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February 23, 2017

Custom Inlay Designs for Arts and Crafts Woodworking

“Some old things are lovely, warm still with life … of the forgotten men who made them.”
D.H. Lawrence…(1885-1930) English novelist, poet, essayist.

Custom Inlay Designs for Arts and Crafts Woodworking

Custom Inlay Designs

Custom inlay designs are found throughout the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (Duomo) in Florence, Italy. As a woodworker who enjoys creating various forms of wood inlay, I felt the urgency to capture the custom inlay designs that this spectacular church offers. The photograph clearly reveals a well thought out and  beautifully balanced marble inlay pattern.  The contrasting marble colors and varying geometric shapes invite one eye’s to pan across the design to understand the simple complexities of this elegant inlay border. As a trained woodworker, I find myself also listening to the thoughts of the skilled craftsmen who created these custom inlay designs back in the 1870’s. Perhaps these artisans were somehow inspired by other men such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo who had lived in Florence centuries ago.

Custom inlay designs such as this example reveal years of training and experience. As much as I enjoy the finished product, I would have loved to have witnessed seeing the various colors of marble as they were pulled from their quarries. Moreover, it would have been a joy to see how the apprentices worked alongside the journeyman while learning the craft. One can only imagine how the individual pieces of inlay were cut and fit. As we can see in the photo, all inlays were cut precisely for perfectly tight fitting joints.

 

Arts and Crafts Woodworking

Arts and crafts woodworking draws from countless ideas and influences from the past. For example, we can see how a woodworker named Gustav Stickley was influenced by the British arts and crafts movement while he visited England. It was this exposure to the English crafts movement that fired Stickley’s imagination. Obviously, we as woodworkers draw inspirations and influences from woodworking magazines, woodworking forums, and numerous books on the craft. However, if we keep our eyes and ears open as Gustav Stickley did, we can find woodworking ideas and inspirations where we least expect it.

Custom inlay designs on the facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore send a convincing message of pride in craftsmanship. Decorative inlays such as this example take plenty of time and patience. Yet it requires more than that to do a job like this well. It takes love of the craft. It is more than likely that the best marble inlay craftsmen in Florence were working on this project. Keep in mind that this is the face of the Cathedral and at eye level where every detail can be viewed and appreciated well beyond the lifetime of the craftsman.

Arts and Crafts woodworking in my shop takes on a new meaning after visiting Italy. My thoughts and ideas for wood inlay have shed their old limitations. I now look forward with enthusiasm to creating new hardwood inlays based upon the custom inlay designs from the Santa Maria del Fiore Duomo. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening for inlay advice from the men who worked the craft from years gone by.

Recommended Videos:

Let’s install Wood Inlay Bandings
Ripping Thin Strips of Wood Inlay on the Band Saw
Making Wood Inlay on the Bandsaw
Let’s Build a Bandsaw Miter Sled


The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

Decorative Inlay Patterns for Custom Hardwood Inlays

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all  come.”
Michelangelo…Italian Sculptor, painter, architect, engineer, and poet (1475-1564)

Inlay Design from the Duomo in Florence Italy

Inlay Pattern from Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

If you have been following this woodworking blog for anytime you know that there is quite a bit of attention devoted to creating wood inlay in the workshop. As woodworkers who love our work, we are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and fresh inspirations. Sometimes, we are able to capture insights from woodworking magazines, DVDs, or books on working with wood. However, on a recent trip I came across something very stimulating that I’d like to share with you, my viewers. These decorative inlay patterns for custom hardwood inlays are actually inlay designs from the facade of the Santa Maria del Foire Cathedral in Florence, Italy.

When you first see the this church it can be quite overwhelming as it truly magnificent and is just loaded with such a vast amount of finely crafted detail. What is even more amazing is the fact that entire facade of this Cathedral is wrapped in polychromatic veneers of marble. For the purpose of this posting on decorative inlay patterns for custom hardwood inlays, I find it best to begin with an extremely simple and yet elegant marble inlay design. The white marble is from Carrara. The green is from Prato and the red marble is from Sienna. (Carrara, Prato, and Sienna are all towns in Italy from which the marble is quarried.) Notice how the marble color combinations play off of one another. Also, take a look at how the interior mouldings of the rectangle and the square are mitered. As a woodworker, if you want to learn how to inlay wood, this design in marble is a great place to start.

