Plastic Inlays

A method of inlaying wood, metal and other hard materials in a groundwork/substrate of suitably coloured polyester resin, first developed by William Mitchell at the Royal College of Art in London, is illustrated in the coffee-table shown in 305. The table, which was one of a series designed by the writer especially for this inlay, had the wood top inset 3/16 in (5 mm) in the yew framing. Cross-sections of various short ends of wood in the workshop— laburnum, Indian laurel, acacia, yew, grey sycamore, oak, brown oak and rosewood— were then sawn 1/4 in (6 mm) thick, broken up at random, spaced out on the ground/substrate and anchored with a little of the polyester resin used. A mix was then made up of resin, accelerator, hardener, and thixotropic medium, which allows a build up without creep or slide, coloured pale green with polyester pigments and poured over the assembly, working it into the gaps with a pointed stick. After hardening, the surface was levelled off flush with scrapers and belt sander, polished with silicon carbide paper and the whole table then sprayed with a clear catalyst finish. The completed table is successful because it treats the plastic as a material in its own right and not as a substitute for other materials, and although it has seen hard service over many years shows no signs of cracking, lifting or failure of any kind. Very oily woods (rosewood, etc.) should not be used for this type of inlay as the natural oil may inhibit the setting of the polyester resin. A photograph of the table-top with a broken-up laburnum oyster as a central motif is also shown (305B).

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