Introduction: Super Solder Inlay for Your Woodworking Projects

Learn how to make Solder Metal Inlay for your Woodworking Projects

In just a few easy steps you can create an great looking metal inlay using solder that can be purchased from any hardware store.

View more images on my website

Step 1: Carve the Pattern You Want

Carve the pattern for your solder inlay.

I used the X Carve CNC from Inventables to carve out a design to about 3mm deep. I carved out Superman's Logo

You can use any sort of carving or boring tool like a Dremel, Drill Press, Router Table, Table Saw, Chisel, Scroll Saw etc.

Even lots of dots from a drill press would look nice on the lid of a jewelry box.

Step 2: Melt the Solder for the Inlay

Melt the solder with a blowtorch

I used solid solder that is used in plumbing and using a blowtorch melted it over the carving, I found clumping it together worked better as each drip would merge with the one next to it, keep going until you fill the mould with solder.

Step 3: Sand the Solder Inlay Flush

Sand the solder inlay flush to the wood.

Using a belt sander to sand down the excess solder it did a pretty good job of quickly removing material, you can finish it off with a random orbit sander and some hand sanding to give it a bit of a polished look.

I did not fill a few spots enough and used a soldering iron and some more solder to fill the gaps.

WARNING: Some Solders contain lead so as with any potential hazardous material like fibreglass, MDF etc you should wear a mask and use dust extraction.

Step 4: Give It That Burnt Look

Burn that wood

I used a blowtorch to burn the wood around the Superman logo which looked pretty cool and gave it a nice contrast, you could also stain the wood if needed.

I then used Minwax wipe on poly to finish it off.

Comments

author
SherylinRM (author)2017-01-07

Ok that was cool in so many ways :)

Love it and starting to think of ideas, hmmm. lol

Thanks for this :)

author
gregjd5000 (author)2016-03-04

Make sure not to use lead solder for this! Sanding or grinding would cause you to breathe things you don't wanna breathe

author
LeslieGeee (author)gregjd50002016-03-06

Greg, I didn't even realize lead solder was still made because of the hazards associated with lead. The solder I have seen and used are all labeled lead free. I am surprised if it is still being sold.

author
DonnH1 (author)LeslieGeee2017-01-05

A friend working with the armed forces told me that the military and the medical fields still use lead solder. That was a couple of years ago. The reasoning was that in both cases they wanted the highest level of long term between failures. The solder which is lead free has been know to grow whiskers and cause shorting whereas lead/tin solder isn't prone to do that. So if it can kill you or save you it's O/K apparently but nothing in between. PS, this is a nifty project. Too bad the lead free solder works at a higher temperature. I will have to look around for the alloy someone mentioned. By the way the chap who was asking what kind of solder whether radio rosin core solder or acid flux core solder - neither one. Just straight solder with no flux as in plumbers solder. Flux would contaminate the wood, oh yucky!

author
GáborL (author)LeslieGeee2016-03-06

The only reason not to use lead is that it is not evironment-friendly. ROHS standard does not allow to sell lead-soldered consumer electric devices in the EU but otherwise the solder that contains lead is far better then the others. These solder joints less likely to crack and more easier to create concave cone shaped (this is how a good joint looks) solder joints with this old-type solder material. If I remember well they are still allowed where you can't afford the risk of broken joints like medical devices or vehicle industry. Been in the electrical manufacturing industry for 13 years, I can tell you all the technicians hated hand-working with lead-free because you can't do as good joints with it as you can with the Pb-Sn.

author
LeslieGeee (author)GáborL2016-03-07

Thank you so much for your info Gabor. I DO appreciate all the info plus I learned something useful. Have a great day and stay safe !!

author

Thankyou glad you enjoyed it.

author
Kinnishian (author)LeslieGeee2016-03-06

Lead solder is still used and in many ways is more dangerous to the environment than the solderer.

The exception is when you do tricky stuff like this, which is not the design application, and produce solder dust.

