Build a Rustic Inlaid Stone-Topped Table

What You'll Need
Wood table
Skew chisel
Cut-off tool
Mallet or hammer
Coffee can
Power sander
Sand paper
Industrial grade adhesive, such as cyanoacrylate (CA)or superglue
Finishing Wax
Adhesive accelerant

A rustic inlaid stone-topped table, rich with inviting natural beauty, provides a beautiful focal piece to almost any decor.  An inlaid stone-topped table is also a wonderful way to refinish an old table.  

Step 1 - Choose Your Stones

Select stones that are soft yet durable enough to finish with normal sanding tools while creating a beautiful finished table. Consider stones that catch light, which adds some shimmer to your finished table. Some great stones to consider are azurite, malachite or calcite. All of these stones can be found in most rock shops locally or through on-line retailers.

Step 2 - Prepare the Wood Table

Start with dry wood, which will prevent the wood from moving. Create clean, well defined notches in the wood for inlay. If you are using  a soft wood, you may need to use a wood hardener to get cleaner cuts. Use the skew chisel to create notch sides first. Cut to a depth of 1/4" and trim notches. Cut about 3/16" into the wood, between the skew chisel cuts, using a cutoff tool. Cover the surface of the wood around the area where notches will be cut with a finishing wax. Finally, cut your notch leaving a barrier on the surface of the wood on both sides of the notch. This barrier will prevent the adhesives from staining the wood as you build up the stone into the notch. If necessary, re-trim the notch for a clean surface.

Step 3 - Place the Inlay

If your stone is in large chunks, crush it to fit to the width of the notch. Use a small coffee can and a concrete chisel. Hold the chisel backwards, so that the end to strike the stones. Cover the top of the can with one hand, while pounding the stone with the chisel, so that pieces of stone don't fly all over the place. Crush the stones enough to allow the largest pieces to sit in the notch in whatever pattern you like. You should have large pieces of stone, smaller pieces, and fine powder. Next, place the pieces so that they are distributed evenly across the width of the notch, in whatever design you choose.

Step 4 - Affix the Inlay

Use thin, progressive layers of glue to hold your stone pieces in place. Mist adhesive accelerant to prevent clouding. Continue until all of your notches are filled and the stones are stable. Fill empty spots with smaller pieces of stones, adding your glue, but using little or no accelerant. Add the fine powder to the remaining empty spaces and apply the adhesive once more. 

Step 5 - Finish the Inlay

Using your power sander, sand down the stone inlay until it is level with the wood. Fill in empty spots in the notches that you find. Power sand again until the stones are flush with the wood surface. Continue using finer cuts of sandpaper until the entire piece is finished. When the empty spaces are no longer visible. Polish the inlaid surface with a buffer to recheck for remaining defects. Polish the inlay to a nice luster, apply your favorite finish and rebuff.