How to Make a Profiled Wood Inlay

Profiled Inlays

 In December 2012 #201, Popular Woodworking Magazine Article Index

Decorative banding within moulding adds a distinctive detail.

By Rutager West
Pages 41-43

For my very first veneer project, I decided to make a curved-top jewelry box. I knew I would need to use solid wood on the edges to protect the fragile veneer and I also wanted to embellish the box with some geometric inlay bands. At the same time I was drawing up some inlay ideas, I was staring at a new moulding plane that was on my bench. A light bulb went off in my head and I thought, “why not make my edgebanding from my inlay blank?”

The process seemed easy enough: Cut a rabbet in the corner and fill it with a thick  slice from my inlay packet then run the profile with my new plane or a router bit. Well, I did a bit more thinking and realized that many if not most profile bits and planes cut at 45˚ degrees, so just placing the banding in the rabbet at 90˚ and cutting a profile that slants at 45˚ would  skew the inlay detail – it would be longer on the side.

I determined that in order to work, the inlay would have to be presented at 45˚ too. Easier said than done. After several attempts (all successful – some difficult and others wasteful), I have settled on the following method: Rip a board at 45˚  and insert the inlay strip in the cut.

In this example, I’m starting out with a holly and ebony checkerboard inlay packet no thicker than the middle section of a 3⁄16″-radius corner bead profile my plane or router bit could cut. I wanted the rest of the profile to be filled in with holly, so the board I ripped at 45˚ was holly.

Because both holly and ebony are expensive and sometimes hard to find, I wanted to conserve my stock. I did so by attaching scrap stock to the edge of the inlay packet and the edge of the holly. Edge-gluing the scrap to the holly also adds a safety margin for the rip by moving the work away from the tilted table saw blade, which makes the offcut safer to handle. Adding the scrap to the inlay maximizes the yield of the packet since you need a large width to fill the rip cut but only really need about a 1⁄4″ of the inlay for the profile.

Wood: Buy ebony and holly blanks to make your own inlay banding.
Article: Learn how to make diamond-shaped inlay banding from Rob Millard in an article from our October 2011 issue.
Article: Read a review from our April 2008 issue of the Bridge City moulding plane used by the author in this article.
In Our Store: “Woodworker’s Guide to Veneering and Inlay,” a 168-page book by Jonathan Benson.
In Our Store: “Creating Veneer, Marquetry & Inlay” DVD,  a compilation of nine videos  from master craftsmen.

From the December 2012 issue #201
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