Newbie Letter Inaly Questions

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Forum topic by FaTToaD posted 06-13-2011 05:11 PM 1122 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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394 posts in 3164 days

06-13-2011 05:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question tip router inlay dutchmen letter zebra bubinga maple

I’m currently working on a small zebra wood/bubinga “palm” box for my niece. I really want to inlay a curly maple “Z” on the bubinga lid, her name is Zoey, but I’m a little unsure how to approach it.

My original plan was to print a simple, straight lined “Z” on a piece of paper and trace it with an exacto knife. I would then remove the material with my chisel. On my test boards that works ok, but cutting a “Z” to fit into that space has proven to be difficult.

I also have a router bushing kit and I’ve done a few simple inlays in the past, mainly dutchmen and circles. I don’t have any letter templates so I’m thinking about making my own. I’ve found another font that has some curves I really like but I’m not sure if it will work.

- Any of you inlay experts have any suggestions?
- Would I better off doing it by hand or with a homemade template?
- Any tips on making my own template? Do I need to enlarge it by X% to make it work better?
- Any websites/videos that may help? I’ve looked around but I haven’t found anything too useful.

I’d appreciate any help. I’m going to continue practicing on scarps and I’ll probably try to make a test template this week, I’m just hoping someone out there has some expertise I could leverage off of. Thanks.


-- David

7 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4241 days

#1 posted 06-13-2011 05:38 PM

I think you are on the right track. You might want to read Autumn's blog series on a medicine chest she built. She goes into great detail on the inlay.

You probably would want to stick to the hand cut approach, as opposed to making a template for a guide bushing inlay set. “Z”s look best with sharp points, and it’s hard to get sharp corners with inlay bushing setups.

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

View FaTToaD's profile


394 posts in 3164 days

#2 posted 06-13-2011 05:56 PM

Charlie, thanks for the link.

So, it’s probably a better idea to cut the “Z” out first, then trace it on the lid? I think I was doing it backwards.

-- David

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 2575 days

#3 posted 06-13-2011 05:57 PM

With veneer work, I typically end up insetting a design into a background piece by laying my cutout over the background and cutting around it. I get pretty good results, though still need a little bit more to perfect it. If you check out my projects page, you can see a table and a book that demonstrate this. Although sometimes it’s a REALLY snug fit, and you can’t see any gap at all, there are occasions where I see enough of a crack (1/64” or less) that light can get through. Most of the time, a little light sanding “fills” the gap enough to compensate. (the worst is when I screw up and have to scrap a sheet of veneer and cut another, or piece together a “repair” because I’m 1/4-1/8” off on a measurement upon dry fitting or upon glueing… I just had that happen on the slat panel of a chair..)

In short, I suggest you create what you want to inlay first, then trace in pencil on your inlaid surface. Carve out from within the pencil lines, and set the piece in.If needed, you can always carefully remove a little more material till you have a snug fit.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2657 posts in 2945 days

#4 posted 06-13-2011 09:36 PM

Next time consider doing inlay on a scroll saw. Do a search for “Double Bevel Inlay” There are sites with videos that will explain how this method works.

-- Website is No PHD just a DD214 and a GED

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3098 days

#5 posted 06-14-2011 12:42 AM

I’m not saying that my idea is the best, but here is what I would probably do.

Make your own template but make it in 3 separate pieces. One template would provide a straight line for the top. That same template could probably be used to provide a straight line at the bottom. Another template would provide the diagonal piece.

I’m sure you will find these individual templates are easier to make and easier to use compared to a single template.

FYI – I have done dozens of inlayed crosses using one template for the vertical piece and another for the horizontal piece. Always route the cross grain piece first. You’ll get a lot less tear-out.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View buckles's profile


24 posts in 2565 days

#6 posted 06-14-2011 04:15 AM

Get a hold of the book “the Art of Inlay’ by Larry Robinson.

-- Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed for the same reasons.

View FaTToaD's profile


394 posts in 3164 days

#7 posted 06-14-2011 11:04 PM

Joe, I think I will definitly be adding that book to my next Amazon order!

-- David

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