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How do I do a Wood Inlay on a small box

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Forum topic by Sgt_Lobo posted 11-20-2007 04:21 PM 4585 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Sgt_Lobo

87 posts in 2525 days


11-20-2007 04:21 PM

Topic tags/keywords: inlay walnut cocobolo router box

Since I finally finished my first box, I want to do another box for my mother for a Christmas gift. This will be a much smaller box, probably around 10” x 5” and 5” deep. There is something I want to do special on this box though and I am not sure how to approach it:

I have chosen walnut for the box and I have a beautiful piece of 1/4” thick cocobolo that I want to cut down to 8” x 4” and have inlayed in the center of the lid. I have never done inlay before, so I am looking for suggestions. Should I use my router and a straight bit to carve out 1/4” of the walnut box top and then fit the cocobolo in the cutout? It seems that there is allot of room for error with this method and I don’t want gaps between the two woods.

I know allot of folks on LJs use veneer for inlays, but how do you do it with an actual board? Any hints, tips, suggestions would be much appreciated! Thanks.

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO


14 replies so far

View mot's profile

mot

4911 posts in 2703 days


#1 posted 11-20-2007 04:40 PM

Hey Sarge,

If I understand you correctly, how about using the cocobolo as a panel. Cut your mitred frame with a 1/4 groove in the edges to accept the panel.

Take a look a beautiful box made by yorkshirestewart. Perhaps this will give you some inspiration. There are several examples like this on the site but this box came to mind. Click on the box to go to Stewarts project.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

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Sgt_Lobo

87 posts in 2525 days


#2 posted 11-20-2007 04:46 PM

Tom,

That is similar to what I want to do, except that I don’t want any ridges if possible. I want it almost as if the lid was 1 piece of wood (albeit a deformed piece of walnut that had an irregular cocobolo growth…) Does this make sense? I will resort to the mitered top if need be.

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

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mot

4911 posts in 2703 days


#3 posted 11-20-2007 04:58 PM

Hmmm. Yes, that makes sense, Sarge. My immediate concern would be different movement of the walnut and cocobolo leading to a split. What about using the cocobolo as an inset lid? This is a much smaller box than you’re thinking, but maybe it gives you another idea:

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3966 posts in 2730 days


#4 posted 11-20-2007 05:33 PM

Sgt,
If you have a way to resaw your cocobolo you should be able to inlay the piece into the top without fear of it splitting the ground wood. If it’s 1/8th thick or less it will act like fat veneer and the movement potential will be minimized by the glue holding it into place. Then it’s a matter of wasting out the hole and gluing the piece in place. You can use double-stick tape to hold it in place, use a marking knife to define the edges of the hole and dropping it in. Marc Spagnuolo has an episode on inlay on The Wood Whisperer. He uses a router to sneak up on the cut line. I would use a router up close to the line and a #271 router plane (the dinky one now available from Lee Valley and from Lie-Nielsen) to finish the cut. Or there is a precision router base that uses a Dremel tool available from Stewart-McDonald that could be used. Watch The Wood Whisperer episode to see if this is something you’d be comfortable trying. I’d practice on another piece of wood first to get the hang of it before using the prized piece of walnut. It is all about the fit, and it’s a art, but it is do-able. I would have given you the links to these tools/sites but I’m on the rush this morning for work. Good luck, and Happy Thangsgiving. And thank you for your service to the Nation.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

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mot

4911 posts in 2703 days


#5 posted 11-20-2007 06:18 PM

Yeah, Douglas, I thought about just resawing it, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to risk resawing a 1/4” piece, then cleaning it up for inlay.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15702 posts in 2885 days


#6 posted 11-20-2007 06:35 PM

Sarge, I think this is made to do just what you want to do:

http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?familyid=1391

I have one of these, but have not got around to playing with it yet.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Andy's profile

Andy

1537 posts in 2575 days


#7 posted 11-20-2007 07:13 PM

I am not sure exactly what you have in mind for the inlay design, but here is a link to one of my boards that may give you some ideas:
http://lumberjocks.com/projects/3250

As you can see, mitered,square,rectangular,pieces can be easily butted together and you can get a nice tight fit as long as you use the same stops/settings.I then will slice these boards and flip/flop the orientention sometimes to mix it up.You can get a quilt effect this way.

