A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Inlay Wood with a Router

Learning how to inlay wood with a router is the best way to add some style to your woodworking project.

If you want to apply well-executed inlays to bring out the beauty of your piece, an inlay kit can play a major and helpful role in making that task easier.

Despite the fact that you can make inlays with a fixed-base router, it’s a bit hard to do so because of the tilting required.

That’s why tight-fighting inlays are best executed with a plunge-base router.

how to inlay wood with a router

How to Inlay Wood with a Router

First step: Setting up the router

Find the guide bushing that attaches to the router base plate on the router inlay set.

Screw the bushing to the router using the retaining ring, then press the sleeve onto the bushing to get ready to route the pocket.

After that, you set the depth of the cut. You can set your router on a couple of blocks to leave yourself some space for the bit and plunge down to allow the bit to protrude far enough to cut all the way through the inlay material.

router bushing

Make sure to have set the depth stop when you’re done.

If you haven’t bought your bushing yet, you can buy yours from here

Second step: Routing the pocket

For smaller parts, you can use double-sided tape to attach a template to your stock and to keep the stock in place as you route, secure it to the workbench.

You can even clamp it down if the workpiece is large enough.

Once the template is attached and the work secured to the bench, you’re ready to start routing.

Set the router on the template, then turn it on and plunge into the stock.

Try making shallow passes first and then plunge in the full-depth cuts once you rest assured that you will get the best results.

Moreover, before you start working with the material in the middle, route around the edges of the pocket.

After you’re done with routing the pocket, take a look at your work for any places that you might have missed with the router bit and clean them up with a sharp chisel.

Then, remove the template using a putty knife. This has been well demonstrated in this video, check it out!

Third step: Routing the Inlay

Before you start routing the inlay, remove the sleeve from the guide bushing.

No other changes to the router need to be done.

Attach the template to your inlay stock with double-sided tape.

Clamping or taping some kind of backer board material underneath would be great for cutting all the way through the inlay material.

Secure the workpiece to the backer board with a double-sided table. Furthermore, under the area where the inlay will be, put some tape to guarantee that it stays in place.

Keep the guide bushing pressed firmly into the edges of the template all the time as you route the inlay.

In this where the plunge-base router is superior to the fixed-base router.

This is because, with a plunge-base router, it’s a lot easier to keep the bushing pressed against the edge of the template when you begin cutting.

Like routing the pocket, start with shallow passes then proceed to full-depth cuts.

Remove the stock and inlay with a putty knife, but be careful not to damage the inlay as you do so.

Lightly sand the back edges and round the corners to match the outline of the pocket.

Try to see if your workpiece fits well. If it doesn’t, spend some more time on the corners.

Fourth step: Assembling the Inlay

If your inlay fits well, start applying glue to the pocket and use a brush to coat the edges.

Put the inlay in the pocket and use a hammer or a mallet with a scrap block to tap it in the desired position.

Place a sheet of wax paper on top of the inlay and clamp a scrap block over the top of the work. After the glue dries, remove the clamps.

Finally, sand the inlay flush and you’re done.

Just make sure that you don’t have any small gaps. If so, you can fill them with a solvent-based putty before you finish. You can also use a soft wax-based putty after that.

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