Starting from the small square at the very center of the inlay pattern, notice how this white square is turned on its point and sets the stage for the direction of the overall inlay design. The rounded red cross follows this same direction as does the larger square. Here, the larger square with its mouldings and shadow lines adds a perception of depth as does the surrounding rectangle with its mouldings.

The overall inlay pattern may seem difficult at first. However, this is where we woodworkers take our time and enjoy the woodworking process. As you can clearly see, the inlay design is not hard once we break it down into its smaller components. However, my first thought is that it would be best to lay this custom inlay pattern out on paper and then take our measurements from there. By making duplicate copies of the overall pattern we can make templates available for each component’s pattern. From there it is just a matter of fitting the components together.

Marble inlays from the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

When creating wood inlay patterns we are able to utilize our veneers from an assortment of hardwoods. Here, we can experiment with different wood colors to see how they contrast or compliment one another. We can also pay special attention to the wood grain patterns as this may provide a positive influence to our custom woodworking inlay.

Keep in mind that once we have the overall decorative inlay patterns and individual component templates made, we can then create any number of custom hardwood inlays. From here it is simply a matter of production work and if we choose, we can repeat the inlay pattern throughout our wood project. As you can imagine, the craftsman of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral used this custom inlay and other inlay designs continually on the marble facade to create an astonishing work of art. What type of an affect could inlays like this have on our furniture pieces, fireplace mantels, and other wood projects?

Note: The installation on the front facade of the Santa Maria del Fiore began in 1876 and was completed in 1887.

Recommended Videos:
How to install Wood Inlay
Ripping Thin Strips of Wood Inlay on the Band Saw
Let’s Install Wood Inlay Bandings



The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

How to Make Picture Frames with Wood Inlay

Make Picture Frames with Wood Inlay

 

The Problem…
When you want to apply quality wood inlay to to make picture frames, where will you get it? What designs will you get? How much will you have to pay for it?

 

The Solution…
We use our woodworking skills. We also make picture frames with our own shop made wood inlay.  (We will make  picture frames too with shop made mouldings!)

 

Make Picture Frames that are Decorative

 

In this post we sharing how to make picture frames with wood inlay. As you seen in previous postings we have been busy creating bandings of shop made wood inlay. There are a variety of wood inlay designs now available for our use at this time. So now we are in the process of creating picture frame moulding that has a dado which will house the wood inlays. The picture frame moulding was created on the tablesaw and on the router table using a 3/4″ round over bit with a ball bearing guide.

 

The gallery of pictures reveal the set up to make mouldings for picture frames on the table saw and for the band saw. (The router table was set up with the fence and featherboards as well.)

Make Picture Frames with Shop Made Bandings

 

All the wood inlay bandings are cut to a uniform thickness of just a hair over 1/16″ as measured by a dial caliper. The set up that you see allows for control of this uniform thickness. The shop made bandsaw rip fence has been adjusted for band saw blade “drift” and the Rockler thin rip table saw jig with a roller bearing is set to the desired thickness for the wood inlay bandings. Note: The jig remains stationary for this operation and the rip fence is adjusted before each rip cut is made. Simply slide the material over against the bearing on the right and then slide the rip fence alongside the left side of the material to be ripped. This technique works wonderfully. 1.) Maximize the material as there is very, very little waste! 2.)All ripped bandings are of uniform thickness!

 

The pictures of the table saw operation reveal a sacrificial fence for the dado blade. Notice how the featherboards control how the material will be maintained during the cut. The is no upward or lateral movement. The only direction for the wood is forward. (This is also applies to the band saw ripping technique…just one direction of movement…forward!)

 

We can also see the variety of wood inlays in the dados of the picture frame moulding. It’s nice to have a variety of choices to make picture frames. (The mouldings are made from a tropical wood called Cumala.)

