The problem: how do I hold this inlay in the stock?

This inlay took over one hundred hours to engrave. I do not want to mess it up when installing it in the stock. I can’t afford to scratch or dent it.

After considering a few approaches, I decided that nails would hold this inlay in place. Screws would be too difficult, and an adhesive would not be durable. After looking at many original works, and seeing the troubles with regular nails working their way out of the stock, I knew that a nail with more grip was needed. A ring shank nail would be almost as good as a screw, would it not? But where do you buy them, in silver, no less?  Outlined below are some basic steps I took to make my own nails.

View of inlay, fully nailed in place, with the nails cut flush and engraved to match the scene

I want to talk about the ringed shank nail, made of wire, formed with tools you make yourself. The nail head is conical, so it can be filed down flush with the inlay, and filed quite heavily without losing its grip on the inlay. Noteworthy is that the nail heads and countersunk holes in the inlay match perfectly, so the nails become invisible when engraved over.

In the center of the photo is a nail on the ring forming plate. The steel bar with the holes is the head forming plate.  To the right is the carbide burr I used to make the countersinks both in the head forming plate AND in the inlay itself, so the head of the nail matches the countersink of the inlay hole.

click on any photo to enlarge

In this shot, I am heating the silver wire with a torch to form a blob. That blob will be used to form the head of the nail. When the tip of the wire melts, it forms a little ball on the end of the wire. Nip wire off to the length you need. I used 3/8″ length for this inlay.

Three wires in the fixture just to show the sequence, from left to right. On the left is the blobbed wire. middle wire has been pounded into the fixture plate. The right hand wire has been pounded in and then filed flat.

The forming plate has a series of holes, each hole ever so slightly bigger than the next in head diameter, about .005 increments. The through holes are .062″diameter  for .06″ wire.

The nail, with its head already formed, is placed between the two dies, and rolled with some downward pressure, back and forth, until the grooves are formed. The dies are cut from an old mill file with a chop saw. The teeth have a backward set, so make sure you get the barbs going the right way on the nail shank. I did a test where I drove a nail into some scrap walnut, and tried to pull it out. The head came off instead of the nail pulling out.

A nail is partially inserted into the hole. Note the other hole to the right in the background, countersunk to match the nailhead. I predrilled the hole in the wood. The hole size is determined by testing on some scrap of the same wood.

This picture shows some nails set fully, ready to be engraved to match the inlay’s existing engraving. The nails are about .005″ above the inlay’s surface. I did not want to have a lot of nail head to remove, as my chances of messing up the original engraving would be much higher. one under the satyr, and one halfway between his knee and Diana. For inlays that will be engraved AFTER nailing, just leave the heads proud, and file them flush right in place. Engrave right over them. They are not going to move.

Below you can see nine or ten nail heads, proud of the surface of the inlay. I will take a graver, and cut them very carefully, to avoid scratching the delicate engraving of the inlay.

In the picture below, the nails have been very carefully cut flush, and then engraved to match the original engraving as closely as possible. There are four nails in this shot; you may be able to find them, refer to the photo just above this one for their locations.