Family Tree Carving With Solder Inlay

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Project by JamesA posted 07-02-2020 12:27 PM 1088 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Quarantine time means free time to try new techniques. I wanted to try another carving project and was inspired by one I saw of a tree inlayed with silver. I inlayed mine with solder wire and filed then sanded it smooth. This was also my first attempt at raised letter carving. It was a piece of scrap wood and serves no functional purpose but it was a fun project to attempt.

6 comments so far

View hockeyfan_019's profile


69 posts in 348 days

#1 posted 07-02-2020 02:51 PM

Hello James! Looks great, especially for a first try. But, since I have tried such a things several times with less-than-stellar results, I have a few questions…

- How did you carve the channels? 1/8” bit in a small vertical rotary-tool stand? Just by hand?
- Did you use a round-nosed bit, or a square end bottoming tool?
- What is the depth?
- When you melted the solder, how did you keep it from burning the wood adjacent to the channels?
- How did you keep the solder from tearing out during final sanding?

Again, I think you did a great job, but just also thinking about how to adapt it to other techniques, like sulfur inlay or such. When I have tried similar, here are some comments from my failures:

- Trying to cut a thin line with a rotary tool to full depth in a single pass, the tool tends to wander in harder wood (like the presumably pallet wood oak here)
- Without using a slight dovetail in the channel, the solder tended to pull out when I was sanding in some sections
- Hot solder caused the wood to burn slightly adjacent to the channel with pine

-- Most of my tools are older than I am

View oldnovice's profile


7708 posts in 4483 days

#2 posted 07-02-2020 02:56 PM

I like it, it imaginative and simple at the same time.
You also used scrap wood which is one of my favorite things to do.

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

View JamesA's profile


7 posts in 412 days

#3 posted 07-02-2020 03:20 PM

@hockeyfan_019, thanks for the feedback. To answer some of your questions,
- I did the letters free hand and the tree with a rotary tool using a square end bottoming tip. I took multiple passes. The first time, I think I did about 1/8 or 3/16 and the solder ripped out when I tried to file or sand it. I found deeper channels helped. And yes, do them in multiple passes. Also, on the really small parts, I drilled a hole in the middle of the “branch” to allow more solder as an anchor.
- I melted the solder using both a soldering gun and a propane torch. I had better results with the propane. If you hold it perpendicular to the wood, you should be able to melt the solder without burning the wood. I never had a problem with the solder burning the adjacent wood, but the propane sure did a couple times!
- I tried a few different techniques to smooth it out. I found my belt sander was too strong. And with the wood upside down, I couldn’t tell if a piece was loose until it was too late. So I switched to removing the large chunks with a file then progressively sanding with a random orbital sander. I read one blog that recommended using super glue for pieces that wouldn’t stick.

View swirt's profile


6270 posts in 4087 days

#4 posted 07-02-2020 05:55 PM

That is very nice. And thank to both hockey_fan019 for asking the questions and you for answering.

-- Galootish log blog,

View livewire516's profile


111 posts in 975 days

#5 posted 07-02-2020 06:07 PM

Very cool concept.

I was just thinking about making something to memorialize the family tree the other days.

View hockeyfan_019's profile


69 posts in 348 days

#6 posted 07-02-2020 06:59 PM

Thanks again James for sharing your insight, I think your work looks great :)

-- Most of my tools are older than I am

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