Woodworking Inlays

Routing Inlays is Easier than You Think!

Woodworking inlays are great ways to create a distinctive look. It makes a project appear impressive.

Invest a little time and money learning to use the inlay kit. You can increase your skills, and your confidence will soar. Would you like to add a custom touch to your projects?

Woodworking inlays

With an Inlay Kit, you can rout woodworking inlays and develop patterns. The router is a great tool. Most woodworkers do not realize the maximum from their router. The Inlay Kit allows you to make patterns for your router table insert plate. It helps you make patterns for different projects.

Moreover, it lets you add decorative moldings to your work. As an example, the photo shows a decorative inlay.

The router inlay kit is simple. The picture shows standard parts. Typically, a kit includes a 1/8" carbide router bit, a two-piece template guide, a small bushing, and a centering pin.

Woodworking Jigs

It fits any router that takes a standard Porter Cable template guide. The centering pin insures exact alignment with the router spindle. You can start with the small bushing attached or without.

The design is similar to a normal template guide setup. The inlay kit has the small bushing. You remove the small bushing to cut the outline of the inlay (template). You replace the bushing to cut a precise recess.

It is best to buy a quality inlay kit. If you want a precise woodworking inlay kit by Whiteside like the picture above, click Inlay Kit!

Designing a Template for Woodworking Inlays

You can design nearly any template using the inlay kit. The template material must be, at least, 1/4" thick. It has to be thicker than the template guide collar. You don't want the collar to drag on your work.

The Following Is a Woodworking Inlays Actual Example:

I used a sunrise wood appliqué as an inlay. Notice the square corners at the bottom?

inlay kit

The small bushing needs to fit into any corner. So design woodworking inlays using the small bushing as a guide.

Woodworking Template

I rounded the corners of the inlay to fit the bushing.

Woodworking Template

You are ready to make the template for this inlay. Make your template material with extra size in length and width for clamping. You will understand this when you clamp the template to your work.

Remove the bushing from the inlay guide collar. You apply sticky tape on the inlay and position it on your template material. The template material sits on scrap stock to allow the router bit to go all the way through the template material. Sticky tape the template material just under the inlay and out side the inlay.
You do NOT want the inlay moving when you rout.

Using a plunge router, go around the inlay holding the router guide collar firmly against the inlay. It is best to use anti-climb cut, so that the router doesn't get away from you.

Woodworking Template

Woodworking Template

Your template is finished for this inlay. Notice the extra material on each side of the template to clamp to your actual piece of wood. This guarantees plenty of room for the router to make the recess.

Put the bushing on the router guide collar. The bushing assures a precise recess.

As a practice step, I made the recess in some scrap stock first. Just to see how the inlay fits.

Inlay Kit

Woodworking Template

The practice recess is not to full depth. Normally, the inlay fits very snugly in the recess. I want to get the inlay out to use in the actual piece of wood.

Here is how the inlay fits into the recess:

Woodworking Template

Need I say More?

Tips: I would support the work underneath. Do not make full depth passes initially. You need the template material and inlay pattern to stay in the same position. The Sunrise inlay is 7/32" thick. See Repairs using woodworking inlays below for the rest of the story.

Making Woodworking Inlays

Inlay thickness is 1/8" or thicker. Inlays thinner than 1/8" are fragile and they may break when installing. When routing the recess, the bit depth needs to match the inlay thickness. A thin coat of glue in the recess allows the inlay piece to sit slightly above the surface. Then you can sand the inlay flush with the surface. If you have a decorative inlay, then you need the bit depth slightly more than the thickness of the inlay. This accounts for the glue that you use.

You can set the bit depth by measuring the inlay thickness. I suggest that you only take a small amount on your first pass. This allows you to see the shape of the inlay prior to final depth.

Clamping the template and work piece is the secure way to rout. You can use carpet tape (sticky tape) if the template is not large enough for clamping. You should replace the carpet tape any time you move the template.

Woodworking Template

To plow the center of the template, you can save time by using a larger diameter guide collar and a 1/4" router bit. You do NOT want the router bit to hit the edge of your template.

You can change the grain direction of the inlay and your workpiece, depending on whether you want to conceal or highlight the installation.

You may want to sand the bottom (rear) edges of the inlay. This helps starting it in the recess. You can use the template several times. So save your templates for future use. You can even combine templates for different patterns.

Once you use the Woodworking Inlays Kit, you will come up with alternative uses. You can use the same technique for a variety of things, just by using different template guides and different router bits.
Another Example: Router Insert Plate

Let's start without the small bushing. Put two-sided (carpet) tape on the top of your router table insert plate. Turn it over and firmly place it on tempered hardboard. Take a plunge router; tightly go around the circumference of the insert plate. You now have the pre-template made.

The pre-template is extra-large by the diameter of the router bit and thickness of the template guide collar. Now install the small bushing. Clamp the pre-template to 3/4" MDF, add the small bushing and rout on the inside of the pre-template. Your hole is the exact size that you need for your router insert plate. Simple!

Now you have a template to install your router insert plate. Moreover, you can put it anywhere you like. Personally, I like mine towards the back of the top. That provides more room in the front.

Router Table

You may want to take a larger diameter guide collar and a 1/4" router bit inside the template to make a 1/2" ledge on the inside of the router insert plate recess.

Installing Woodworking Inlays

Brush a thin layer of glue in the recess. Press the inlay into the recess. Use a deadblow hammer and a block of wood to tap the inlay gently into the recess.

You can overlap inlays for dramatic looks. By varying the color and/or grain direction, you can make your project sparkle.

Repairs using Woodworking Inlays

Woodworking inlays can conceal surface damage or imperfection. The old standard is a bow tie shape, called a Dutchman. In the picture below, a carved inlay will conceal the knot underneath. It is a good idea to patch the damage area before gluing the inlay. You don't want that spot to fail later.

In the example of using the Sun Rise Inlay, I use it to conceal this knot. Here is the actual recess in the piece of wood.

Woodworking Inlays

How does the Inlay Fit?

Woodworking Inlays

A Perfect Fit! It will look very nice when finished.

You can find an import inlay kit on eBay. If you want a precise woodworking inlay kit by Whiteside, Click This Link!

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