How to Inlay Wood with a Router

How to Inlay Wood with a Router?

Thinking of ways to enhance your wood project? We have them covered in this how-to inlay wood with a router guide. You can get an inlay kit to make the task easier.

Even though you can create inlays using a fixed-base router, it is not easy to do so because you need to tilt it. It’s because of this why tight-fighting inlays are best done using a plunge-base router.

Steps on How to Inlay Wood with a Router?

To have tight-fitting inlays use a plunge-base router. You can use a fixed-base router but it is a bit difficult to start the cut as you need to turn on the router and tilt it to work. This is not a problem at all when it comes to cutting the pocket, but it can be a problem when routing the inlay.

What You Need:

⦁ Double-sided tape
⦁ Acrylic Inlay patterns
⦁ Router inlay kit and spiral bit
⦁ Putty knife
⦁ Glue
⦁ Wax paper
⦁ Sandpaper
⦁ Clamps
⦁ Mallet (optional)

Note: It is best to choose an inlay kit that is suitable for your templates instead of buying separate pieces. A kit includes alloy collar, a suitable spiral cutter, a guide bush, and screws to attach the guide bush. If you choose to buy these pieces separately, you need to very careful when it comes to sizes.

Step #1 Set-Up the Router

Attached to your router base plate is a guide bushing. The kit includes a retaining ring, you can use it in screwing the bushing to the router. Then, press the sleeve on the bushing and you are set to route the pocket.

Set how deep the cut you need. Position your plunge router on several blocks. This will give enough space for the bit and plunge to enable the bit to stick out enough to cut the inlay material.

Step #2 Routing the Pocket

You can create your patterns but there are lots of inlay templates in the market that you can choose from. With the use of double adhesive tape attach the template to your stock. This will keep the stock in position as you route. Keep in mind that you will be routing the pocket first.

If you are working on a large workpiece, you can clamp it down. Once you have secured it on the bench, you can start the routing process. But for smaller pieces, the double-sided tape is enough to keep them in place.

Now that you have set everything, you can start routing. Place the router on the template, then turn on and plunge into the stock. To achieve the results that you want to follow the steps carefully.

First, create a shallow pass and then go back to having a deeper cut. Before working with the material in the middle, it is best to route around the edges of the pocket first.

After completing the routing of the pocket, check if you have missed a spot and use a sharp chisel to clean them up. You can use a putty knife to remove the template.

Tip: If you are using an inlay to cover a defect, choose a template with a big opening to cover it. It is recommended that you create your templates.

Step #3 Route the Inlay

Before you begin with the routing of inlay, you need to remove the sleeve from the guide bushing first. The router will remain, no other changes needed.

Using the double-sided tape, attach the template in the inlay stock. Tape or clamp some sort of backer board material underneath to make cutting through the inlay material easier.

With double-sided tape, secure the workpiece on the backer board. Also, on the part where inlay will be, place some tape to keep it in position. As you route the inlay make sure that you continue to press the guide bushing firmly into the template’s edges all the time.

In this step, the plunge-base router has overpowered the fixed-base router. It’s because, with a plunge-base router, it is easier to keep the bushing pressed on the edge of the template when you start cutting.

Just like when routing the pocket, begin with shallow passes then continue to full-depth cuts. Use a putty knife to remove the inlay and stock, but you need to be very careful so you will not destroy the inlay.

Smoothen the edges by sanding the back edges as well as around the corners to complement the pocket outline. Check if your workpiece fits perfectly. In case it does not, work more on the corners.

Step #4 Assemble the Inlay

If upon checking the inlay fits perfectly, put some glue on the pocket and with a brush coat the edges.

Place the inlay in the pocket and tap it in the preferred position using a mallet or hammer with a scrap block. Lay a sheet of wax paper over the inlay and clamp a scrap block above your work. Remove the clamps if you think the glue dries up completely.

And lastly, sand the inlay flush. There must be no small gaps. In case there are gaps, you can fill them using a solvent-based putty before you finish. A soft wax-based putty can be used also in filling the gaps.

Final Thoughts

You should choose the right type of router for your woodworking project. Some people may have some confusion on using the tool. You can always ask an expert to help you out. The quickest way of adding details to your woodwork project is by the use of a router to inlay.

The tool can be also used in several applications. Your project success will depend on the right material and the right tool. Also, you need to follow the instruction on how to do it properly to achieve the results that you want.

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