Love Those Stripes

IMG_2050If you’re a fan of the NFL, and you know that I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, you may think I’m writing about the Bengals. Nope! I’m writing about the stripes in tiger maple.

I’ve taught many classes and built quite a number of projects that have string inlay. And even though the stringing in the furniture that I’m reproducing is most likely holly (even some of the string inlay that is black was holly that was dyed black), I’ve developed a passion for using tiger maple as my stringing. I know that takes the project out of the race for being a true reproduction, but I like the characteristics of tiger maple. Plus, I like the extra smack you get when using it.

Take a look at the opening photo (click it to see an enlarged image). It’s the corner of a sugar chest I built many years ago. The stringing is tiger maple. Notice the extra play you see in the string. Not only does the lighter wood stand out off the walnut background, the stripes in the string add to the overall look.

IMG_2052I’ve been working on a piece of inlay for a Pennsylvania desk on frame that I’m building for a project in 360Woodworking. It, too, is a walnut piece from the early 1800s. In the lid of the desk is a bold piece of inlay, so I’ve been trying to reproduce the look for my piece. The original has maple inlaid into walnut, and there is evidence that the maple may have been sand shaded. When I shaded my inlay pieces, I was unhappy with the results.

What to do?

I decided to play around with the stripes in the tiger maple and did away with the attempts at proper shading. If you select the right piece of stock from which to make your inlay, you can manipulate the pieces to have the stripes dance. The piece of inlay shown here is a hurried attempt to get the look I was after. So far, so good. My hope is that when it’s combined with the other pieces, the inlay will look great set into the walnut. But will the design be too stripy (is that a word)?

Build Something Great!


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4 thoughts on “Love Those Stripes

  1. G, I built my sugar chest out of Mahogany and did the stringing in Maple. First I masked off the stringing then I shellacked the stringing and then I gel stained the Mahogany. It had great contrast and I’ve done it on other pieces as well but never thought of using Tiger Maple for stringing, thanks for the idea. I recently bought some Madrone that I’m going to make a breakfast table out of and had a Tiger Maple board given to me (We don’t see that much around here), so now I have a chance to do some neat inlay work. Yes! j

  2. Glen – Like the look of the tiger maple for stringing. I have used holly for all my stringing in the past – usually .032 to .040 inches thick. How does the thicknessing and bending of tiger maple compare with the holly? I use Steve Latta’s tools from Lie-Nielsen. Marty

    1. Marty,
      The biggest difference you’ll find is that the maple is more brittle because of the striping and tends to break easier than holly, especially when you get into the thinner thicknesses.

      I believe that the cutters included with Steve’s tool designs were developed with the thicknesses of available veneers as the primary target – ease of use, if you will. If, however, you study period string inlay you will find thickness of string covers a wide range, primarily focused around 1/16″ (until later in the Federal period when string thickness began to thin).

      1. Glen – Thanks for the feedback. I do re-saw my own veneer, inlay and stringing. I would think re-sawing the maple to 1/16th for inlays and using only gentle curves on the stringing might be the best way to go. Look forward to some projects with the maple inlay and stringing. The Lie-Nielsen tools have blades to cut 1/16″.

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