A pair of drink coasters of maple wood with small metal inlay (brass and aluminium) I hand made for one of my sons who's moving out and to an apartment for the first time.
Materials & Tools
- Figured Maple
- Brass sheet, 0.032"
- Aluminium sheet, 0.0125"
- Round ceramic base
- 15mm Square EVA white foam dowel
- Piercing/Jeweler's Saw, Knew Concepts 3" Woodworker Fret Saw (0/5 grade, 28-TPmm jeweler's blade for metal; #7, 15-TPI skip-tooth blade for wood), beeswax
- Small hacksaw, Lenox Heavy-Duty Mini Metal Hack Saw, Aluminum Handle, 12-in Blade, 10-TPI
- Magnifiying visor
- Exacto and Utility Knives
- Veiner (carving tool), Pfeil #L11 x 1mm (palm handle)
- Rotary tool, Milwaulkee (12v cordless) + Dremel Flex Shaft attachment, fine-tip diamond bur, pencil-shaped polishing felt
- Rouge polishing compound
- Bench Pin (peg), V-slot with clamp
- Metal Ruler
- Stainless steel pick tool
- Small flathead screwdriver
- Watco Butcher Block oil/conditioner
- Epoxy Putty, KwikWood
- E6000 Adhesive
- Masking tape
- Sandpaper (220, 320, 600 grit)
- Sawed (piercing saw) brass sun inlay, sanded edge (220, 600).
- Sawed aluminium moon inlay, sanded edge (600).
- Added tiny stippling to the centre of the brass sun with the diamond bur on the Flex Shaft; needed maxiumum visor magnification.
- Sawed two pieces of maple to 3⅛" × 3⅛", sanded (320); the jeweler's saw (coping saw) has a 3-inch throat, so I couldn't quite cut the square all the way to the corner, the hacksaw had to assist (a small length of the hacksaw blade extends above the jaws and while not very stable it had the advantage of bypassing throat depth limitation of its small frame).
- Put sun inlay on wood and held in place with downward pressure of a metal scribe (held in left hand).
- Traced around sun with exacto knife (right hand); with a great tip from a technique video by Paul Hamler, I had micro-serrrated near the tip of the exacto blade using a piece of round metal with knurling (a small metal flashlight with kurling I have did the trick for me).
- Having the outline scratched in the wood I then when over it bit by bit with exacto knife stabbing in with vertical force, until depth was approximate to metal inlay piece thickness.
- Used the veiner carving tool to scoop out tiny gouges of wood at a time; for initial cuts I started from the edge and drove toward the middle of the outline; as the carve out got deeper I could safely drive from the middle outward as the tool tip would stop at the edge wall.
- Cleaned up the cavity in the wood (pick tool for the corners, small flathead screwdriver to scrape the bottom surface flatter).
- Set brass sun into carve out to check fit; removed and carved a smige deeper; put small amount of epoxy putty in carve out then pressed in brass sun; scraped off excess putty from surface and let set for an hour.
- Repeat carving steps for the moon / second piece of maple.
- Checked the moon fit and it was spot-on, no epoxy needed for edge fill, just used a miniscule amount to set the inlay to level and raise to height (just above wood surface ready for sanding) along with a tiny drop of E6000 glue applied with toothpick.
- Sanded front face surface of each coaster now with inlay.
- On reverse side of coaster penciled son's name and carved out penciling with veiner tool; sanded (320).
- Polished inlays with pencil shaped felt on Flex Shaft + rouge compund (masked around inlay with tape to protect wood while polishing).
- Finished with first coat of Butcher Block oil (a food safe finish); let dry for 4 hours, sanded lightly wet (water) with 600 grit wet/dry paper (wood only, avoided metal inlays); dried and applied second coat of finish; let dry over night and final light sanded (600) dry this time.
- Cut small piece of cork padding for bumpers on reverse side of coasters for the four corners; are self-adhesive, but I added a thin layer of E6000 for good measure.
- Ceramic Base
- Cut two small pieces of square foam dowel with utility knife, positioned spacing on ceramic disc so the two coasters sitting vertical would be snuggly held by foam on either side; glued down with E6000. By the way, ceramic disc is actually sold as a type of blank coaster for transferable ink crafting—I'm just using it as a storage/display base.
I practiced a bunch on a piece of scrap wood to figure out the small dimensions carving approach. I experimented with small Dremel drill bits (the smallest I have—1/32") and carving burs and a jig I built to hold the Flex Shaft to operate like a small scale router. It was ok, but wasn't totally happy with the precision I could achieve; I found the tiniest gauge chisel available at speciality tool shop and after some practice decided that was the way to go. So for the actual maple workpieces I only used hand tools.
First time I've really finished any wood, and I enjoyed the process and the final result, a small token for this milestone in my son's life.