May 23, 2018 09:23, submitted by Mike Seltzer (author: Ross Lynch, edited by Mike Seltzer, photos by Tina Collison)


Today our demonstrator is Janet Collins of Vermont. Janet has trained at the North Bennet Street School in Boston in furniture making and woodworking. She has been teaching furniture making and woodturning at multiple schools since the 1990’s. Janet Collins website is She has used inlay techniques in her furniture making and has transferred these techniques to her woodturning. Today she will be teaching us some of these techniques.

Janet started the demonstration showing us samples of the techniques she creates. Her favorite is the “line and berry”. She originally learned to do these designs with hand tools using 18th century techniques. Now she uses power tools. Janet gave us a print out of the sources of her supplies. This is available on the website.

The secret to inlay is finding the exact cuts for the shape of the wood. Do most of the inlay before you turn the bowl. She uses kiln dried wood, makes sure she has parallel surfaces. Depths of the inlay grooves, holes, etc. must be accurate. (Safety was emphasized-especially glasses and face shields).

When making your inlay strips or plugs always use side grain. End grain facing up will stain differently and may not stay in place. Wood expansion is not really a problem because the orientation of the wood allows for up and down movement not side to side. Inlays are generally cut on the table saw. Janet uses a 1/16 blade with 60 teeth and a blade stiffener. This gives fine cuts. A band saw can also be used to cut the 1/16 in. veneer as well. She described in detail her method and safety points. You can cut inlays with a knife. You can even use a pasta maker if the inlays are only 1/30 of an inch thick after soaking in hot water for 1/2 hour, but use the table saw for anything larger.

To cut the grooves she anchor the bowl in a homemade jig/fixture. It is imperative that the bowl not move. A router is used to cut straight grooves and her fixture is sized so the router fits for true straight lines. Grooves must be filled in and the inlay glued in place and dried before any cuts across are made. An end mill router bit is used so that you get flat bottom grooves. The inlays should be slightly proud of the surface of the bowl blank. Use original tightbond glue and then place in a clamping press. The slightly proud inlays are now assured of being tight to the bottom of the grooves. Janet demonstrated cutting and filling multiple grooves.

Janet next discussed and demonstrated curved grooves. For this she uses flexible veneers. Her preferred light wood is holly. For curved grooves you need a template. It can be made of hard wood, plywood, or plexiglass. She uses a modified precision router base(from Stewart MacDonald Guitar Supply) working with a template that is secured with double sided tape.You need to let the inlays dry for 24 hours before turning. If the ends of the inlays won’t be turned away make the veneer slightly longer than the groove and the ends will be pushed “round”.

After the lunch break, Janet started the afternoon discussing sand shading. To do this she fills a cast iron skillet with sandbox sand and heats it. She then partly submerges the plugs on their sides in the sand and scorches them. When the plus are in the sand watch for wisps of smoke and then cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Lift out with tweezers to check that you are happy with the amount of shading. To make the plugs she clamps a piece of maple on the drill press and drills with various size tenon cutters (3/8 and 1/2 inch most common). To make the comparable hole she uses a forstner bit that exactly fits into the tenon cutter. To fit the plugs, place glue in the holes, push the plug in and cut off with a flush cutting saw. Or you can pre-cut the plugs and “pound” in with a small hammer.

To inlay cabochons you do the inlay after the bowl is entirely finished and use 5 minute epoxy or CA glue. You must use a drill press for the holes. FREEHAND will NOT work! Mother of pear stars holes are cut by holding in place with double sided tape and score around it-then excavate with a Dremel with the router base. Brass lines are cut the same way but are glued in flush. Mosaic pens are brass tubes that are filled with stuff and secured with epoxy. Janet gave a brief discussion on this.

Janet now proceeded to turn a bowl with a decorated rim. She used a cherry blank that had been previously prepared with sand shaded plugs. Janet mounted the blank on a screw chuck. She carefully turns away the proud part of the plugs with a gentle scraping technique. She then cuts outward to shape the bottom of the bowl. Now she turns the bowl and mounts in the chuck on the tenon she developed while shaping the bottom. The inside is now turned with special care to avoid skating back and ruining the inlay. She then sands inside and out to 600 grit. This is followed by hand sanding at 600grit in the direction of the grain. The finish is general salad bowl finish. The first coat dries for 24 hours, then followed by 2 to 4 more coats applied by wet dry sand paper.

A few more questions were asked and answered and the demonstration ended. Thank you Janet for sharing your story and your ideas with CMW. Submitted by Ross D. Lynch.

Thanks to Ross Lynch for taking the time to compose this summary.

Janet Collins website is <>

I have attached additional contact information and a resource list as separate files. Respectfully submitted by Mike Seltzer