In this chapter of how it's made we want to focus on the meticulous task of inlay.

Inlay refers to decorating an object by embedding pieces of a different material in it, flush with its surface. This technique applies to a wide range of sculpture and the decorative arts, employing a variety of materials such as different wood types, precious metals or, like in our case, stones.

For inlay to be possible there needs to be a base object containing depressions to precisely introduce the ornamental material. In our case the base objects are made of metal and we design them to have the cavities necessary to fit pieces of stone that will eventually form a colorful composition. Most of our flat surface pieces have gaps that are 2.5mm deep, so that is how thick our inlay stones will need to be when finished.

An important detail to keep in mind when cutting stone is that water or another cooling lubricant needs to be used at all times to prevent the stones from chipping or cracking due to heat or stress. This means all machinery we use to cut and grind our stones is connected to a constant water drip that keeps the pieces nice and moist. 

In order to turn chunks of rough rock into the tiny pieces that perfectly fit into the gaps in the metal pieces we cast, we use a number of rotary machines both big and small.

When we buy rough stone it comes to us in irregular pieces, which we then cut into flat slabs so that we can handle them in an easier and safer way. For this purpose we use a table saw.

Once we have the piece cut into flat slabs we can make as many square or rectangular pieces as we need and slice them again so they are around 3-4mm thickness.

From here on we use templates to guide us in the creation of the specific shapes and a number of abrasive barrels of varying sizes to remove material until we arrive at the correct shape. Needless to say constant testing is required so as not to remove too much and create clean inlay seams.

The resulting pieces are quite small so they become very hard to hold with your hands without them flying around. More importantly it can be quite dangerous as we will continue using abrasive rotary tools and want to keep those fingers intact! For that reason we affix them to the top of doping sticks, which we will use from now on until the stones are fully ready to be inlaid.

Once our shape fits perfectly into the metal gap, we proceed to remove it from the doping stick and glue it inside the metal piece’s cavity. 

Once the glue has cured, the whole piece will need to be ground down again so as to flatten the top surface. We initially grind off the extra material with a coarse sandpaper wheel and move towards finer grinds, finishing with a flat polishing disc.

After this we are finally able to see both the color and shine of the metal as well as the stone and appreciate the precision of the cutting.

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