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Inlay technique

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Forum topic by USCJeff posted 2691 days ago 28182 views 3 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2705 days


2691 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: inlay technique router dremel rotary marquetry

I’m about to tackle my first inlay and wanted some suggestions. I’ve read up and watched several how-to videos on how to do it. I have no problem cutting the actual piece that is being inlayed into the project. I use that piece to trace the layout with an Xacto knife on the project. Most of the techniques show people using their plunge router with a tiny straight bit to hollow out the spot for the inlay. My router is bulky and my smallest straight bit is 1/4”. I have the plunge attachment to my Dremel tool, however. I have tons of small bits for it. Has anyone tried that setup? I’m thinking I should use the router for the easy stuff and the Dremel for the edges and corners. Maybe I should ante up for a palm router. I hear Bosch has a great one.

-- Jeff, South Carolina


15 replies so far

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2810 days


#1 posted 2691 days ago

My thoughts:
You can still finese a large, bulky router with a plunge setup. Instead of investing in the palm router, you might want to consider getting some smaller bits (a 1/8” spiral upcut, for example). The key to using the larger router for small work like that is to always keep one of your two arms resting and immobile on the table, so you’re just pivoting the router and moving it in small increments.

The problem with the palm router is that it would most likely be a fixed base, so you’d have to manually lower the whole thing into the cut.

I have the dremel, as well, and it always sounds like it is working way too hard. That said, it would probably work for cleaning out the edges and corners. But a nice sharp chisel might work just as well, too.

I also happen to have a precision router base for the dremel from Stewart-MacDonald. If you have a Foredom, they make a hand piece specifically for StewMac that fits this router base, allowing you to use your Foredom (much more powerful than the Dremel) for the same thing. That piece can be ordered here. (This is my recommendation.)

You might want to take a riffler file (or just a file, really) and file a back bevel on the bottom of the inlay piece to make it easier to set into place.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

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cabinetman

144 posts in 2780 days


#2 posted 2691 days ago

For doing inlays in solid wood, I first knife the pattern. If the subject piece is flat and large enough to use a router, I would want the field to be routed to the depth of the inlay but not run the base so close to the field as to have it drop into the field. In other words, I use the router up to less than the width of the base that remains on the original surface.

I then having knifed the depth of the field, will chisel out the balance to the depth I set.

For inlaying a veneer pattern to a veneer, I lay the pattern on the field, then lay that on the primary veneer. There are different methods used for holding all the pieces as needed, but this will reflect a general method. With the pattern on top, knife the pattern through both the field and the primary veneer. After making as many passes as necessary to cleanly cut all the way through, remove the pattern. Remove the field from the waste. Turn over the primary veneer and remove the waste. Fit the field into the primary veneer for a fit, and dress any edges. With the field in place, tape the field to the primary veneer on the face side. It is then ready to be glued as one piece.

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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2705 days


#3 posted 2691 days ago

Those are both good ideas. The tip about keeping one arm stationary is good advice. It would be smoother to pivot the router vs. sliding it. The inlay is going on the bottom side of a flip up lid on a jewelry box. I’ve built two small picture frames on opposite sides of the bottom of the lid so as you would see them when you open it. The inlay (heart) will be between them. I didn’t think it through well, as I should have routed the inlay on the flat lid before I attached the frames. I think I’ll remove them so I can have a smoother surface to work on.

By the way, what kind of wood do you all like in contrast to walnut? I’m thinking Maple. Any suggestions?

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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Douglas Bordner

3963 posts in 2700 days


#4 posted 2691 days ago

I have the StewMac precision base, with the dremel attachment, They also offer 3/32 carbide straight bits and others.

5260_ppstory

For removal of the ground for inlay it should be okay. Here is a link at the bottom of The WoodWhisperer page
http://www.woodworking.org/InfoExchange/viewtopic.php?t=3913 that describes the process of knifing in the profile, and then sneaking up to the edge with a router (you can use the Dremel and the precision base from Stewart-MacDonald). Many good pictures and a project in progress at this link.

Another option- which I just discovered this minute (Ah, the internet!)
http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?sku=271

271_start

and it’s Stanley progenitor (It must be the #271) which is no longer being manufacturered. This allows one to sneak up to the knife marks without breaking a sweat. You just have to make sure that some ground in the center is left proud to support both wings of the sole, finishing off with chisel or bigger based-plunge router. Stanley made an iron for the original that was a helpful spear-pointed grind with bevels on the sides. They’re still out there, probably eBay UK as a best bet.

