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Twisted Copper Inlay Experiments #1

1630 Views 14 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  JimYoung
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So I've been distracted again by a shiny object, this time it is copper wire inlay.
A few projects have been posted lately with this technique so I decided to try it out with some basic crosses

These are #12 AWG copper wire, twisted, with blue mica colored epoxy in walnut.

I wanted to cut deeper into the inlay and see what pattern can be exposed. I really liked the "string of beads" that showed up when cutting almost 1/2 way through (top photo, beads in oak).

This short blog follows on my as yet to be tested process to get some nice bead strips for future projects.

For this test, I'm using some scrap #10 AWG copper wire.
About 72" of straight wire, x 2 pieces, twisted up with my drill on one end and the other ends secured into a vise.
Yield is 36", about 1/2" of the original length.

I wanted a section of counter-clockwise and clockwise twists so I can get symmetry for various uses.

To get the twist density about the same on both sections, I set the clutch on my drill to slip when the twist was tight enough.

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These are the wires cut in half so I have four 18" sections, two CCW twisted, two CW twisted, sitting on two squared and flat 4" wide walnut sections.

You can see one twist has a silver tint. I tried to solder it thinking I could get some interesting effects when finished, but this really went nowhere so fugetaboudit 8^)

For the expoy, I have some vintage 10 year old cans of West Systems with the 207 hardener, a low viscosity hardener that makes this stuff really flow out.

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These came with the dispensing pumps, but the hardener can pump died so I went with a "by weight" mix.
Hard to believe this kit was about $60 at the time which I though was expensive. I see they are up to about $130 now (ouch!)

I will use two colors, one board with blue mica and the other board with TransTint "Perfect Red".

Slotting the boards

The twist has a diameter of .190" so that is my target slot width.
To get a consistent pattern, the wire needs to be flat across the entire board. For this to happen, I cut a slot that is 0.150" deep, leaving a slight amount of the wire above the slot so I can use a caul to press it in and bottom it in the slot.

The boards are covered with masking tape to keep sloppy epoxy from soaking into the grain.

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A FTG rip blade does the initial cut (cut a slot, rotate the board, then cut another slot). Measuring the slot width tells me the slot needs to be 0.060" wider. I use a dial gauge on the fence when I need to adjust like this, quick and accurate, plus I already have a selection of these measuring tools to select from.

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Slots are an excellent (snug) fit.
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For my tests, I want the wire to be secure from shear forces and not have any ends that could pop out and catch on anything. The answer here is to bend the ends of the wire and insert them into holes drilled into the slots.

First I bend down the ends with one of my cheap-azzz dead soft HF punches, glad I didn't toss these years ago!

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Next the holes are positioned and drilled, a small radius is cut in with a tiny carving gouge to allow the wire bend to sit flush.
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The back side of the holes are taped to keep the epoxy from leaking. Small strips of hard board are also inserted into the slot ends to act as dams.
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Pour the epoxy

I fill the slot to slightly below the top with the mixed epoxy. These two slots required about an ounce of mix (that is one of those 2 oz. condiment cups)
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The wires are placed and pressed into place, then covered and back filled with more epoxy.

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More masking tape is laid over the top to keep it from the caul as much as possible.

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the cauls are 3/4" melamine, waxed. These are hard enough so that the wire will not make a dent when they are used to press it into the slot. A chunk of oak is used to back up the melamine.

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You can see the gap between the caul and walnut, this shows that the wire has bottomed out in the slots and should make for a nice, consistent pattern.
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The other board went the same way except I used the red dye (three drops).

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A bit more translucent than I had hoped, but I didn't want to over-contaminate the epoxy.

Clamped and set aside to dry.
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Next installment I go into the real part of this experiment, all has gone well enough so far.

Thanks for following along!

Note" Part #2 is now here


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Excellent write-up. Thanks. The dot-pattern is extra super duper cool. Am so wanting to do this! Wonder what would result if 3 or 4 or more strands of wire were used?
Great technique Splinter.

After it dries does the tape come off without a struggle?
Hey Brian, my thoughts exactly when I saw the dots 8^) Just before they appeared, they were more like galaxies.

More wire won't work well, at least with my up-coming method, since you cannot completely go through a single wire.

The exposed ends get very unpredictable.

It might work if you do all the cutting down by hand, very carefully. Of course if the epoxy was translucent, then you could get a really interesting effect, even with only a slight exposing of the copper.

Redoak Thanks for dropping in!
Great technique Splinter.

After it dries does the tape come off without a struggle?

- James E McIntyre
I'll go into that with the next entry, but with the plain masking tape I used, not at all easy. Blue tape would be better, but I'm too cheap 8^).

Anyway, the method I plan on using won't care about the tape so much. Stay tuned!
I saw Jim Jakosh's projects with the copper and I think he might of used turquoise on a project. It is a nice looking detail
I first saw it on Jim's bowl, he has a claim on several AZ turquoise mines and an infinite supply for his various inlays 8^)

Recently I've seen this on magazine covers so It seems to be popular.

Captain K did a nice description on how the mica will present different colors depending on the light hitting the surface or edge of the micro mica flakes. The reason it doesn't just look like a solid color mess. With the turquoise there are the different minerals to get the neat patterns.
Very nice and I like the detailed explanation. How do you get it smooth looking after removing the tape and cauls.
Or should I wait for the next installment? LOL
I've been getting ready for a project with some copper so I'll take any pointers I can.
Real nice crosses, Bruce. Thanks for all the process shots.

When I used the twisted wire in turnings, it is so important to keep it to the bottom of the groove. CA works but you have to be careful that it stay in the bottom or the pattern looks flawed.

cheers, Jim
Bruce, thanks for the schoolin. You can not only do, but you can teach well too.
That is really a neat way to do that. I appreciate the tutorial. Very nice work. Thank you.
Well, I learned something today. Thanks, Splint!
Thanks Guys!

DD, wait for it…... 8^)

Actually the inlays I did for the crosses used my drum sander, but there are issues with that that I'll address in season #2

Jim, It sounds like you secured the wire to your bowl groove with CA to hold it until you got the turquoise in place?
Was that because you didn't think the turquoise mix was going to hold the wire on its own?

One of the reasons I went with the epoxy was (hopefully) it would do all the retaining work once cured. I'd start to worry if I was going to add more color/fillers that can weaken the epoxy.

Not having any CA (open a new tube, toss the new tube after a day because it turned 8^(
I would probably run a line of standard, un-tainted epoxy along the bottom of the groove to hold the wire, let it cure, then back fill with the color material.
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Excellent step by step so far. I hate these end of season cliff hangers! ( ^ ;
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