 

Recommended Videos…Cutting Thin Strips on the Band Saw

Making Wood Inlay on the Bandsaw

Check out exquisite wood inlay designsBuffard Freres…The 1926 Wood Inlay Banding Catalog

 


The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

 

Buffard Freres…The 1926 Wood Inlay Banding Catalog

Wood Inlay Banding of the Buffard Freres

“Never underestimate the power of a single thought.”
Ender…(1966 – ) Salesman and Friend

Buffard Freres wood inlay page10_01...1134...1144

Page 10 of the Buffard Freres wood inlay catalog…1134…1144

I first learned of the Buffard Freres and their creative wood inlay banding through the Finewoodworking.com article entitled Inlay Banding and Buffard Freres. The wonderful and informative article was written by Joseph McDermott. The original postings of this article can be found on Joseph’s site, Fine Fettling. It is here that Joseph relates the finding of a 1926 Buffard Freres trade catalog which contains hundreds of their art deco wood inlay banding patterns.

Decorative Wood Inlay Banding

 

When I first saw the beautiful wood inlay banding of the Buffard Freres,  I felt excitement. The desire to learn was similar to what I first felt when serving my woodworking apprenticeship. Obviously, these wood inlay banding patterns are so remarkably unique. I thought to myself that these are truly great designs of highly trained craftsman who took the craft of woodworking to a much higher level. The Buffard Freres offered so many exquisite wood inlay designs from which to choose. Then another thought came over me. How are these designs actually created in the woodworking shop?

Suddenly, these wonderful wood inlay bandings became like puzzles to me. It’s as if these works of art were calling and teasing the woodworker in me to figure out how they could be accurately reproduced in the woodworking shop. Needless to say, I have scratched my head a few times along this journey and I feel like I am only at the beginning.

 

Decoding Wood Inlay Banding

Since many of the wood inlay banding patterns shown on page 10 of the Buffard Freres catalog appear quite complex I thought it would best to start figuring out the process of how some of the simpler bandings could be duplicated.

Bandings 1134 – 1145 are pictured and here is where I’ll begin my interpretation of the woodworking process that I have used in my attempts to recreate these bandings.

Picture frame with wood inlay

Picture frames with wood inlay

Note: Keep in mind that all of the exposed wood grain is either edge grain or side grain. In essence all end grain is concealed.

Bandings 1134 – 1141 are all similar in that all interior segment widths are crosscut and sandwiched between contrasting outer veneers. I interpret this group of bandings as being made using the same essential technique which is applying a horizontally grained segment next to a vertically grained segment within the banding core.

Dimensioning:
I’ll now use the design of 1140 as an example. Imagine that this wood inlay banding is about 10″ long, 3/8” tall, and is 4″ wide.

The Red Segment:
Let’s say that this segment is 1” long and 1/4″ tall. To make this segment I set up my crosscut sled for the bandsaw and clamp a stop block 1″ from the saw blade and make repetitive crosscuts from a strip that is 1/4″ x 10″ X 4”. (The grain runs along its length.)

The black and white segments:
Let’s say the white segments are 3/16″ long x 1/4″ tall x 4″ wide.

To achieve these segments…Dimension two veneers of the white material that are 3/16″ thick x 10″ long x 4″ wide. (These are the finished dimensions so add a little extra for the length and the width in the beginning. Maintain a thickness of 3/16″. The width and length will eventually be properly sized.) These two veneers will have the grain running along its length. Also, these white veneers will also sandwich the black segment to form a white/black/white segment.

Let’s say the black segments are 3/8″ long x 1/4″ tall x 4″ wide.

The finished dimension the black material will be 1/4″ thickness and 10″ long and 4″ wide. (Make the rough dimensions of the length and width a bit larger.) The grain will run along the length.) The black material will be sandwiched inside the outer layers of the white veneers.

Gluing the white and black segments:

We want the black strip inside of the two outer white veneers. Brush on white glue evenly across the interior surfaces and align all edges. Now use cauls and plastic to cover the outer white veneers. Clamp securely and allow for drying. When the sandwich is dry cut to a finish dimension of 3/4” thick x 10″ long x 4″ wide.

Wood inlay sandwich and segment

Wood inlay sandwich and segment

Crosscutting the white/black/white segments:

Use the band saw crosscut sled and clamp a stop block on the fence 1/4″ from the saw blade kerf. Make a test cut on scrap and use a caliper to make sure that this dimension is equal to the 1/4″ thickness of the red segments. Make adjustments to the stop block as necessary. When we have the dimension equal to the thickness of the red segment we can then make repetitive crosscuts to create the white/black/white segments.

