The inlaying process was one time I didn’t take many pictures during this build. The process is relatively straight forward though when all you’re doing is putting a simple inlay into a rectangular top. The tools are simple – a trim router equipped with a 1/8” bit, a chisel to square the corners and then some means to cut 45° ends in the inlay.
I’ve seen two techniques for routing inlay. One is to clamp a board to the top of your piece and use it as guide for your router. You need a spacer piece of wood that is the same width as the edge of your router base to the centre of your bit. This technique works well on a small table as your work surface where it is easy to clamp this guide board to your workpiece and the table top at the same time. They layout of my workbench would make such a process difficult. The alternate is to use the guide rail that comes with the router.
That was my choice although in some test cuts (always do tests) showed it was easy to accidently skew the router and go off course on the line. My guides had holes in them so I attached a longer rail of straight scrap wood which gave my guide rail a much longer and stable surface to work with. Then I set the rails to put the bit more or less right evenly between the veneered centre and the wood frame. The cuts need to end right at the edge of the veneer and border. On my first test cuts I tried just eyeballing my stopping point while routing however I found it easy to go too far. So I took another tip which was to put a piece of blue tape at each end of the cut. This made it easier to stop at exactly the right spot.
I’d start the cut by setting the router on a 45° angle and then lowering the running bit down somewhere near the edge of one the grooves you need to route. Then I’d route to my closest piece of tape and then come back and go all the way to my other piece of tape. They key was to go at reasonable rate so as to not stress the bit and to hold the router firmly with the guide firmly against the edge of the workpiece to ensure the routed line was nice and straight.
With all four lines routed I then used a chisel to make each corner a proper 90°. As I indicated in a previous blog post, I bought the inlay from Matt at over at Inlay Bandings. Each piece of banding was long enough to fit each edge so I didn’t need to worry about using more than one piece on each side and blending them together with a scarf joint. I used a small mitre box and saw I picked up from LV to cut the 45° on one side. I’d then fit in the groove and mark the other side. I’d mark by holding the saw over the mitre and lightly scoring the inlay as I found pencil marks to be invisible on the ebony. I’d then cut this 45° in the mitre box and then use a sanding block to sneak up on an exact fit.
I did this all the way around the top until done. Make sure you don’t press all four pieces down fully at the same time or you may have a heck of time getting them out in order to glue them. I then put a small bead of glue in the grooves and glued them in place. I didn’t use much glue as didn’t want to have to deal with much squeeze out. When done the glue dried I used a small scraper to flush the inlay and then gave the whole top a light sanding. When done they looked like this.