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A Brief Lesson on Inlaying Pearl

Begin by collecting the necessary tools and supplies. You should have -

1. Duco cement
2. Sharp scribe
3. Chalk
4. Dremel tool with router base
5. 1/32 inch end mill
6. #11 Exacto blade and handle
7. Single-edge razor blade
8. 15-minute epoxy glue
9. Coloring pigment
10. Acetone
11. 220, 400, and 600 grit sandpaper
12. Sanding block

Select the spot where the pearl will be inlaid, and sand the wood smooth. Glue the pearl piece to the wood using Duco cement. When the glue is dry, scribe around the edges. Apply acetone to the pearl to soften the glue. If the wood has a lacquer finish, acetone is not compatible with lacquer. Carefully slide the razor blade under the pearl. Add acetone if the pearl doesn't loosen from the wood. DO NOT FORCE THIS OPERATION! When the pearl piece loosens and comes off, remove the remaining glue with acetone.
Now rub chalk across the scribed line you made outlining the inlay piece. Wipe away the excess chalk. This should leave a very fine chalk line in the scribe mark.
Mount the 1/32 inch end mill in your Dremel tool with router base. Route away the wood inside the chalk line to a depth slightly less than the thickness of the pearl inlay.
Note that when using an engraved inlay, it should be inlaid absolutely flush with the surface of the wood. The final sanding steps should be omitted.
Any sharp corners that cannot be properly routed can now be done with an Exacto knife using a #11 blade. Check that the pearl inlay fits exactly in the opening, if not, trim where necessary.

Mix the epoxy thoroughly. Color it with coloring pigment, using using just enough to achieve the desired color. Fill the routed hole with the mixture. Gently push the inlay into the space forcing the epoxy up through spaces around the pearl inlay piece, leaving the pearl slightly higher than the wood surface (except for engraved inlay). To prevent air bubbles from forming in the epoxy around the pearl, move a 100-watt light bulb over the inlay. The heat from the bulb will expand the air in any bubbles causing them to break on the surface.
When the epoxy is thoroughly set, sand the inlay level with the wood surface using 220-grit sandpaper and a block. (Don't do this for engraved inlay.) After leveling, polish the surface with 400, then 600 grit sandpaper.

Use a piece of clear plexiglass slightly larger than the inlay piece. Apply the clear double-sided tape to the plexiglass. (I use Scotch-brand doublestick tape available in most drug stores.) Stick the engraved piece to the plexiglass, fill the routed hole with colored epoxy, just enough so when the inlay is eased into the hole a small amount of epoxy oozes from under the plexiglass. Use spring clamps to hold the plexiglass to the wood surface, e.g. a finger board, peg head, etc. Allow the epoxy to partially set up. While the epoxy is still slightly soft, gently push the plexiglass up and down, and side to side until it separates from the inlay piece. Then gently rub the excess epoxy off the work using your finger. There should be a thin film on the wood surface. I suggest you try this once or twice using pieces of scrap pearl and wood to understand the amount of epoxy, the clamping pressure, and the curing time needed.

Here's a simple project - a poker chip inlaid in a block of oak. Create other tests and experiments based on your work or hobby!
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