First Inlay Project

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Forum topic by skogie1 posted 09-28-2014 05:27 AM 1465 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 1390 days

09-28-2014 05:27 AM

I resawed, ripped and planed some walnut boards down and glued them up and cut this spiral sun. I want to inlay it in some birch plywood as part of a decorative piece. I’ve never done inlay before and am starting to think that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but….onward. Any tips, suggestions for the inlay process? I plan on taping it down onto the plywood and then tracing it with an exacto knife and then using a plunge router to create the space to drop it into. Any and all thoughts are welcomed. Thanks.

10 replies so far

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13607 posts in 3367 days

#1 posted 09-28-2014 06:13 AM

free handing a router to get the exact line
could be tricky

use it to do the route close to the line
then finit it by hand
with a sharp chisels
and carving knives

the router will want to grab the grain
and run of in different directions
and over cut the line

what i have done for this type of inlay
is make a bigger (maybe round) space
and glue in the the freeform inlay
and use colored epoxy to fill in the difference
make the filler proud of the top and inlay
and use a hair drier to burst the air bubbles that will form
as the epoxy ‘heats up’ while curing
(at least an hour checking from time to time)
or you will have little air bubbles that are hollow
after you sand everything flush

the best way is to use a router inlay bushing

and make a pattern first
using the washer spacer for the hole with the pattern
hogging out the space
then taking off the washer for the part itself
being careful to only trace the part outline

here is a you-tube video to watch

welcome to LJ’s

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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1067 posts in 2876 days

#2 posted 09-28-2014 12:02 PM

Check this videp fromthe wood whisperer, he goes through the process in great detail with all the advice you could want.

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

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Jim Finn

2658 posts in 2948 days

#3 posted 09-28-2014 01:39 PM

Depending on the size of this, I would use a scroll saw and use the “double bevel inlay” method.

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

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117 posts in 1390 days

#4 posted 09-28-2014 02:23 PM

Jim Finn: it’s too big for a scroll saw table. I did this with a jigsaw and it’s going into a piece of plywood that’s about 3’x4’

ChefHDAN: the wood whisperer video is what gave me the idea of tracing the shape with an exacto knife and routing to the line but I don’t trust that I can be accurate through all the curves and waves and turns.

Patron: I think I like this suggestion. As I said, I’ve never done any inlay and this looks like a way to get a clean result relatively simply. Any further suggestions or tips on this method? It looks as though I’d simply route out a shape (a circle or an oval), glue the piece in the right location, then mix and pour the epoxy. Any brand of epoxy you like? Is it an arts and crafts store item?

Thanks again gentlemen.

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31393 posts in 2893 days

#5 posted 09-28-2014 02:37 PM

Thanks for the post, skogie.

Thanks for the link, David.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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117 posts in 1390 days

#6 posted 09-28-2014 02:54 PM

Another questions re: epoxy. It’s going to take a lot epoxy to fill this once I’ve cut the relief shape. I think wherever I begin will start to dry before I finish. Maybe that won’t work? Any thoughts?

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13607 posts in 3367 days

#7 posted 09-28-2014 09:14 PM

forgot to mention bleeding the colors into certain woods

i learned the hard way

after routing the space and gluing in the inlay

i spray or brush poly or lacquer to everything
especially the sides of the inlay and cut out
the epoxy is fluid and soaks into any pores
the color you use in it will bleed into the pores
discoloring the wood there

slobber the fixative good
even over the top
when you sand
the pores will not be splotchy from color

i just use craft paint from wally world

do it all at once
as getting the same tone later is not that easy
if you have to come back to fill pot holes

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3674 days

#8 posted 09-28-2014 10:18 PM

It’s a cool design so go for it. If the design wasn’t
cool I’d say try something easier to start.

You can waste out the recess with a router
but you’ll find it easiest with a lightweight one
like a laminate trimmer. A clear sub-base with a
stand-off between the router base and and
sub base will help with visibility.

In any case, do not try to rout to the lines.
You’ll get the best result carefully chiseling
the outline. With the center routed out
you’ll have the advantage of being able to
pop sections free into the routed out area.
Be wary of levering your chisel at the line,
as it’s easy to bruise the edge that way.

Go carefully. Set up a stool and good light
and get your chisels real sharp. It may
take you a couple of hours but it will be
worth doing going for it.

Do a test recess on a piece of scrap ply first,
using any old shape. Just to see how the
ply works with the chisels. Try it with a
solid wood piece too. You may find the
working the ply annoying.

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117 posts in 1390 days

#9 posted 09-29-2014 01:38 AM

Loren: thanks. Going to go for it.

View sawdust703's profile


270 posts in 1446 days

#10 posted 10-01-2014 12:54 PM

skogie, I do several inlays in barn wood, and it can be touchy at times, to put it politely. I’d have to go with Lorens suggestion, were it me. I trace out my inlay on the barn wood, then go around the trace marks with a good sharp chisel, and use a trim router for the rest of the of the major work. I just start hoggin’ out the inlay pattern very shallow with a small dado bit, & just keep working at it til i get to the depth I need. I’m sure others have better bit ideas, but that’s what works for me. I’ve found that the trim router is not only easier to handle in a situation like this, does not scream thru the wood & tear out material like a bigger router would. And where you are working with plywood, remember you are working with layers of thinner lumber glued together. So when you put the power to it, splinters are going to fly!! work safe, & enjoy your project!

-- Sawdust703

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