How to Inlay Metal

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Inlay metal to create stunning surface design.
Inlay metal to create stunning surface design. (Image: vintage ring image by studio vision1 from Fotolia.com)

Inlaying one piece of metal into another creates a stunning surface design where the colors of the different metals contrast. The sheet inlay technique can be used to add a single focus point or to create a larger more complex design. Make interesting items of jewelry using the sheet metal inlay technique including earrings, pendants and rings. This technique is also useful for creating patterned pieces of metal for box lids and other flat items.

Things You'll Need

  • Two pieces of sheet metal of the same gauge
  • Inlay design
  • Jeweler's saw
  • Jeweler's drill and drill bits
  • Files and sandpaper
  • Solder
  • Soldering equipment
  • Safety glasses

Transfer your inlay design onto the pieces of metal. Decide which the inlay piece is to be and which the base is to be. The base will have the shape cut out where the inlay will sit.

Work on the base first, drill a guide hole inside the design. Use this to start sawing around the design. When sawing, make sure you saw inside the design and do not go over the lines.

Cut out the inlay from the second piece of metal. This time pay particular attention to not sawing into the design. If you are a beginner at cutting metal it is better to err on the side of caution and make the piece too big as you can always trim metal away by filing.

Use the jeweler's saw to tidy up the rough edges and to ensure that the inlay sits snuggly inside the cut-out. Sand the cut surfaces with sand paper to get a smooth finish and ensure that they are clean for soldering.

Place the inlay into the cut-out. Carefully solder this into place using the method best suited to the metals you are using. When the pieces have been soldered together there should be no sign of light showing through the piece when it is held up to light.

Use the sandpaper to remove any rough edges from the surface. The metal is now ready for using as required.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep the designs simple when starting. Sawing two identical pieces can be challenging if the designs are too complex.
  • When sawing keep the blade at right angles to the metal sheet. This will ensure that the edges are straight.
  • Practice in copper or nickel silver before moving on to more expensive metals.
  • Always wear safety glasses when soldering.

References

  • Book: The Encyclopedia of Jewelry Techniques; Inlaying; Jinks McGrath; 2000
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