The two Outer Veneers:

The finished dimensions will be 1/8″ x 10″ x 4″ with the grain running along the length. Slightly oversize the outer veneers for now. (Allow for a bit of error as the segments are fit and glued within the sandwich.) The finished dimensions will be cut after the entire banding sandwich is glued and dried.

 

Gluing the Wood Inlay Banding Together:
Let’s say the two outer veneers are 1/8″ thick x 10″ long X 4″ wide. Take the bottom outer veneer and evenly brush on a light coating of the slow setting white glue across its surface.
1.) Place a red segment on the glue at one end of the outer veneer. (The grains will run in the same direction.)
2.) Brush glue on the sides and bottom of the white/black/white segment and lightly press it against the red segment. (The grain of the vertical white/black/white segment will be perpendicular to the grain of the horizontal red segment. The end grain of the red segment will be glued to the face grain of the white segment.)
3.) Spread glue on the two end grained sides and bottom of the red segment and align it alongside of the white/black/white segment.
4.) Repeat the process for the following segments and end with a segment that is opposite of the starting segment.
(By having opposite segments at the end this will allow us to add continuous bandings strips and maintain the same pattern.)
5.) Once all segments are glued in place on the bottom outer veneer apply a coating of glue on top of all segments and brush on a coating of glue to the top outer veneer. Place the top outer veneer onto the segments to complete the banding sandwich.
6.) Make sure the segments are in alignment. The next step is clamping the wood sandwich. Make sure that you have plastic between the sandwich and the cauls.
7.) When the sandwich is dry it is time the cut it to the finish dimensions of 3/8″ x 10″ x 4″.
8.) Strips of banding can be ripped to 3/32″ on the band saw when our projects call for them.

More Articles and Videos…

Making Wood Inlay on the Bandsaw

The Band Saw Sleds:

1.) The Bandsaw Crosscut Sled
2.) The Dedicated Band Saw Miter Sled
3.) The Tilting Miter Sled for the Band Saw

Also important…The Bandsaw Rip Fence for Cutting Thin Strips



The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

 

Making Wood Inlay on the Bandsaw

When a woodworker searches the web to learn how to make wood inlay bandings there is little information to be found. In fact there seems to be very little information about how the masters of wood inlay created the wonderful patterns that are sometimes seen on museum quality furniture. However, there are some patterns of wood inlay from the Buffard Freres that offer a glimpse into the world of classic wood inlay from Paris. After studying these inlay designs the urge hit me to figure out how to could duplicate some of these patterns. What I am learning of this “lost art” I will attempt to share with those interested.

When I first began making wood inlay bandings my tool of choice was the table saw. However, my work has evolved and now my band saw is getting a workout. I like working with the band saw for cutting wood inlay segments for a number of reasons.
1). I find it safer when working with smaller or narrower wood pieces.
2.) There is no chance of kickback on a band saw.
3.) The band saw offers a great deal of control when working with sleds and the band saw rip fence.

The Band Saw Sleds:

1.) The Bandsaw Crosscut Sled
2.) The Dedicated Band Saw Miter Sled
3.) The Tilting Miter Sled for the Band Saw

Also important…The Bandsaw Rip Fence for Cutting Thin Strips

The three sleds and the rip fence each take 10-15 minutes to make and they can be made from scrap material in the workshop. The sleds are highly accurate and efficient. Actually, I had not seen or heard of any band saw sleds before I thought of cutting wood inlay segments on the band saw. My band saw sleds are an original thought that I developed for the purpose of cutting wood inlay segments. The sleds have opened up a new dimension for my band saw work and it’s as if my band saw has suddenly been upgraded.

When preparing stock for wood inlay it is important that the material is dimensioned properly. The material being used needs to be flat and of uniform thickness. I use the open drum sander for this operation.

When using a sled I clamp a stop block to the fence so that segments are cut to a uniform width or length.

So far the segments for the wood inlay I have created have been cut at either 90 degrees or 45 degrees. For the 90 degree cuts I use the crosscut sled. When making 45 degree cuts I use either the dedicated miter sled or the tilting miter sled depending on the particular cut to be made. Keep in mind is that the bandings do not have exposed end grain. The wood grain shown is either edge grain or face grain.



The Apprentice and The Journeyman University

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