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

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Ethan Sincox

765 posts in 2810 days


#5 posted 2691 days ago

(Everything in this post is absolutely my own personal opinion. Take what you like and leave the rest.)

Maple is a great contrast to Walnut, as any other light wood might be (holly, willow, ginko, basswood, beech, birch, satinwood). What I would avoid using are woods that have too much brown or red in them. To me, it’s like trying to paint a room with several different colors of blue; it can be hit or miss. Some shades of blue look really good with each other and some look absolutely horrible. Relating it back to wood, I’d never combine walnut and cherry, for example. There just isn’t enough contrast and it ends up looking like you did a bad job of matching colors.

I got a #271 for… $55 or $65? Something like that. You can always check out Jon Zimmer’s Antique Tools where he has one listed right now for $80 (it is #59 on this page) or you can contact Patrick Leach (of Patrick’s Blood and Gore fame) and get added to his monthly tool sale list. I believe it goes out the first Monday of every month. (You have to read it early and respond quickly if you want something, because things go FAST.)

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

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Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2936 days


#6 posted 2690 days ago

Do you have an inlay kit? Check this out, I’ve been going to order this.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

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WayneC

12268 posts in 2734 days


#7 posted 2690 days ago

The price is great. I just paid about $15 more for a similar Whiteside kit at woodcraft.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2936 days


#8 posted 2690 days ago

MLCS always have good prices, & I like their bits. Plus free shipping

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

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WayneC

12268 posts in 2734 days


#9 posted 2690 days ago

I keep thinking about buying one of their 66 piece sets of bits. Seems like a good value.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 2936 days


#10 posted 2690 days ago

I bought their 25th Anniversary set, I think its about that size. The only thing is, I have maybe used only about half of them, but every so often I end up unwrapping one of them.
They’re there if you need one though.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN. http://www.woodcarvingillustrated.com/gallery/member.php?uid=3627&protype=1

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WayneC

12268 posts in 2734 days


#11 posted 2690 days ago

Gas is $3.25 a gallon here in CA. Almost worth buying them not to have to go out and purchase one you did not have for a project.

To get this thread back on topic, The Woodworking Channel has some good inlay videos every once in a while.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

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thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2821 days


#12 posted 2690 days ago

Although tempting, I have always found the smaller trim routers and dremel setups to be too light for inlay work. When you are trying to sneak up on a line or a corner, a light router is just too easy to push off course. A heavy router with a clean/waxed base, on the other hand, moves slowly and deliberately, which is exactly what you want when you are doing detailed work like this. So I also recommend getting yourself some tiny straight bits and using your large plunge router.
No harm in trying the Dremel. Who knows, you might like it better. But you should try both so you can at least analyze the difference for yourself.

Good luck.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

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USCJeff

1044 posts in 2705 days


#13 posted 2688 days ago

Thanks everyone. I found some good resources in addition to all your suggestions. If anyone else is looking to learn woodworkingseminars.com and Marc’s site listed above had nearly identical techniques for different projects.

For the record, I had less than perfect results on my test piece. My router (Dewalt 618) does not have the best visibility in my opinion, but got the job done. I purchased a smaller spiral bit versus trying the Dremel route (pun intended). I was happy with my results when I got brave enough to cut into my Walnut. I get nervous cutting into a wood that cost me over $6/BD’. I’ll post my project once I find some time to finish and assemble it.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

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romansfivefive

299 posts in 2410 days


#14 posted 2330 days ago

What I learn everyday. What a great education. Thanks for sharing.

-- The CNC machine can either produce the work of art you imagined, or very decorative firewood.

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bonzo

17 posts in 2418 days


#15 posted 2326 days ago

i been doin inlays for years and never changed techs.

wood
scroll saw
porter cable laminate trimmer
straight bits:1/16, 1/8, 1/4
chizelz glue wood block hammer
pencil

cut your piece>position it>with a sharp pencil trace around your design>boar out the bulk of the wood inside the tracing 1/4 bit>1/8 bit slowly and steadly get as close to the inside of the line all the way around(do not cut out of the line,stay inside)>1/16 bit for corners>chisels if its square> glue the inside of boared out pocket>place inlay into position and press in>wood block and hammer to smack it all the way>putty if needed then sand smooth

of course theres a lil more to it but imo thats the jist of it if your already have experience with tools and wood craft. be sure to go as slow as needed. plan ahead and use teast pieces to get a feel for it b4 hand

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