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Inlaid Ladybug Box

The Holiday 2011 issue of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts magazine had an interesting article on making a scroll sawn inlaid box:

 I am always looking for ideas to make things and give them out as Christmas gifts each year, so I decided to try making one of these.


If you tip the angle slightly on the scroll saw table, and saw in the right direction, something unique happens. The piece you cut out will either sink into the base piece, or stick out slightly from the base piece......depending on the angle and the direction of scrolling.  The effect is shown here.......

 Someone who was pretty clever, figured out that you can create inlays using the same general concept.  On the ladybug project, you place the piece you want to inlay below the base piece. After you scroll saw both pieces together, the bottom piece rises up and sticks proud of the base you can sand it off flush.

Material selection

The author chose cedar for the box sides and main inlay on the top, then used walnut to simulate the black portion of the ladybug. She used maple for the rest of the box.

I have had 4 pieces of ebony laying on the shelf for a couple of years, planning on someday using it to make black accents on a Greene & Greene furniture project. I decided to try it out on this project for the ladybug black pieces.

Ebony is relatively expensive.  Here is the receipt from where I purchased 4 pieces...

Basically $12 per piece. It ended up taking 3/4 of one board, so about $10 per box for the ebony inlays.  Since I hope these boxes will someday become family heirlooms, $10 per box is not too bad from that perspective.

I also chose padauk instead of cedar.  I like using padauk because of the nice red color you get.

Google Sketchup

I entered the pattern into Google Sketchup. I also made a graphic showing the main sequence of making the inlays:

I did not show the last step of making the ladybug's head, but you use the same general idea and place an ebony blank below the maple top.

Test Pattern

Here is a pattern I used to test out the concept.

On the left end of the wood, I did oak-on-oak, and the lower piece has been shoved up and sticks proud above the base piece. On the right hand side, I am getting ready to saw a red padauk insert, which is taped underneath the red oak base.

Below are both the oak and red padauk inserts. You can not hardly see the oak insert after it has been sanded flush......


Scroll Sawing the 1st Big Insert


After I sawed the big insert, I flipped the bundle over, so you can see the red padauk blank below the top maple blank.....


And here is the red piece raised up into the maple top......



The red piece is sticking up proud from the maple about 1/16", which is what you you can sand it flush.

 Scroll Sawing the Black Ebony Inlay

I taped the red padauk inlay on top of the ebony blank. You use a 1/16" pilot drill for each cut, so you can slip the scroll saw blade through the boards.  After you make the cuts, you raise the black ebony up into the red inlay.

 Inlays Completed

I numbered the pieces so I knew which ones went where......




 I glued the inlays in place, then sanded them flush to the maple top. Then I mixed up sawdust and glue, stirred with a toothpick, then filled the 1/16" drilled holes, to try to hide the drilled holes. Here is the top after sanding and one coat of polyurethane.........


Pretty cool looking!

Making the box sides

First I cut the 2 pieces for the sides on the scroll saw. Leave extra stock outside the pattern lines, so you can sand the ID and OD down to finished size.  Then I glued and clamped them together to give a total height of 2x0.75 = 1.5 inches.....

I used a 3x3 inch drum sander with about 60 grit abrasive to quickly sand down the OD of the 2 glued up pieces......

 Then I used a 1x3 inch drum sander to sand the ID's. It takes longer because the 1" drum is so much smaller than the 3" drum, but the 3 inch drum will not fit inside the sides.


I then used my 1x3 inch drum sander with 220 grit paper to sand the ID and OD.  Here is the finish sanded box side ready for gluing to the bottom, and then varnishing.....

My padauk wood was not wide enough to make these rings, so I had to edge glue on an extension piece to get it wide enough. This does show up as vertical lines on the box sides.

 Glue and Clamping of Ladybug box

I scroll sawed the lid insert or guide to the pattern size.  Then I put it onto the box, and marked the final size with a pencil.  I drum sanded slightly inside the pencil lines so there is some play when the lid is placed on the box.

Here is everything glued and clamped up.


Preparing the Ebony

The ebony from Woodcraft came in 1x1x12 inch boards. I think they are supposed to be turning blanks. The sides are not flat and are not parallel to each other. To get one straight edge, I clamped up each piece in the big ice, then used the Wagner saf-t-planer to mill one edge flat......

Be sure and wear safety glasses when machining the ebony, little pieces tend to shoot off, more than any other wood I have machined.

Once I got 1 edge flat, I ran it through the planer with the good edge down, and the parallel edge against the planer cutters.

I then took it to the table saw, and cut the 1 inch block into three strips each 1/4" thick. I then used the table saw method of making sure the butt edges match each other (saw on each side of the table saw fence).  I then glued and clamped the 3 pieces...

 After they dry, I will plane one side. The ebony can be slightly thinner than 1/4" and still work ok because we will be inlaying it.

 Clamping up the first box



1st box ready for varnishing



On the Drying Rack after Varnishing


The Finished Ladybug Boxes






Closing Thoughts


The padauk stock I had was only 3 inches wide, so I had to glue on an extension to be wide enough for the oval box sides. This causes your joint to show up. If you want no joint to show, you must use padauk wider than 3 inches. Rockler has both 3 and 5 inch wide padauk, the 5 inch would require no joint.

The table angle for the ladybug head is different than the angle used for the other inlays. The head angle must be closer to zero degrees.  If you use the same angle as the other pieces on the head, the head will not rise up far enough and you will have to sand pieces, or even recut on the scroll saw. I don't know why the angle is different, possibly because the ebony is harder and the angle changes.

I get my maple from Menards. The boards have different colors, with some lighter than others. The lightest color works best for this project. I have one box with a slightly darker lid, because the board was slightly darker than the rest. Select your stock color to be as light as possible for this project.

These are a nice gift project. There is probably $10 of ebony and 2$ of padauk in each box, but the colors are very nice.





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