I am reluctant to use any glue or anything inappropriate. We asked an antique dealer and he said to leave it as is otherwise it will look like it has been fiddled with.

  13. #12
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    Default metal inlay

    hi
    i know it is an old thread but i may have acheived something like you are looking for

    i created them myself using copper silver and brass

    i have some photos i could send you if you want to give me your email

    i cant work out how to attach photos to this message.

    regards

    helmut

    helmuthortner@optusnet.com.au

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by helmut orther View Post
    hi
    i know it is an old thread but i may have acheived something like you are looking for

    i created them myself using copper silver and brass

    i have some photos i could send you if you want to give me your email

    i cant work out how to attach photos to this message.

    regards

    helmut

    helmuthortner@optusnet.com.au
    In the Reply window, there's a second box below with a button "Manage Attachments." Hitting that button will open a new window for browsing your computer to upload photos. See the FAQ's for limitations, in case you need to resize the photos.

    [Clarification: Use "Post Reply," not "Quick Reply."]

    Cheers,
    Joe
    Last edited by joe greiner; 10th Mar 2010 at 11:11 PM. Reason: [added]
    Of course truth is stranger than fiction.
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  15. #14
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    Just to add something to this thread.........go to your dentist and ask for/beg/pay for some dental amalgam.......the stuff they make fillings with. It's quite cheap to buy (maybe be $2 a capsule ?) The amalgam must be quickly agitated to mix the product. Attach capsule to the blade of a jigsaw with sticky tape and switch on for 30 seconds or so to mix contents. Open up capsule and apply to the routed out shape you have made on your project. Let dry, then file it down then sand. Gives a metallic/silverish inlay ...........just like a tooth filling.

    Hope this is of some use.


    Billy
    I'm not young enough to know it all.

  16. #15
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    Default is this the sort of thing you are after

    is this the sort of thing you are after
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