But when I solder PCB boards, I do not create dust, and lead has a high volatile temperature. The non-lead solders require more aggressive flux that has bad fumes. But, I mostly use non-lead solders. I still have some lead solder and don't mind using it, but agree that it's bad to be adding lead to products that we know at the end of the day will be in a landfill near you and me (or far away but near some creature.)

author
LeslieGeee (author)Kinnishian2016-03-06

Thank you for your reply it is appreciated :)

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JimroidZeus (author)LeslieGeee2016-03-06

Leslie, it sure is still made! I often pick up the leader solder because it's slightly more forgiving to work with than most of the lead free stuff.

I make sure to use a fine extractor when I'm using that kind though, and I usually only use it for smaller jobs where the temperature/time it takes for the lead free stuff is an issue.

author
LeslieGeee (author)JimroidZeus2016-03-06

Thank you for your reply it is appreciated. I will make sure in the future to check that I don't pick up the wrong kind :)

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gregjd5000 (author)LeslieGeee2016-03-06

It is very popular for circuit soldering. Of course having it in the water supply by soldering plumbing would be an issue, but it isn't too bad for circuits. I spoke to a specialist in the past who said for soldering circuitry, the hazard with lead soldering is not in the soldering process or use, but in end of life. Discarded products can 'leak' lead into the water supply from landfills. Luckily, lead solder for circuits is usually high gauge and could not be used for this project.

author
DejayRezme (author)gregjd50002016-03-06

Yeah came here to say this. Lead is super super nasty. If you want to permanently lower the IQ of your children or your own IQ then lead is the way to go. Even touching the lead constantly would be bad.

author
DIY-Guy (author)DejayRezme2016-03-06

In college our professor told us that the perceived dangers of merely touching lead were overplayed. But that was decades ago.

I'd very much like to see any modern research on led absorption through the skin for solid lead such as fishing weights. Do you have any references I can look at?

author
DejayRezme (author)DIY-Guy2016-03-06

Sorry I don't know about that. But I figure the more likely path would be licking your fingers or touching food and then ingesting it. Especially with such a pretty metal inset you might play around with.

Anyways I switched to non lead solder now and didn't find it much harder. Biggest bummer is that it won't go shiny and you can't spot a cold solder joint as easily.

author
mrandle (author)DejayRezme2016-03-06

Lead is still used in circuits because of its lower melting point, its much more forgiving and less likely to damage components and the circuit board. For everything else lead free should be used, especially if you're melting with a torch you don't need to worry about not enough heat.

author

Thansk Greg

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Wood Chuck (author)2016-12-30

Great project idea. What if you were to use a dovetail bit around the edges to undercut and lock in whatever material you use to fill the cavity. Thanks for sharing.

author

you could do that but might be a bit of overkill, i think you would just need to chisel out a couple of undercuts for it to hold tight.

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Quigley (author)2016-12-06

I LUV IT nice!~

author

Thanks glad you liked it.

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SergeE (author)2016-12-29

Been thinking of trying this for a while, a bit worried about lead content and having it stick to the wood without burning it. I noticed the need to keep the torch away from the wood ... or 'burn' the rest of the wood .

I was thinking of laying the solder into a routed narrow groove and use a heat gun to melt the solder in place. Would that work ? The heat gun I have goes well above 300c ...

Great comments, especially ones about doing anchor holes and alternate like copper and silver solder.

Would pewter work ? It would be safer health wise (?) and cheaper (?)

I have seen some inlaying copper wire superglued and then sanded smooth. But the glue could leave marks as it soaks into the wood (?)

author

Hi Serge, i am not sure if that would work i dont know if the heat gun is hot enough you could give it a try and see if it melts. I think Pewter needs to be much hotter than solder to melt (dont quote me on that need to double check :) )

author
RayJN (author)2016-12-29

Here are some low and very low melting temp
alloys (117F--281F) they expand slightly when cooled, which would make
them tight in the inlay. Not cheap($15--$22/lb), but not lead and won't burn the
wood. If search you may find a cheaper source, this is the first one I
found.

http://www.shop.boltonmetalproducts.com/Low-Melting-Temperature-Alloys_c3.htm

author

Thanks Ray, woudl be worth playing around with different materials to see what works.

author
MikeyW3 (author)2016-12-29

After soldering, what about using the CNC to plane the top of the whole thing using a 1/2" bit? (I.e. the same as you would use to resurface your spoilboard, but maybe at a different speed.)


Do you know how the bit would take to the solder? If it's soft enough to sand, I would think it wouldn't be a problem.

Then, you could even do another CNC pass to add detail/engraving to the part. That could look amazing.

(I own a CNC, so I suppose I could be the guinea pig.)

author

Hi Mikey, i am not really sure on that one have not tried it. Solder it pretty soft so it probably would work, especially for those initial passes to get rid of the big globs.

author
SeanM221 (author)2016-08-02

did you use rosin-core or acid-core solder?

author
JackT78 (author)2016-06-06

So what is the official consensus on the solder? Flux / No flux? Lead/ no lead? I'm having this beading/non-adhesion problem as well.

author
Zafer Aksoy (author)2016-05-11

Very good :-)

author
KingCruiser made it! (author)2016-04-02

Old skateboard1

20160402_024935.jpg20160402_024930.jpg
author

That looks Killer, nice job

author
Jcringkob (author)2016-04-22

I'm trying this out but inhaling difficulty getting the solder to stick to the wood. What could be a cause or fix?

author

Hi there, make sure you use solder with no Flux in it which could be causing the problem, also you could get a knife and scratch up the bottom of the holes so the solder has something to bite into.

Hope it works for you.

Cheers
Warren

author
ColeenS (author)2016-03-11

cool idea, i always have solder left from glasswork, I'm going to give this a try! TY!

author
dregalia (author)2016-03-11

I really like this idea. Stay tuned.. I may use this over the weekend.

author

Fantastic glad you liked it, feel free to post it on my Facebook page

author
mackderin (author)2016-03-09

I tried this and the solder just balled up, how did you get it to splatter? What solder did you use? Was it lead-based?

author
Sam the Wizer (author)mackderin2016-03-11

If you use flux it should flow better.

author

I used the stuff they use for plumbing, lead based will flow better but extra precautions should be taken when sanding.

author
MichiganDave (author)2016-03-07

Danger aside, I liked the look and the idea behind it. So, a BIG thanks for sharing.

author

Thanks Dave glad you liked it

author
RobertH148 (author)2016-03-02

Makes me wonder how well this technique would work with low temperature melting metals like copper and brass. My biggest concern would be setting the whole piece on fire pouring in molten metal.

Nice idea using solder.

author
rayp1511 (author)RobertH1482016-03-05

If the wood had a high content of moisture and you poured molten metal at 2000 degrees F it could literally blow up. It's not likely that it would have that high of moisture but playing with molten metal has it's dangers. Former Blast Furnace Operator here.

author
rayp1511 (author)rayp15112016-03-05

I forgot to say I like the inlay, well done!

author

Thanks glad you like it.

author
shortw (author)rayp15112016-03-06

Lead melts at a temperature of 328 degrees Celsius (621 degrees Fahrenheit).

Solder, especially lead-free solder require a temperature that is a little higher.

author
LeslieGeee (author)RobertH1482016-03-06

OOOPs forgot to note there is brass solder also, again Google :)

author
LeslieGeee (author)RobertH1482016-03-06

Robert just an FYI there is now copper solder and I think it would be a great application for this. If you Google "copper solder" you will get a lot of hits. Copper solder is used a lot in jewelry making, again an FYI.Good Luck and stay safe :)

author
TimothyJ999 (author)RobertH1482016-03-03

Brass and copper are most definitely NOT low-melting-point. Copper is a little shy of 2000 degrees F; brass a couple hundred less. You would end up with charcoal.

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Bio: Warren is owner of www.onewood.com.au I create entertaining woodworking videos on YouTube | Self confessed Woodworking Nut | Me-Mo and may have an addiction ... More »
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