Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My First Try at Butterfly Inlays

Don't know why the "intimidation factor" was so very high with trying to make butterfly inlays, but it was. It took a very long time to work up the courage (if you want to call it that) to actually dig into this project. Waffling between just buying the templates online and taking the time to draw out and then cut out home grown templates took me a mind bogglingly long time. My final decision was to try to make my own no matter how bad the results turned out to be.

Start with a couple of pieces of cottonwood rounds to turn into wine racks to start with. Both had some real nice cracks that would work really well as a test for these butterflies. Problem was, one of the pieces fell apart before any butterflies were cut. So, the focus of this post will be on the second cottonwood piece.

But, first, a pattern had to be cut in a piece of cardboard. The hardest part of this step was getting the angles right. The pattern below is of four different sizes cut out of a piece of cardboard.

The next step was to transfer the patterns onto a piece of masonite.

After cutting out the patterns, this is how they looked. I really thought I was getting somewhere now.

Tried one cut with this template and got a slap right up alongside my head. The masonite was too thin - couldn't even use it. Luckily, I had some scrap left over plexi-glass from a previous project, and was able to transfer the masonite template to the plexi-glass.

Using my handi-dandy hand held scroll saw, the first template was done. It wasn't a masterpiece of precision, that's for sure. But, with the kind of rustic look I go for in my projects, this was better than being perfect. Gave it more character, I think.

It was exciting to try this out for the first time. The results weren't so exciting, though. The "waist" of the butterfly turned out to be way too small - not nearly enough strength to withstand the pressure of expanding cracks in wood.

Back to the drawing board. With a little more trimming into the angles of the template, I finally had the strength in the butterfly necessary for a strong joint.

After clamping and weighting down the piece so it wouldn't move while routing, I finally and successfully made my first butterfly.

A grand total of four butterflies for this piece - two for the front, and two for the back. The rest of the void will eventually be filled with epoxy resin. Haven't decided yet what to add to the epoxy resin - turquoise, brass shavings, or something else.

Overall, I'm very happy with how this turned out. Wasn't as difficult as I'd convinced myself it might be. Will be using this technique in other projects from now on, too.