After turning three years I felt I needed to add another facet to my pieces. I wanted to add interesting character to pieces that the wood offered little or no figure or character of it’s own.

My first experimentation came in 2009 with embellishment using metal leaf – copper, silver and imitation gold. I attended a class at the Orlando FL Woodcraft store given by David Marks. I was quite pleased with the results and received favorable comments wherever I exhibited my art. The problem however, was that this embellishment tended to cover all of the wood, and for me it is all about the wood. So I drifted away from that. Some of those pieces are: Prayer Box,  Prayer Box #292Poplar Gilded Canister,   Greek Pitcher,  and Greek Urn.

In July 2011 I attended a class at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg TN given by Stephen Hatcher. All of the information contained in this article came from that class and was the best class I have taken to date. Thanks Stephen.

materials The Calcite is first crushed and sorted into five different sizes using kitchen strainers. The black comes from mixing the fine Calcite with black carbon dust. The black is used to highlight the inlay and to provide a contrasting base at the bottom of the inlay.

Carving 1









First you must carve out your design, or in this case, the rim around the bowl and the shape on the fork and spoon set. I am using a Dremel tool with a high speed boring burr. You must be very precise as you want your edges straight and crisp. Patience and a steady hand are essential. 

carving 2









Here the burr is carving out the shape. You must stay just inside your pencil lines. It is best to carve straight down into the wood about 5/16 of an inch. Try to keep the bottom as flat as possible.

In the next two photos you can see the completed shape. Notice the straight edges and the depth of the carving. It is important to go deep enough to give your inlay prospective.

The next step is critical. Omitting it will ruin your piece! Using very thin CA glue will stain the wood and it will never come out. You must protect the wood surface from soaking up this thin CA glue. I use a solution of 90% Denatured Alcohol and 10% one pound cut of dewaxed shellac. Mix this and put it in an industrial type spray bottle. Spray a little on your hand. When it drys in a few seconds, your hand should be slightly sticky. If it is, your mixture is the right consistency. Spray this mixture on the surface of the wood. Let it dry a few minutes. Spray on another coat. Let it dry.

You must do this step every time after you sand the inlay. Don’t forget!

carving 3

carving 4

In the four photos below you can see the process of inserting the Calcite crystals into the carved out shape. The first step is to place a fine layer of black crystal along the bottom of the design. This provides a contrast at the bottom of your inlay to enhance the depth of the clear crystals.

Next lay in the largest crystals. Use the biggest ones that will fit into the groove, making sure they are “proud” of the top of the wood. Space them out. Use your sense of color and shape to arrange them into the entire carved out groove.

Now fill in around your large crystals with the next smaller size. Pack them in as tightly as you can get them. After your groove won’t accept any more of this size crystal, go to the next smaller size crystal. Sprinkle them in around the larger crystals. You will notice that they fall down to the bottom of your groove and fill in around the larger crystals. Continue until they have filled in completely around the larger crystals.

Using the sugar sized crushed crystal (black and white) fill in all of the holes, voids, cracks and spaces. I sprinkle it on very lightly so that it will fall in around the larger crystals. The idea is to get as much of the groove filled with crystal as possible. In this step when using black crystal, “Less is More”.

I use a large magnifying glass mounted on a scissor arm with a light around it to inspect the placement of the crystal. You might want to vibrate the wood to help the crystal settle into empty pockets. Be careful if you do this as you can easily vibrate everything out of the groove and all over your work bench! You should have a mound of crystal piled up “Proud” of the wood surface as seen in the photo below.

step 1

step 2

step 4step 5

Once you have the crystals loaded into the groove, fill the groove with very thin CA glue. Use the thin CA glue liberally. I mean fill that groove so that the glue is running out and over the sides. Drip it in and let it soak in. Continue until the crystal is drenched. (See the fifth photo down.) Let the CA glue dry for about 24 hours.

The next step is power sanding. I start with Klingspor 5″ Stearate A/O 40 grit PSA sandpaper discs used on my variable speed drill. You can get them from Klingspor’s Woodworking Shop at As you can see from the photo, the Calcite crystals are all glued together into one solid mass that sets “Proud” of the wood surface. The Calcite must be sanded down flush with the wood. Be careful not to build up too much heat on your sandpaper or the inlay.

After you have power sanded the Calcite down to the wood, inspect the surface of the inlay using a magnifying glass. You will notice that there are a few tiny holes and crevices. You must fill those in with crystal and add more CA glue. But not before you spray the wood surface with the Shellac solution again.  Power sand this time using 80 grit paper. Inspect the surface again and repeat the process until the inlay surface is smooth. If the surface is solid, from this point on you will not be using CA glue, so you do not have to spray shellac after sanding.

Power sand the inlay starting with 100 grit and go all the way through 5000 grit. Your Calcite will be polished and gleaming. Finish with the Beal Buffing system.step 6inlay treanware


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