Okay, so here is my process. I go out camping or hiking. I find a stick that I like. I look for sticks that are downed (not attached to anything) and that have unique features. Cracks, burns, have been worked before, etc. I prefer to work with Juniper, as the grain is really beautiful when finished, it's a medium hard wood so it has good strength while not being too difficult to work. However, I've used Pine, Aspen, Oak, and recently got some sticks from a friend that were collected along Lake Michigan. I'm in Arizona, so most of my work reflects that, but I'm game to try any wood. Inlay materials are Turquoise, either lab-created or natural, Green Opal, Brass or Copper filings, Malachite, Pipestone, Garnet (so far). I'm fortunate that there is a local rock shop that processes all sorts of materials into sands and powders, and that is where I get my supplies.
So I really just googled how to do inlay and I found a few sites/videos that gave me a start - of course they make it look far easier than it is and it's always a flat surface. Which is why I decided to join this site in hopes that maybe I can pick up some advice on how to refine my technique. Here is a recent stick I found and finished - I found the stick on the rim of Canyon Creek in northern Arizona. It had been burned in a huge fire, the Chediski fire of 2002 that combined with another fire torched nearly 470,000 acres of prime ponderosa forest. I wanted to retain the characteristics of the burn scars, so I had to fill and sand carefully. I first trim off any large knots, twigs or other stuff that gets in the way of sanding. Then, I do the first fill of whatever material I choose, in this case, natural Turquoise from a local mine. I carve my brand into the stick and fill it too. For the fill, I've taken to using a medium CA first, then I let it dry, pack in the filling material, using a larger grain first (sand). I then set it with a fast setting CA and generally let it cure for a few days. After this, I sand it to smooth to the stick and bring the fill down and I think the term is "proud", typically with a 60-80 grit. Often, because of the larger sand, there will be voids in the material and tiny cracks that it won't fit into, so I follow with a powder, pushing it into the cracks and voids and setting with fast setting CA. Finally, I sand to finish. I start with 100-120 grit and work my up through 180-220, the goal is to remove as much glue stain as possible while polishing the inlay. Finally, I will finish with some varnish, with this stick, I used Formby's Tung Oil. I hand-rub the oil, let it dry and lightly sand with 300+ grit to polish. I typically do 3-5 coats like this. By this time, I often have around 10-20 hours into a single piece.
Call me Steve
Are we there yet?