A colleague of mine had her wedding last week. I always try to make a personalised gift instead of just buying them something or giving money. I decided to try out an inlayed cutting board. It has probably been over a year since I did some inlay tests, so I could use the practice.
I chose to do V-inlays because they are more forgiving. Note that I will be working with hardwoods that won’t compress and adapt to the pocket shape as easily. Basically I’ll need all the help I can get :-). A 30° V-bit should ensure a tight fit while still maintaining crisp lines.
The cutting board is store-bought and therefor I don’t know which wood it is, but it is relatively hard. I’d say it is definitely harder than oak. Inlay woods are ebony and tulipwood, which are also pretty hard, especially the latter.
I milled the bulk of the pockets with an 1/8″ flat bit, and then finished them with the V-bit. Because it is endgrain, cutting went very smooth and the edges ended up extremely crisp! In the mean time, i prepared and glued some blocks for the male inlay pieces.
At this point, I was extremely pleased with the progress i’d made and the quality of the endgrain cut. I actually intended to write a love letter to endgrain cutting and how it made this project such an enjoyable endeavour. Little did I know what would follow…
Two full days. Thats what I had left before the wedding. But I had two days off from work, so I was pretty confident I’d get shit done. Then the trouble started. I won’t tell the whole tale because it would take us too far, but suffice to say that the universe did not want me to finish this project in time for the wedding. In short it involves a broken motherboard on my only parallel port pc, buying a smoothstepper board and having to figure it all out, throwing my laptop into the ground when I slipped going down the stairs, Mach3 license trouble etc. It was brutal. I actually even tried using my discarded control box, but I ended up realizing the X, Y and Z travel settings were not adapted to my new setup after the last batch of upgrades, and I didn’t feel like configuring it in a hurry.
In the end, I got it to work on a third computer and finished cutting the inlays. The letters were rearranged in order to not waste valuable wood.
Inlaying and clamping until the glue dried:
This is where I stranded at the day of the wedding. I was so close I could almost taste it, but I realized I needed some extra time to finish it properly, so I bit the bullet and accepted defeat. Oh well, I’d rather give a gift I’m proud of, than giving a rushed piece of shit.
In the following days, I finished the board by cutting off most of the material on the table saw, then doing a shallow finishing pass on the ShapeOko. Sanding would have been an option too but the wood was just so dense it would have taken a lot more time and effort. Just to be on the safe side, I did the old glue/sawdust trick to make sure there are no small crevices in the surface.
After some more sanding, the board was finally done. What a ride this has been. But I am extremely happy with the result, and next week there will be another perfect opportunity to hand it over to my colleague when we have a teambuilding day.
The only thing missing now is a nice oil finish. I used some of the walnut oil I usually cook with. That way I’m sure it is food-safe.
All in all, a lot of lessons learned and very pleased with the result!