Knifemaking: How to Do Pearl Inlays

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How to Create Pearl Inlays on Knife Handles
An example of the finished design. (Point Seven photo)

Pearl Inlays: Impressive Yet Simple

From the Editor: Wally Hayes is probably best known for his tactical folders and Japanese-style knives and swords, but he also offers something on the embellished side when he can.

The Canadian ABS master smith has penned a number of informative how-to stories for BLADE®, and his seminars on how to wrap a Japanese knife handle at past BLADE Shows have been some of the most popular and best hands-on demos in show history.

Here, he shows you how to inlay pearl—specifically, in the shape of a butterfly—into a handle. He said it’s easy once you know how.

Pearl Inlays Knifemaking
Draw your design and make multiple photocopies. I run the copies off on my printer. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Inlay Knife Technique
Cut out the butterfly parts with an X-ACTO® knife and Krazy Glue® them to the pearl. After the glue dries, I use a jeweler’s saw and a No. 2 blade to cut the butterfly parts from the pearl. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Knife Handle Inlay
At bottom right is one of the drawn butterfly designs. To the upper left of it are the cutout pearl parts arranged in the shape of a butterfly. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Inlay Tips
Sand a piece of ebony or African blackwood to 400 grit. Arrange the pearl parts in the shape of a butterfly and glue them to the wood with plastic model cement. Let dry and scribe around the parts with an X-ACTO® blade. (Hayes photo)
Tips for making pearl inlay
Lift the pearl off the wood and rub chalk into the scribed lines. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Inlay Tutorial
Rout out the wood with a 1/16-inch end mill bit. I use a Dremel® Tool with a router attachment. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Inlay Knife Handle Tips
Here are the implements I use, from top: a Dremel® Tool with router attachment, X-ACTO® blade, Krazy Glue® and Insta-Set™ spray. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Inlay Handles How To
Place the pearl parts into the wood. Squeeze lots of Krazy Glue® onto the pearl, being sure to fill all the gaps. Freeze the glue with the Insta-Set Spray™. (Hayes photo)
Pearl Inlay
Let the glue harden well. Sand the pearl flush to the wood, working up from 80 grit to 1,000 grit. Buff with white compound. (Hayes photo)
Make Knives with Pearl Inlay
Engrave the pearl with a square graver and rub black India ink into the grooves. Wipe clean and you’re done! (Hayes photo)

If you enjoyed this tutorial, be sure to check out BLADE‘s other knifemaking features.


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