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First Craptastic Inlay


GregP
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Right, then--

Well, I wanted to practice, and happened to have some scrap ebony. But I couldn't just practice a little square, could I? Nooo... no no no... that would be too easy.

So, using my wee little vice and some tools on the Dremel, I made a neato little inlay that's actually the Tracktion logo. Tracktion is a piece of software that I use a lot, and I belong to the user forum for. I figured, if I'm going to practice, I might as well make something other people can relate to and smile about, and I know those guys would get a kick out of my fanboi-ism. :D

Anyhow, making the inlay was surprisingly easy using the tools I already owned. But then... the ebony...

Oh, the difficult, sturdy, dense wood that is ebony...

With much difficulty, I finally cut out a 'passable' shape, though it's pretty shoddy work at the end of the day. It looks absolutely horrible-- like a dog's breakfast-- when the MOP isn't sitting in there. Once the inlay is set in, it looks a lot better but still not what I would call a "clean" job. Sorry for the blurry photos... my camera doesn't focus well for close-ups, and too far away didn't give me any usable level of detail:

Dog's breakfast cavity:

TracktionInlay005.jpg

Looking better but not great:

TracktionInlay003.jpg

The problem was that the shape is relatively intricate. It doesn't LOOK too complex, but all the wee little cuts you need to make made for a difficult job. I used Setch's masking tape and exacto 'scoring' method, and it was fairly successful. I can tell it would have worked perfectly for a block inlay. The problem was that even a 1/8" cutter was too large for this design, so I had to use an 'etching' cutter, which has a rounded shape to it.

In order to see if I had scored properly, I took the tape off. I had NOT scored properly, so I worked at it some more. There was enough of an outline done properly that I just had to "connect the dots" so to speak. However, since the tape was off, I then exposed the ebony to the massacre of slipping the 'etching' tool out of the cavity from time to time. That's what the roundish 'dings' are.

The scratch and the ding aren't actually deep, so sanding it all down to be level would have been fine, though not ideal.

I'll be re-trying this, using the same inlay, and then I'll step it back a bit and try something more simple, before going to the fretboard.

2 questions, though:

1. Assuming that some day I once again need to use the rounded bit, leaving the 'floor' of my cavity a bit bumpy. What would you recommend as a way to 'level' it off before gluing down the inlay?

2. I will probably end up with the occasional "gap" between the cavity wall and the inlay itself, from time to time. I seem to recall that people mix ebony dust with CA to fill in those gaps. Does this sound about right, or do people have alternative techniques?

Greg

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Thanks. :D But believe me, anybody in the world with an Xacto and a Dremel could do as good or better.

Follow-up note: I didn't like the way it was sitting in the little cavity, and since I have already decided to re-try it, I figured there was no harm in dicking around a bit with the existing one first, to see what I can learn. Here's what I learned:

If you try to cut laterally (with the blade flat to the surface) you can and will tear out a huge hunk of ebony with ease. :D

The space between the "T" and the "gear" got gouged right out like it was butter. D'oh!

Greg

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I tried again... I was more successful (go figure!) but I had 2 very unfortunate gouge-outs. I wasn't even using the blade in what I thought was a strange way (like the horizontal thing describe above) but ZAMMO, some ebony broke out. Grr.

Still, it's better. Time to move on and try a few simpler shapes instead, and then move on to the block inlays on my fretboard.

Still need to know how people are filling in the 'gaps'.... Krazy Glue mixed with sawdust? If so, what's the best way to approach it? Pack in a bunch of dry sawdust and then saturate it with glue? Mix it all up in advance (won't it dry??) and THEN put it into the gaps? Something completely different?

Cheers,

Greg

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The other option just seemed so boring-- practicing by inlaying square-ish blanks randomly into my scrap ebony. Yuk. :D

Sheetoli is right, though. I might give to give the T logo one more try... but it wearies me. My eyes get all crossed from trying to do such tiny work, and my brain gets tired from the concentration it takes. B)

Still, all in good fun while it's just practice scraps. :D The actual MOP part came out great, so I'm well pleased about that. It's just the mortises/cavities/whatever you call them that are buggering me up!

