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Thread: How To: Make a Texas Star

  1. #1

    How To: Make a Texas Star

    Not sure if this is the right section to post this but here goes....

    My goal in posting this was to give everyone an idea of how I went about making a Texas Star to use in inlay work. There is probably a better way to do this, but this way is safe and effective and requires few tools. I have seen it done this way once and wanted to attempt it myself. I did not snap pics of the build process but I was able to come up with some drawings in sketchup to illustrate each step.

    Step 1: Layout

    The first thing I considered is what wood to use. It is ideal to pick two woods of different color for a nice contrast. The inlay is going into a walnut table top so I decided on Curly Maple and Brazillian Cherry. Luckily I had some 3/4" stock on hand with appealing (to me) grain pattern so that is what I went with. With the stock clamped up, I marked out the cut lines at the appropriate angles 18 and 36. Below is a picture of how this was done.

    Notice that I am doing the layout on the edge of the board, not the face. This picture illustrates what grain orientation I was after. I wanted the grain to follow the length of each blade of the star. If I had a board with the straight grain on the face and not the edge, I could do this layout on the face instead. Either way works, it is just easier to do it this way I think.

    1 Layout.jpg

    Step 2: Saw Cuts

    The next step is to make 2 saw cuts (I chose to cut on the outside of the lines) down the board about an inch. Each cut is displayed in red and blue in the picture below. It doesn't matter which cut is done first, just try to make each cut as square as possible. To aid in sawing, I carried my layout lines down the face of the board as a visual reference to follow with the saw. Don't worry too much if you are a bit off, there will be opportunity to trim things to fit later.

    2 Saw Cuts.jpg

    Step 3: Thickness Cuts

    I wanted the thickness of my star to be about 1/8" so I cut each piece a little over 1/8" thick. A finished star requires 5 pieces from each wood (10 total). I cut a few extra pieces so I could be selective on which ones I used. If you didn't saw deep enough initially to get the number of pieces you need, then clamp it back on its edge and saw deeper. I found about an inch or an inch and a half to be plenty deep. You will then have the rough pieces that will make up each arm of the star.

    3 Thickness Cuts.jpg

    Step 4: Planing to Thickness

    Unless your sawing skills are very good, you will notice that each piece is a little different thickness and all sides and faces are a little rough from the saw marks. To help with this, I chose to create a block to aid in planing the thin pieces. I grabbed some pine and the largest piece (pick the largest piece because all of the smaller pieces will fit within the mortise and you wont have to re-cut the mortises for each piece). Using a knife and chisels I created two mortises about 1/16" deep in the face of the pine board. Make your mortise depth shallower than the thickness of your pieces so they will sit proud of the surface to be planed. It is important to make another mortise the mirror image of the first so you can plane both sides of your pieces.

    5 Mortise for Thicknessing.jpg

    Step 5: Matching Pairs

    Once you have the faces cleaned up, start matching pairs. I chose the ones that looked best together. You will end up with 5 pairs. It is a good idea to label each pair so you can keep them together. I chose A,B,C,D,E for my labeling.

    6 Matching Pair.jpg

    Step 6: Glue the Pairs

    It is important to make sure that each pair has a tight glue line between them. To accomplish this, I clamped my block plane up side down in the clamp and set the blade for a light cut. I then took my matching pair and ganged them together with the show faces facing outward and ran the edges to be glued along the plane blade. This method is sometimes used when clamping a panel up (although you are usually running the plane over the panel pieces instead of the panel pieces over the plane). It pretty much guarantees a tight glue line. When each pair is done, I glued them together using a rub joint and a flat board to make sure the bottom sides of each pair were in the same plane. You will be surprised how well a rub joint will keep the pieces together. Just focus on each pair for right now. Once you have 5 pairs, you can start putting them together.

    Step 7: Fitting the Final Star

    Now you can put the 5 pairs together to see how your star looks. Chances are they wont fit perfectly right away and you will have to adjust the inside angles to get them to fit. Use the block plane clamped up side down to trim each angle for a tight fit. I had to adjust the inside angle and take a little off the outside faces to make sure all of the intersections lined up well. It doesn't take long to tweak. For the final glue-up, use blue tape stretched along the back to help hold the joint tight. I start by gluing up 2 blades, then add a third, and then fourth, and finally the fifth. Let each glue up dry a bit before moving on. Once the glue dries you are done. Congratulations, a Texas Star. Here is a photo of the one I made.

    8 Star Picture.jpg

    To make the star smaller or larger you will have to adjust the thickness of stock used or adjust your cut lines accordingly. With 3/4" stock, the star is a little over 6" tall.

    7 Final Star.jpg

    I had fun making this and I hope this tutorial will help someone else. It really isn't hard to do and looks mighty impressive. Now to finish the inlay.... That is a whole different tutorial that I will not be attempting to write. But here is a picture of the star in contrast to the walnut table. I think it will look good.

    9 Walnut Table.jpg I


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    Wow, this is great. Thanks for the tutorial.
    "If you can count to nine, you can convert to Metric"

  3. #3
    Here is some more progress of the inlay.

