Inlaid Walnut Butterflies
Now that the headboard is complete other than I have to still apply a finish; I move on to the inlaid butterfly keys at the bottom of the bed. These will be both structural and visual in design. I'll start off by making a full size template out of some scrap press board and try it in place. Stand back and have a look; try the other side, walk around...cover all of the angles until you're happy with the size and the placement of the key template. I'll then take a fine file and go over all of the edges of my template making sure it's nice and smooth, while checking it's flat on edge. This is exactly what you want the finished pieces to be so make sure all is well with it. Seeing as they're only two of these and they're only a few inches worth of material, take your time and find a really nice piece. The small length of Walnut I have was taken out of my scrap wood pile. A great place to use up those awkward little pieces left over from an earlier stage of the project. I'll take some two sided tape and temporarily stick the template down to the walnut, making sure you've gone over the face of the real wood with a smoothing plane. This piece of wood should be at a finished state before sticking on the butterfly mock-up. Once adhered I carefully cut around the template with my marking knife being careful to keep the flat back side of the knife blade tight against the press board cut-out.
Once I have the shape nicely traced out on the Walnut, I'll cross cut the key on my Bench. My Mitre Hook is the perfect appliance to use here. This will ensure the Walnut stays put while I saw it out. I'll get as close as I can to each end keeping in mind I'll be fine tuning it later. Once I get the pieces cross cut I'll take them over to my shoulder vise and get ready to rip down the sides of the butter fly wings. This will be done with a rip saw as opposed to the small Carcass saw I used to cross cut the keys.
My fine toothed Dovetail saw has a Rip tooth pattern filed at 15 tpi. (teeth per inch) I recently resharpened it so it makes quick work of the walnut. Next, I'll take the freshly cut butterflies and mount them again in the shoulder vise but on an axis so they're just a hair proud of the bench top. I was going to use my chisel to clean up any saw marks left behind but decided to use a spare blade I have out of my Jointing plane. I use a Bevel-Up Jointing Plane manufactured by Veritas® which has a nice thick blade, 2-1/4" wide, 3/16" (0.187") thick. This ended up being the perfect tool for this application. The wide heavy back of the Iron was easy to register against the narrow edge of the butterfly key; a few passes with the Iron and all of the saw marks were gone.
Now that the keys are cut out and finished it's time to inlay them into the lower bed rails where they meet the walnut foot board. The first step again with this process is to carefully attach some two sided tape to the keyes and carefully place them onto the scribed lines from earlier. Make sure all is right in the butter fly kingdom before going any further. This is one spot you don't want to try to patch later! I'll carefully remove the key and with a freshly sharpened and well honed chisel, slowly cut a shallow groove around the inner perimeter being careful not to disturb the outside edge. When I have the groove cut the full way around I'll take a 1/4" (6mm) Gouge and cut a narrow groove down the center of the mortise key. This hollow will allow me to get started with my Router plane enabling the blade of the Router to get into the fibers and slowly cut out the waste. I make sure to take light shallow passes and slowly work my way down checking my depth as i go. When I reach the mortise bottom I'll take a small detail chisel and clean up through out. At this point I like to clean up the surface around the mortise with my smoothing plane and test fit the butterfly. When it sits down properly I'll scribe around the edge of the key and again remove it. I made sure to keep my mortise a little shallow so the actual butterfly will be proud by a little. Then carefully remove the key and at my work bench I'll shape it. I use the edge scribe lines I just made to reference so I don't chamfer down past the rails surface. I like to really work the butterfly into a pleasing shape constantly stopping, closing my eyes and allowing my fingers to judge my progress. You really have to trust your sense of touch and not so much the eyes for this. If you wanted, you could simply plane the key down flush with the surface; this is the common method but seeing as I wanted this bed to feature some hand cut joinery, I'm allowing the butterfly to round and bulge out of the walnut frame around it. I think my clients will agree. Bon nuit!