Here is a vagary I devised: What if I inlaid the back of a violin? It’s been done before, to good effect. Maggini got a little carried away with purflings, for example. Others have used pearl inlay and so forth. I wanted ebony.
I brought the idea to Dave, who is an illustrator. We worked out some designs on the computer and Dave came up with a fine vector graphic of a rose, based on some photography he did of the local flora.
How does one execute a nice inlay? Well, I don’t know. But here is how I did it–
First, I obtained some materials. I bought 1/8″ thick ebony blanks from Matt Furjanic at Inlay Banding. It’s good stuff and not that expensive.
Here is a picture of the rose, which I printed on a laser printer; and the ebony strips, and a pencil thrown in to add a little extra class:
Since I wanted to cut this inlay in one piece, I needed to glue up the blanks into a slab that would accommodate the entire design. I think a lot of inlay artists do this work piecemeal, mostly because they are working with small bits of shell. I couldn’t come up with a great way to divide this design up, and it was easiest for me to think of it as one piece.
Here I cut the ebony into smaller strips prior to gluing them up:
Next, I jointed, glued and clamped the pieces together:
After I made a suitable piece of ebony for cutting my design, I needed to attach my template to it:
The inlay is ready to be cut. I always look for little shortcuts when I get to a tedious part like this, so I thought I might be able to use my Dremel with the routing base to cut it out. I failed at that attempt:
I was forced to do it the right way:
Time to transfer the pattern onto the back of the violin for the inlay rout:
Here is the result:
At last, I can use my routing jig for its intended purpose. This is the fun bit:
Here is the finished inlay rout:
I used hide glue to install the ebony in the routed inlay cavity. I had to break my piece into several smaller ones to fit the contour of the back, again reminding me that inlay ought to be done in small pieces for a reason.
After the inlay is glued, I needed to trim and level it:
Finally, I put some wood filler into the gaps, let it dry, and scraped the whole thing smooth:
Here is what it looked like after I finished it, but before I did the varnish:
And the final result: