Introduction: Metal Inlay Spiderman Frame

About: Project videos and tutorials that show the creation of home decor and furniture. I specialize in DIY woodworking, building custom items for clients, friends, and family, showing a variety of woodworking tools…

Ever wonder how you can inlay metal into wood? Here’s how I did it. I bought a really cool Spiderman poster. What wasn’t cool was the frame. It was terrible. The miters were coming apart, the poster was held into place with tape. I decided that I should make a new frame and add some sort of spider themed graphics. I created a vector file in Inkscape (a free program) of a web with a spider. I wanted this in the top left corner. I also made a second web for the right-hand side of the frame.

With my design created, I started the cold casting process. Below lists the steps for how I did it.


Step 1: Carve the Engraving

To do the inlay, you have to carve out the graphic first. There are multiple ways to do this. In my case, I used a friend’s CNC machine. This is the quickest and easiest way, but I know that this is a luxury that not everyone has. Another option is to use a laser cutter such as a Glowforge. I made part of this engraving on a Glowforge when I conducted tests. My picture frame couldn’t fit into the machine so I had to use the CNC for the final project.

You can also engrave your graphic using a palm router or Dremel. I have a base attachment for my Dremel tool that helps to keep it steady. A 1/8” router bit works perfectly for this project.

Step 2: Partially Fill the Engraving With Powder

I want my inlay to be made of aluminum. Aluminum is an easy to work metal that can be sanded with a regular sander or by hand. I purchased a 1lb bag of aluminum powder. I barely used it so a little goes a long way!

Using the bottom of a dixie cup, I scooped the powder and sprinkled it into the engraving. I then used an acid brush to spread the powder around. I did not fill it to the top. I wanted to do this in layers to ensure that the entire graving was filled completely when I finished the process.

Aluminum powder has fine particles. You may want to wear a dust mask while using it.

Step 3: Add CA Glue

After I swept powder into the engraving, I added thin CA glue everywhere in the engraving. Any spots that you miss could result in holes or gaps when you’re all done. I chose thin CA glue because it’s runny and I was hoping that it would drain and mix with the fine particles of the powder.

The glue tends to want to clump together once it hits the metal. I used an acid brush to spread it around and mix it with the powder. Don’t be afraid to make a mess. This isn’t a process that’s going to be clean and stay perfectly inside your carving.

Depending on the size of your project, you may want to work in steps. Thin CA glue dries fairly quickly so you may have to do a few segments of your carving at a time.

Step 4: Add More Powder

Once the area is covered in glue, sprinkle on more powder. Cover the entirely of the glue. Once again, you can use your acid brush to sweep the powder into the crevasses of the project.

My engraving is approximately 1/8” deep. After adding this second layer of powder, I added another layer of glue and powder to ensure it was completely full. If you miss a spot you can easily add a little glue and powder to patch that area.

Step 5: Sand the Project

After the glue is dry, vacuum away any remaining dust. If you’d like to speed up the drying process, you can spray the CA glue with some aerosol activator. This makes super glue dry almost instantly.

Using 80 grit sandpaper, I sanded the surface with a random orbit sander. I sanded until all the metal powder was removed and I was only left with my filled engraving. Once you get to this point, I suggest lightly sanding using 150, 180, and 220 grit sandpaper. You don’t want to sand so aggressively that you sand away your finished work. I found that 220 grit gave the inlay a nice sheen.

Step 6: Add Finish

From my experience, just about any finish that you’d use for wood projects will also work on aluminum. I vacuumed the project thoroughly and wiped it multiple times with mineral spirits. I wanted to ensure that I removed any of the fine aluminum dust.

I applied two light coats of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal. It’s a wipe-on varnish that provides a warmth to the wood.