Greg

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The carbide spiral downcut router bits that stewmac sells work really well for this stuff. They go down as small 1/32". The trick is to be very careful and take it very slow. Avoid caffeine :D And definitely practice practice practice on scrap... I inlaid three pieces in a scrap of rosewood before I was able to start keeping the gap to a minimum. And I'm going to do a couple more practice pieces before I start carving on the real thing.

CA glue (the water-thin stuff) works great for filling the gaps. After you glue the inlay in place, fill the gap with the CA and let it dry (those whip tip nozzle extensions will help keep it under control). It will shrink some. Then fill it again and let it dry overnight... if you start sanding too soon you can get little gooey spots that didn't dry all the way, and you'll just have to dig them out and re-fill. So might as well patient.

And keep at it, I say.

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Just as I suspected-- buying more stuff. It never seems to end. :D

Also need to find some CA. At what point in time does the ebony dust come into the picture, BTW?

Greg

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"Just as I suspected-- buying more stuff. It never seems to end. :D"

The bits are about $16 US, but they're carbide so they cut real clean and they last.

"Also need to find some CA. At what point in time does the ebony dust come into the picture, BTW?"

$8 US for a 2 oz. bottle from Stewmac. I've only read about the dust trick. The CA looks pretty good by itself, it just shows as a thin (if you were really careful) dark line around the inlay. I would think you would barely see it on ebony. You can also get black CA, but the clear looks good to me. I'm inlaying in rosewood, so it's pretty much impossible to hide any big gaps.

Mike

PS - while you're at it, get "The Art of Inlay" by Larry Robinson. Lots of good info.

Edited by mikhailgtrski
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I don't think people truly understand how expensive it gets for foreigners to order from StewMac. :D Besides that, they won't ship CA over the border.

Last time I had to order a bit from StewMac, it was the binding pilot bit. The cheap one without a bearing. I don't remember the exact final total, but somewhere around $50 CDN, which is almost double the 'list' price when you include duty and so forth.

There needs to be a Canadian StewMac distributor. If I had the resources, I'd consider contacting them myself. :D

Greg

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I don't think people truly understand how expensive it gets for foreigners to order from StewMac.  :D  Besides that, they won't ship CA over the border.

Last time I had to order a bit from StewMac, it was the binding pilot bit.  The cheap one without a bearing.  I don't remember the exact final total, but somewhere around $50 CDN, which is almost double the 'list' price when you include duty and so forth.

There needs to be a Canadian StewMac distributor.  If I had the resources, I'd consider contacting them myself.  :D

Greg

CA is basically super glue. Epoxy would be easier to come by here. 30 minute epoxy should do the trick. If you are fussy about color try checking out the wal-mart flower section. They have 2 part polyurethane resin that is 100% clear. Its called "Garden Splender: Quick Water" Its for making fake water in silk flower arangements. Its basically CA because it's printed on the box.

*NOTE* CA has harmful effects and is known to cause birth defects in the state of California. (or thats what the warning label says) I'm assuming it has the same effects in other parts of the world.

And just a side note I rarely buy things from stew mac. Grossly overpriced and most items can be made or sourced from other places. The exceptions are the very specific items like fret saws or frets themselves.

For example my fret saw is an irwin thin-kerf crosscut saw that i bought and block sanded until the kerf was .023" probly not as good as a purpose made one but it does the trick.

