First inlay project

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Forum topic by skogie1 posted 09-15-2014 03:31 AM 1179 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 1390 days

09-15-2014 03:31 AM

I’m going to do some inlay for the first time. No idea what I’m doing. I have a plunge router which I assume is the tool to use, or at least, a tool to use. Tips and suggestions?

I’m planning on using birch or maple for plywood and then I-don’t-know-what for inlay material.

Any help or suggestions is much much appreciated.

10 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


7956 posts in 2177 days

#1 posted 09-15-2014 04:06 AM

Use some light duty double stick tape to hold your inlay where you want it to go. Then trace around the outside carefully with a knife. I usually use an exacto knife. Then rout out the wood close to the edge.

If you look at the edge of the router bit when you’re cutting, you’ll see a bit of fuzz. As soon as you see the fuzz disappear, you are at the line. Take it slow, use both hands on the base of the router, and test fit it several times before attempting to glue it up and pound it in.

I also like to leave it proud of the surface, and use a belt sander to flatten. This makes sure that you won’t overshoot the depth, plus the dust fills in any gaps. And when you pound it in, it will squeeze some glue out through any gaps, so you won’t be able to see them after finishing.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2658 posts in 2949 days

#2 posted 09-15-2014 01:28 PM

I do hundreds of inlays a year and I do not use a router. I use a scroll saw with the “double bevel inlay” method. You might consider trying that.

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

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117 posts in 1390 days

#3 posted 09-15-2014 02:53 PM

Thanks for the advice guys!

View skogie1's profile


117 posts in 1390 days

#4 posted 09-17-2014 02:02 PM

I have a walnut board (3/4”) that I’d like to use for the inlay material. 1. What is the idea thickness for inlay material (it’s going into 3/4” birch ply) and what’s the best way to reduce it down? I have a thickness planer but it won’t go that thin I don’t think. Bandsaw? Table saw?

View Scott C.'s profile

Scott C.

158 posts in 2078 days

#5 posted 09-17-2014 02:21 PM

View jmartel's profile


7956 posts in 2177 days

#6 posted 09-17-2014 02:58 PM

Thickness doesn’t really matter much, to be honest. Most planers will go down to at least 1/4”, so you should plane it down thinner first. Thickest inlays that I do are 3/8-1/2” deep, with most around 1/4”.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1067 posts in 2876 days

#7 posted 09-17-2014 03:31 PM

Thanks Scott! nice escape from the desk job

Skogie, if you’re planning straight line inlays, which is all I’ve had the courage to try, then be sure to have a good oversided fence on your router to help stay stable as you reach corners etc. On my table project with the inlay, I got to the first corner and realized the half circle in my fence was about to take away one whole side of the fence. I stopped fortunately in time, and added an 18” stick to the fence that would allow me to cut to the edge of the corner with stabillty.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View pintodeluxe's profile


5706 posts in 2840 days

#8 posted 09-17-2014 03:37 PM

If you like your first experience with inlays, try an inlay bushing kit for your router. It makes the whole process easy and repeatable. It works best for simple geometric shapes like butterfly keys etc.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View shipwright's profile


7992 posts in 2825 days

#9 posted 09-18-2014 12:18 AM

Router bushing sets can be used for some interesting stuff. Before I got into real marquetry I did some “near marquetry” projects with them.
Here’s a blog on how I used the bushing sets. It’s a little different but works well.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View CharlieK's profile


555 posts in 3820 days

#10 posted 09-18-2014 01:07 AM

I use jmartel’s method of tracing around the inlay with an Exacto knife. Very small inlays get routed out with a Dremel on a StewMac plunge base:

One trick I learned is to rub chalk into the knife line before routing. The chalk makes it easier to see when the router bit touches the line.

I also wear a magnifier headset with an led headlamp attached. It ain’t pretty, but it sure helps when doing detail work!

-- Adjustable Height Workbench Plans

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