Wood Inlay Techniques

A Dremel rotary tool with a router attachment is used by fine woodworkers to make beautiful and detailed inlaid designs for tables, chairs, artwork, musical instruments and more. With patience and practice, the complexity of your designs will be limited only by your imagination.
Common inlay materials are wood, veneers, mother of pearl, abalone, or metals. Inlays can be found pre-cut or made by cutting the desired shape on a scroll saw. Using contrasting colors for the inlay and base wood will help the inlay design to be more visible.

The size and shape of the inlay will determine the diameter of the router bit used. Larger diameter bits make smooth cuts and remove material quicker. Smaller diameter bits produce tight curves but are harder to control.

What You'll Need:

Other Supplies
  • Hot glue sticks
  • Wood glue
  • Wood or plastic tipped mallet
  • Razor knife or scribing tool

Step-By-Step Directions

Step 1

To begin, tack the inlay material to the base wood with a thin spot of hot melt glue. Using a sharp scribing tool, trace around the inlay to scribe the shape of the inlay into the wood. Consider tracing the design in pencil or practicing on a scrap piece of wood before beginning to rout.

Step 2

Next, remove the inlay and use a Dremel rotary tool and plunge router attachment with a 650 straight router bit to rout out the center of the scribed area at a depth equal to the thickness of the inlay. Follow the scribed edge of the shape as accurately as possible. When finished, remove any dust or wood chips from the recess.

Step 3

Test-fit the inlay in the recess, adjusting the hole wider or deeper as needed. Once the inlay is flush with the wood surface, coat the bottom of the recess with wood glue and insert the inlay. Tap the inlay into the recess with a wood or plastic mallet to completely seat the inlay if needed.

Step 4

After the glue has dried, use a 512E finishing abrasive buff accessory to smooth any edges, switching to the 423E cloth wheel accessory to polish the design to a luster. Apply varnish or finish as necessary.

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