Milliput Bowl Inlay





Introduction: Milliput Bowl Inlay

About: Come spend some time in the shop. I'm a hobbyist woodworker and professional computer geek in Northern California. I guess my projects will vary widely, and I have no clue what I plan to make next...

Start with a hunk of walnut firewood, and add some two part epoxy putty and you've got a very striking looking bowl! Milliput is awful sticky stuff to work with, but it's hard to argue with the results!

A very interesting inlay and some new material to play with.

Step 1: From Firewood to Bowl Blank

This piece of walnut was given to me by a co-worker of mine. She saved it from a firewood pile and I've been keeping it safe in the shop for a couple of years.

There are many ways to cut a piece of wood down to size for turning but the easiest is probably with a circle jig at the band saw. I drilled a 5/16 inch hole, mounted the firewood on my jig and spun the work piece against the blade. Instant turning blank! Now we're ready to mount this on the lathe.

For a bowl, I always like the mount the blank between centers rather than on a faceplate or worm screw. It allows you a certain amount of flexibility to find the best balance and bowl from your blank.

Step 2: Turning the Bowl

This Instructable is less about the turning process and more about the inlay, but I do show a truncated view of all the bowl turning steps in the video.

The turning is started with my bowl gouge. I established the outside shape which is rather pot shaped. Next I make a tenon for mounting in my 4 jaw chuck with the aid of my scraper.

Then the blank is turned around and mounted in the chuck jaws. This allows me access the top of the bowl, and I can then hollow out the wood with my bowl gouge. For the finish work in the inside of the bowl, I used my round nose scraper to get the undercut to the bowl. I worked hard on shaping a smooth transition from the walls to the bottom. That transition is one of the more challenging aspects to bowl turning, and a soft curve makes for a more appealing looking bowl in my opinion.

At this point the bowl is mostly done, but the fun has just gotten started for this project. I used my 1/8" parting tool to make a 3/8" groove in the outside of my bowl. On to the joys of epoxy putty....

Step 3: Working With Epoxy Putty

I have had epoxy putty in the shop for a while, but it was just gray putty and I never considered it for an inlay. I then watched some videos on Jimsons Stuff's Youtube channel and fell in love with the bowls he was making.

I bought two colors of Milliput, one black one white. The putty comes in two parts. You use equal parts of the putty and hardener and mix them together until you get a uniform color. After I mixed both the black and the while, I flattened them out. This process wasn't easy, as the putty is very sticky and stuck to everything I threw at it. Rubber gloves, silicone mats, parchment paper and my razor blade.

  • Mix up the putty. One black, one white.
  • Flatten each out.
    • I put each ball between layers of parchment paper
    • I applied pressure with a flat block of wood to get each into putty disks.
  • Use razor to slice the disks in half
  • Stack the two halves together
  • Roll that black and white stack into a "putty snake" between your palms
  • Slice the rolls into small cross sections that will go into the inlay groove.

Eventually I got two snakes of the putty rolled out and sliced into segments. Those segments where then lined up to be added to the inlay grove on my bowl. Oddly enough, the putty didn't stick to the wood as much as my fingers, so another putty fight ensued.

I got it well packed into the groove and I left it for a couple of days to harden up. Honestly, I wasn't sure it was going to work out at this point.

Step 4: Back to the Lathe

After 48 hours I had some time in the shop again.

The bowl was re-mounted on the lathe and ready to turn. At this point the Milliput was rock hard. I used my carbide tool to turn down up the putty and make it flush with the walnut. I was amazed.

It looked awesome! Even with all the troubles and stress and issues, it come out great. A nice clean cut and it already had a smooth finish just off the carbide tool!

I sanded to 400 grit. Which got a LOT of the putty dust stuck in the pores of the wood. A little time with my air compressor and and about an hour picking out the some of the stubborn ones with a sewing pin, and it was mostly cleaned up. I think if you added a finish to the wood prior to the putty would help to eliminate most of that.

Step 5: Across the Finish Line

For a finish I used three coats of wipe on poly. It came out excellent and I couldn't be more pleased.

I would encourage you to give this project a try. The only limit would be the pattern you could create! Thanks for looking!



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    12 Discussions

    I really like your results, it sure sounded like you had a struggle with the stickiness though. A tip from the Milliput website is to keep your tools and fingers wet to prevent sticking. This totally works for Milliput and most other epoxy putties I have used. Just keep a small bowl of water handy to dip your fingers in. In a pinch you can lick your fingers but I do not recommend that!

    Great project and video as usual Kludge - at first looking at the picture I thought it was a ring :p

    1 reply

    Thanks! Milliput would make a cool ring!

    Walnut as firewood what

    I believe Miliput was first used to repair ceramic items and it is fantastic for that purpose. It sands well and is easy to shape and takes a finish really well. As far as the age or dryness of the wood, there are two approaches. You can turn green wood very easy. Turn the green wood to a rough shape of your finished project then coat it with wax or some type sealer. Then place it in a paper sack along with the shavings and let it dry slowly for up to a year. Check the moisture content with a quality moisture meter and try to shoot for 10%-15%. Dry wood can be turned but you will be sharpening your chisels more often. Ton's of video's on YouTube about wood turning.


    2 years ago

    fantastic -- well done!

    As one new to turning (meaning I haven't ever done it) how long does most wood need to season before turning? This is beautiful but even with the frustrations it didn't seem like your first rodeo- I plan to collect some chunks of wood to practice with and find a lot of trees are destroyed in the name of development even if they look healthy, and have seen the finished product from fruit woods and even palm, but I also have some fallen trees of camphor and cedar, even some I don't recognize.


    2 years ago

    Very nice bowl. I love turning things as well. And although I have had folks give me exotic types of woods, I never received anything thing sizable to do much of anything with those offered pieces but make pens and pencils. Any thing else I buy raw hardwoods for turning. Thumbs up though!

    Thank you! It was new to me too. You can get it on Amazon, a pretty cool material!

    I agree beautiful job! Interesting that Milliput is not that commonly used in the US. In Germany it is quite famous and I absolutely love it.