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115 – Router-Based Inlay

Added on April 2, 2010

Inlay is a great way to adorn your woodworking projects. Even the simplest item can become incredibly compelling if it features a well-executed inlay. With the right materials and techniques, its just like painting with wood. Only “non-artistic” folks like myself can actually do it! The video covers all of the details, but here are the basic steps. You may also want to check out my inlay pictorial.

– To make an inlay, you’ll need thin pieces of wood veneer, a router, a few small router bits (see Products Used), a magnifying headset, carbon paper, and an x-acto knife.

– Draw your image on a piece of tracing paper and use the carbon paper to transfer the image to your substrate.

– Use the carbon paper and tracing again to transfer the various shapes to your desired pieces of inlay veneer. Use a bandsaw, scroll saw, or fret saw to cut them out.

– Inlay one piece at a time. Double stick tape the inlay piece to the substrate in the appropriate position and trace around the perimeter with an exacto knife.

– Once you have a nice deep scribe line, carefully remove the inlay piece.

– Begin routing with 1/8″ bit, staying away from your scribe lines for now. The depth should be set so that your inlay pieces will sit just slightly proud of the surface.

– Switch to your 1/16″ bit and use your magnifying headset to sneak right up to the line. Watch for the wood to fray and break away at the point when you’ve reached the scribe line.

– Test fit the inlay piece and remove material where required. Also consider sanding a slight bevel into the inlay piece so that it fits somewhat like a cork in a bottle.

– Add glue to the recess and the veneer piece and clamp down for 4-6 hours.

– Once the glue is dry, use a scraper or block plane to remove the excess stock and then repeat the process with the remaining inlay pieces.

By the way, I learned this technique from David Marks. If you are in the N. California are, be sure to take one of David Marks’ marquetry and inlay classes.

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