Cross bands can be done by cutting kerfs on the table saw to a depth of about 1/4”. I do this periodicaly on narrow strips before final glue up for stopped banding or do it afterwards for bands that cross the entire piece.
I have made many boards with these bands running across the grain and have never had any problems with warping or splitting.

Diamonds and squares of varying sizes can be done simply by using a mortiser,setting the chisels at odd angles, and punching holes about midway through the piece. I typically will insert a contrasting wood or I glue up thin strips of alternating colors to about 1/8” thick x 5/8”wide until I get a blank 5/8” x 5/8” x 24” long, and then run it through my small planer until its 1/2”x1/2” square. I then cut it into plugs about 1/2” long and insert them into the mortised holes on end.You get a striped plug.The variations are endless.

For round inlays, I use drill bits and plug cutters of varying sizes, or just a countersink and wooden screw plugs. Just another way to get an inlay effect. :)

If the inlay you have in mind is something more involved,like,say a flower or a cat,then I would use a router and an inlay bushing set. Here is a link to Rockler http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=2007&cookietest=1
Hope this helps you out. Andy

-- If I can do it, so can you. www.artboxesbyandy.com

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Sgt_Lobo

87 posts in 2525 days


#8 posted 11-20-2007 09:24 PM

Thanks for all the replys! I think I have figured it out, though there were allot of great suggestions in this thread that will probably see their time on future projects. I wanted my lid to look something like this:


Kaleo's Box

I think what I need to do is just rout a lip 1/4” down on the inside edges of the lid frame. Then simply glue in the cocobolo. Now, my question is, how do you account for wood expansion, and if I do this will it eventually blow out my corners?

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2688 days


#9 posted 11-20-2007 09:42 PM

Here’s a thought.
I admit I havent tried it but:
If you can lay the 2 pieces of wood on each other and fasten them with carpet tape, you should be able to jugsaw around the perimeter of the cocobolo at an angle so that the peice drops in the hole cut in the bottom board. Sand that flush.
If you don’t want that to show on the inside of the box – veneer that side.

Try it on a a practice piece to see if you like it. OOPS! didn’t read your post above.
You used the wrong term for what you wanted. That’s not what we think of as an inlay.

Cheers
Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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Sgt_Lobo

87 posts in 2525 days


#10 posted 11-20-2007 09:59 PM

Well, what’s the term? This wasn’t the exact way I envisioned earlier, but when I came across this project, I thought to myself, that might work. But, even if I go with your idea Bob, how again either way do I account for expansion?

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View CharlieM1958's profile

CharlieM1958

15702 posts in 2885 days


#11 posted 11-20-2007 10:01 PM

Another thought.. I have made a number of boxes with a look similar to the one above by just basically framing my center wood with four mitered boards around it. This method makes no provision for wood movement, but I’m not sure how big a factor that is in a small piece. I’ve never had a problem, but then the humidity here is consistently pretty high.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3808 posts in 2688 days


#12 posted 11-21-2007 12:12 AM

HI Sarge:
The proper term for that lid insert would mor likely be “panel”
When we think of inlays we think if things like bow ties, Dutchmen and decorative pieces of wood embedded in the main surface.
http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y136/Sandal_Woods/Boxes/Inlay%20dovetails/Bowtiesanddovetails-lidopen.jpg
To Answer you second question It always a good idea to line up the grain structures of the two species before cutting them.In this case your wood sis so small that the movement would not be a large problem for you.
http://polartcenter.com/v/vspfiles/v4_backup/pics/9290301-2.jpg
http://www.newwoodworker.com/graphics/photos/indoor/boxes/5603mahgjlrybinlay400x293.jpg

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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Sgt_Lobo

87 posts in 2525 days


#13 posted 11-21-2007 01:20 AM

Thanks Bob, sorry I messed up the terminology and gave everyone the wrong idea of what I was trying to accomplish…

-- Sgt_Lobo -- Aurora, CO

View Sawdust2's profile

Sawdust2

1467 posts in 2754 days


#14 posted 11-21-2007 05:53 AM

Go the “The Wood Whisperer”’s site.

It’s one of the first projects Marc shows how to do.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

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