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A rotary tool, hammer and a few shop-made tools are all it takes.

I recently had the opportunity to explore a concept that has been rattling around the dark recesses of my cranium for almost three decades. It was inspired first by a spectacular pair of curly juniper boards (also known as aromatic red cedar) I bought way back when “just because” that were still awaiting their final purpose, and a cheesy Anglo-Indian carved teak box I use to hold my favorite “fussy” tools used for inlaying, engraving and marquetry.

Ideas everywhere. Inspiration comes sometimes from humble and mundane sources. This $2 teak and brass box from a thrift store was a seed for this technique.

The idea? Inlay wire into the presentation surface to enhance the already eye-catching beauty of the swirling grain pattern. The beauty of the technique is that it can be used for just about any kind of metal wire that fits the project – copper, brass, silver, pewter, aluminum, steel and even gold – and employed for any type of artistic expression, whether linear accents, scrollwork or free-form.

The use of inlaid wire has long historical precedence, perhaps nowhere more noteworthy than in the filigree inlays of exquisite antique firearms such as elegant dueling pistols and hunting long guns from centuries past. While the delicate accents of these artifacts were achieved through a skill developed during a long period of trial and error, by following the steps here, you can be up and running quickly because the scale and materials are more suited to both the modern shop and the task of furniture making.

The Substrate

Deep finish. The background material must be impregnated so that it will cut cleanly with the rotating tool cutter. Make sure to apply enough penetrating oil finish that it soaks in deep. The more exuberant the grain, the more finish will soak in.

While I chose…

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