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Greg,

Most wood suppliers will sell CA (superglue) in a variety of viscositys (is that a real word ?!?!?) and compared to the little bottles you buy at your local DIY store it's cheap (but if you don't have a local supplier just use superglue from your diy store, it's not like you'll need gallons of the stuff). As for router bits for Dremels: Stewmac are, to my mind, horrifically expensive for some things especially when you're not US based and as Guitarguy said, there's normally an alternative (but i will admit i wouldn't be without thier router base, the standard Dremel one's crap). I use twin flute down cutters that are manufactured for making printed circuit boards, they cost me between £5-£8 ($9-$15 Usd) for 10 depending on the size, and are plunge point so you just stuff 'em in and away you go and size wise they go from .8mm > 3mm. I've been inlaying for about three years and still make the most stupid cock up's routing stuff out, it's one of those practice, practice, practice things. Oh, about the dust / glue thing: 99.9% of the time, for me anyway, you can get away with just using CA by itself but if you make a horrendous mistake and it's too late to go back and start again just fill the hole with dust and dribble a little glue into it (not a bloody great dollop else you'll be sanding for ever and it tends to look worse than if you'd left it with just glue). Final top tip, if your cavity is a bit oversize and you're worried that you'll see the edge of the blank just go round the blank with black permanant marker before you glue it in and it'll take the eye away from the join.

Jem :D

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Awesome tips, thanks guys. :D In one of the tutorials, they mention using Dentistry bits. Since there are dentists in Canada (not sure about England, but it's worth looking into. :D ) there must be a way to get my hands on some of those bits.

And yes, the main thing I was worried about in my gaps was being able to see the edge of the inlay. Makes it look wonky.

TBH, I'm not TOO worried anymore about the block inlay, but now that I'm trying out slightly "fancier" stuff, I was thinking of inlaying my own headplate now, with a logo and the name of my guit-box. On the other hand, for the headplate at least, that stick-on crap is sounding mighty tempting <laff>.

Cheers for the help,

Greg

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:D

I don't have a 'family' dentist, so I can't just ask him for his throwaways... I might feel oddly about asking a complete stranger, though if I knew someone would say 'yes' without giving me the runaround, I wouldn't let pride get in the way. :D

I think today I shall try a square-ish blank. Since it's practice, I'm not going to bother shaping it into a true square, though. We'll see how she goes!

Greg

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Awesome find, tirapop! :D

The only thing that concerns me is that they mention spiral upcut. Not being very experienced, I'm not sure what disadvantage that is, if any. The only one I know about, judging by the StewMac description, is that downcut will reduce edge fuzziness. I don't mind cleaning up edges myself, as long as it's just minor fuzz and not chipping of big pieces.

If I knew that even one of the bits was a wee tiny cutter, it'd still be great VFM! I'm tempted to order just for the 'loot bag' Christmassy vibe of it all. <laff>

Using the shaft size as a reference point (1/8"), it looks like some of them ARE pretty wee, actually... hmm.... <tempted>

These look to have some useful tools for the clean-up and etching (if one decides to etch) phase, too.

Greg

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Yup, here it is at Grizzly: click me?.

Are the bits useful for this sort of work, Devon? It's not much of an investment at $12.95 anyhow, but the voice of experience would be handy. :D They also have the diamond burrs for fairly cheap. I'd been planning to make a Grizzly order at some point in time anyhow, so this might provide the excuse and compensate for the annoying costs of shipping and duty. <grumble>

I assume that the Garrett Wade mail order place is American, too? If it's Canadian, the higher list price still makes them a better option.

Maiden: do you think the upcut would leave the kind of fuzz easily fixed with a bit of personalized attention?

Greg

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Hrm, just looked a bit more into it-- Garret Wade has a fairly similar system of calculating shipping costs as StewMac... ie., overpriced. Grizzly, on the other hand, does not process International orders online, requiring instead a fax order, and preferring a bank wire transfer for payment ($15.00 service charge right off the top).

If I want to make guitars, I should move to the States. :D

Let's say I get the diamond burrs, too... that's

$30 US for the parts

$17 for shipping

$10 or so for duty/taxes

-----

$57 US, or $70 CDN

Sucks to be Canadian when it comes to these things!

Cheers for the helpful pointers anyhow. Looks like it's back to trying to source something from a Canadian supplier.

Greg

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Hi, I'm new to this site. I've been building for quite a while and I've used stewmac's downcut bits, dental bits, and the variety of mini cutters you can get from harbor freight) The harbor freight cutters suffice, but don't do the job as well as I'd like. However, I have been able to get just as clean a cut with my dentist's old bits(which are about between 1/16" and 1/32") as I can w/ the overpriced stewmac bits.

my $.02

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