In order to enhance the aesthetic effect, I prefer to select a wood for the bow tie keys that has a contrasting color. In this particular instance, since the locust used for the top has a warm golden color, I selected black walnut for the bow tie keys. After cutting several different bow ties using a bandsaw, I selected two having the desired size and proportions, and then determined the best placement along the check. Holding the keys firmly in place, the outline is drawn onto the top.
The next step is to make a shallow cut in the surface of the locust, using a sharp knife following the drawn outline of the bow tie. I find it best to stay slightly inside the line, as one can always expand the cut later.
With the outline established, a plunge router is used to remove most of the wood within the outline, starting by making plunge cuts around the boundary, and then cleaning up the remaining section. Care must be taken to stay away from the outline cut, in order to avoid ruining a straight final cut. The depth of the cut is set to allow at least 1/4" - 1/2" of the bow tie key projecting above the surface of the top.
The real work begins now, using hand chisels to clean out the wood along the outline, gradually enlarging the routed section to be as closely matched as possible to the shape of the individual bow tie key. Having the knife-cut line in the surface aids in this effort, providing a seating for the point of the chisel blade.
After the outline of the routed area is fit to the shape of the bow tie key, and all excess wood removed, a liberal layer of glue is applied to bottom & sides, and the bow tie piece slid into place. I normally set aside some sawdust from the wood top, mix it with glue, and work it into any small gaps in the seam between the two pieces. This prevents having open spaces on the finished product
After allowing the glue to set overnight, it is time to remove the portion of the bow tie key that projects above the table top surface. I prefer using an angle grinder fitted with a Holey Galahad carbide grinding wheel from King Arthur Tools, as it makes quick work of the job. Care must be taken to avoid gouging into the surface of the top, but I personally find this easy to control.
A belt sander can then be used to remove any areas still projecting above the surface, readying the table for the final sanding and finishing. This piece will eventually be used as the top for a small bench.
As Tinkerer-in-Chief, I enjoy getting lost in the process of creating unique works of art from materials that would otherwise be considered to be of little or no value. Hopefully these pages will allow some visibility into this world