    I started off by lightly tacking the star in the position I wanted and tracing the outline with a sharp knife. Light strokes at first and then gradually deeper.

    01 Star Inlay.jpg

    And then using a chisel to remove a little v notch. This allows me to cut slightly deeper with the knife and establishes the outside shoulder of the inlay mortise. It also gives me a visual barrier to look out for on the next step.

    02 Star Inlay.jpg

    I chucked up a small straight cutting bit in my Dremel Trio and started hogging out the waste area. Of course keeping an eye on the v notch and making sure not to get too close to the line.

    03 Star Inlay.jpg

    I then put in the smallest cutter I could find for this tool and cut closer to the line (leaving about 1/16").

    04 Star Inlay.jpg

    Using a chisel and knife I carefully excavated all the waste leaving clean crisp edges. Sorry for the crappy picture.

    05 Star Inlay.jpg

    Now for the stressful part. I carefully checked to see if the star would fit and if there were any spots it was hitting. It is important to not fully seat the star if it is a tight fit or you might not be able to get it out to add glue. Mine was a tight fit so I made a few tiny adjustments and used the knife to very slightly bevel the underside of the star to aid in entry. Moment of truth. I spread glue into the mortise and along the edges and in the nooks, placed the star in the right place, used a sacrificial board and delivered a few generous blows with my mallet. Wow, talk about a pucker moment. There didn't seem to be any splinters or ruined edges so I grabbed some clamps and some boards and clamped the crap out of it and let it sit overnight to dry.

    06 Star Inlay.jpg

    I didn't take a picture this morning but I was able to sneak a peek. It looks like everything seated nicely and there doesn't seem to be any noticeable gaps. So far I am happy with the results. Ill snap a few pictures later when I get it planed and scraped flush.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Philadelphia, PA
    That is a nice tutorial. But I'm pretty sure that is actually a North Star not a Texas star.

    Again, though cool tutorial, thanks for posting.
    Woodworking is terrific for keeping in shape, but it's also a deadly serious killing system...

  5. #5
    Thanks Hilton and Chris. This is my first time actually doing anything inlay so I am excited that it seems to be working out well.


    That north star thing got me thinking so I started googling both. It seems the north star looks quite a bit different from the texas star. Of course the texas star is kind of famous for being beveled in the 3rd dimension so this is like a 2-D version of it. I've always heard this called a "texas star" so I went with it

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Philadelphia, PA
    Hmmm. I just Googled it too. I had no idea it was actually different. I'm just still bitter that my hockey team got moved to Texas when I was kid (and I don't even watch hockey anymore), so anytime I see any type of Texas star I think to myself "it was a North Star first". Which is obviously complete malarkey seeing as how they are different.

    Now that I know what a North Star actually is I feel as though I should render a version of it our of wood. Given the length of my bucket list and my slow progress in making anything I figure I'll get around to making one sometime in 2023.

    Nice work BTW, this is a cool tutorial.
    Woodworking is terrific for keeping in shape, but it's also a deadly serious killing system...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Buffalo, Texas
    If you have a desired size of star that you need, you need to draw a full sized star and get one key measurement. Looking at your step one drawing and measure from the side corner to the long flat which on your current drawing would be from corner going vertical. Using this measurement you can use any thickness of stock, just scribe the depth and then draw your angles. I made a 10" star doing this after doing a 3" test version first. If you don't do the sketch up thing just google how to draw a pentagram, it will give you a step by step how to draw a perfect star.
    Shawn Stennett

    My favorite quote "Letz go in shop to fixz DaDa" My son

  8. #8

    You are right and thanks for the great tip. Sketchup is wonderful, but it is handy to know different ways of getting the same result.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Blog Entries
    Nice!! I love seeing stuff like this. would be nice to see a picture once you plane\scrape it flush

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Austin, TX
    Paul Sellers had an article long ago in a woodworking mag (can't remember which one, but not FWW or PWW) on doing a Texas star inlay. It is somewhere in my stash as I wanted to incorporate at some point. From what I remember of his, I think your method looks easier.
    Nicely done!

  11. #11
    Okay as promised here are the results..... I'm very happy

    Here is a picture after I took the clamps off. So far so good.

    Star after glueup.jpg

    Here is the star planed and sanded flat. Lookin good

    Star planed and sanded flat.jpg

    The weather is nice and I have time. Why don't I just prep the top for finish. Here is the top sanded to 320 and 400 on the endgrain.

    Star sanded to 320.jpg

    With the balcony cleaned here goes the first taste of oil. Danish oil makes everything pop. This was probably my favorite part of this project.

    Star first coat of oil.jpg


    Star oil closeup.jpg

    And after a night to dry, still looks good.

    Star oil after 1 night.jpg

    Well there you go guys. I would say it is a success. Thanks for the kind words and I hope someone will be willing to try this themselves and maybe use some information presented here.

    Let me know what you think.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    I will definitely try this, thanks again.
    "If you can count to nine, you can convert to Metric"

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