Creating Wood Inlays Perfectly with Your Router


With the MLCS Router Inlay Set

Finished Inlay
Your Finished Inlay will Make Your Project POP

If you’re looking for a way to add some “pop” to a woodworking project, creating wood inlays might be just the ticket. A well-executed inlay can really jazz up an otherwise boring piece, and an inlay kit can make easy work of what looks like a difficult task.

Use a Plunge Router
Use a Plunge Router

To create tight-fitting inlays, it’s best to use a plunge-base router. Although you can make inlays with a fixed-base router, it’s a lot harder to start the cut because you have to turn on the router and tilt it into the work. This isn’t much of a problem when cutting the pocket, but it can be an issue when routing the inlay. You’ll see why in a moment.

Creating Wood Inlays Part 1: Router Set-up

Our Router Inlay Set comes with a guide bushing that attaches to your router base plate. Just screw the bushing to the router with the included retaining ring. Then press the sleeve onto the bushing and you’re almost ready to route the pocket.

Install the Guide Bushing
1a. Install the Guide Bushing
Install the Sleeve
1b. Install the Sleeve
Set the Depth Stop
1c. Set the Depth Stop

Now you need to set the depth of cut. Place your plunge router on a couple of blocks to allow room for the bit and plunge down until the bit sticks out far enough to cut all the way through your inlay material. Set the depth stop.

Creating Wood Inlays Part 2: Rout the Pocket

You can make your own inlay templates, but we have several ready-to-run patterns for popular shapes. In this article, we’ll use the large bowtie template. Attach the template to your stock with double-sided tape. Remember, you’re going to route the pocket first.

To keep the stock in place while you route, secure it to your workbench. If the work-piece is large enough, you can clamp it down, but double-sided tape works perfectly for smaller parts.

With the template attached and the work secured to the bench, you’re ready to route. Place the router on the template, turn it on and plunge into the stock. To get the best results, make a shallow pass first, and then come back with a full-depth cut. Route around the edges of the pocket before hogging away the material in the middle.

Creating Wood Inlays 2a: Template Attached
2a. Template Attached to Inlay Pocket Stock
Creating Wood Inlays 2b: Begin to Plunge
2b. Begin to Plunge

When you’re finished routing the pocket, inspect the work for any areas that you may have missed with the router bit and clean them up with a sharp chisel. Remove the template with a putty knife.

Chisel Out Waste
2c. Chisel Out Waste
Remove the Template
2d. Remove the Template

Creating Wood Inlays Part 3: Rout the Inlay

Before routing the inlay, remove the sleeve from the guide bushing. You don’t need to make any other changes to the router setup.

Attach the template to your inlay stock with double-sided tape.  Because you’re going to cut all the way through the inlay material, clamp or tape some kind of backer board material underneath. Secure the work-piece to the backer board with double-sided tape, and be sure to put tape under the area where the inlay will be so it stays in place.

Template attached to inlay stock
3a. Template attached to inlay stock
Plunge Into Inlay Stock
3b. Plunge into Inlay Stock

Route the inlay, and keep the guide bushing pressed firmly into the edges of the template at all times.  This is where the plunge router really out performs a fixed-base router. It’s much easier to keep the bushing pressed against the edge of the template at the start of the cut with a plunge base. Once again, make a shallow pass and finish with a full-depth cut.

Remove the stock and inlay with a putty knife.  Be careful not to damage the inlay. Sand the back edges lightly and round the corners to match the outline of the pocket. Test the fit, and spend a little more time on the corners if necessary.

Remove Inlay Stock
3c. Remove Inlay Stock
Sand the Bowtie
3d. Sand the Bowtie

Creating Wood Inlays Part 4: Assemble the Inlay

When the inlay fits, apply glue to the pocket, using a brush to coat the edges.

Apply Glue
4a. Apply Glue
Clamp Inlay
4b. Clamp Inlay

Place the inlay in the pocket and use a mallet or hammer with a scrap block to tap it in place. Put a sheet of wax paper over the inlay and clamp a scrap block to the top of the work.  Let the glue dry, and then remove the clamps.

Sand the Inlay
4c. Sand the Inlay

Sand the inlay flush, and that’s all there is to it. If you have any small gaps, you can fill them with a solvent-based putty before finishing, or use a soft wax-based putty afterwards.





Creating Wood Inlays: Watch the Video


Get What You Need for Creating Wood Inlays

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Router Inlay Kit and Spiral Bit
Router Inlay Kit and Spiral Bit
Acrylic Inlay Patterns
Acrylic Inlay Patterns








Double-Faced Tape
Double-Faced Tape



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