Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 3
   January 2012
   The Magic of Inlay

The inlay process is not difficult but it does require a steady hand and persistence. If you enjoy intricate work, you will love creating inlay.

There are many inlay methods, but I chose to follow a technique used by guitar makers outlined in the book The Art of Inlay by Larry Robinson. Each inlay piece is cut separately and pieced together like a puzzle; it is then glued and inset into the wood's surface.

  Bird's mouth support
  The bird's mouth support to hold the pieces for sawing
To cut inlay, you need a small- to medium-sized fretsaw with a 3/0 size blade. Make a bird's mouth support to hold the pieces for sawing and clamp it to a worktable at just below your chest height when sitting. You also need a hand plane to dimension small pieces of wood. To facilitate the hand-planing process, use a small flat board with a 1/16" lip to hold thin pieces of wood. Other essential tools include a craft knife, tweezers, good task lights and a selection of small files. A small pair of vise grips will come in handy for holding the wood while filing tiny inlay pieces. Finally, you need a router or Dremel® with a router base to rout the inlay recess.

  Bobolink outline
  Outline of an image of a bobolink prior to numbering each piece
First choose a drawing for your pattern. Tape a piece of paper to a light table or a window and trace the image using a hard 8H or 9H pencil (sharpen it often for a fine line). Next, trace a copy of your tracing to clean up the lines. To make your pencil lines even finer, enlarge your second tracing on a photocopier, trace it and then shrink it back to the original size. The goal is to make the pencil lines as fine and clean as possible so that they are the same size as your saw kerf. Finally, number each piece and make many photocopies of your master.
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