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Customizing and Custom Work

How We Make an Inlay

  • Usually we inlay simple things, but whatever the concept, image, or picture desired, the idea must be tailored to the medium.  The ranges of colors and shades available in wood are limited, and some colors in wood change over time.  We choose which shapes need maximum contrast and which can be read with less.  Very complex shapes and edges are impractical, or at least no fun.  We draw the inlay on paper, simplifying and refining the elements to their essence.

  • We saw and plane wood of the desired species to a thickness of 1/4".

  • We lay carbon paper on the 1/4" thick wood, lay the drawing on the carbon paper, and trace the shape we want to cut.

  • Cutting an inlay out on the bandsawWe cut the shape on the bandsaw.  We have to nibble out tight corners and curves rather than follow the line.

  • Filing an inlay in a viseWith the shape in the vise, we file the edges smooth to the line.  We create a slight bevel so that the bottom edge of the shape is smaller than the top and the shape will wedge itself in place.

  • With the shape clamped where it is to go, we draw around it with a very sharp of page

  • We set a router to cut 3/16" deep and rout as close to the line as we dare about 1/32".  For inlaying into curved parts, we have built a platform to keep the router base and the bottom of the recess flat.

  • Chiseling out an inlayChiseling right to the lineWith carving gouge, chisel, and pocketknife, we cut to the pencil line, leaving the lead on the wood.

  • If the shape fits the recess, we are ready to glue, if not we cut and carve the tight spots.

  • Clamping the inlayWe brush glue on all surfaces of the recess and clamp the shape in place.

  • After 24 hours we sand the inlaid shape until it is level with the surface.

  • If there are more pieces to the picture, we repeat steps 2 through 11.

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