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4 hand tools for stringing_lead

4 Hand Tools for Stringing

Find out more about using hand tools to make stringing inlay.

Stringing reached its peak as an art form way
back in the late 18th century, long before power
tools. In those days, both the grooves and the
strips were made by hand with great precision.
You can use those same methods today
with these four hand tools. They’re specifically
designed for stringing work.

Straight line cutter. This tool is used to make
grooves parallel to a straight edge. Its beam is
adjustable. The cutter works like a saw blade,
forming a kerf the full width of the groove. Cutting
a groove to its full depth requires a number
of passes.

Radius cutter. This tool is used to make circular
arcs. Mastering it requires patience and
practice. You must pay particular attention to
how the grain runs. As with the straight cutter,
making a full-depth groove takes several passes.
Blades of three different widths are available for
both tools.

Slitter. I made this tool to slice stringing
blanks into strips. It’s just a maple block with a
rabbet cut into it. The cutter is a standard utility
knife blade. The slitter is used in conjunction
with a special cutting board, which supports
the blank. This board is rabbeted, too. The offset
between the board’s rabbet and the slitter’s rabbet
determines the width of the strips.

Thicknessing and tapering jig. I built this
tool to make stringing easier to install. The jig’s
blade is skewed at a 10° angle. When I pull the
strips through the jig, they come out exactly the
right thickness and with a slight taper, top to
bottom. I made the blade from a piece of 1/8″
thick tool steel.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Lie-Nielsen,, 800-327-2520, Straight Line Cutter, IN-SC; Radius Cutter, IN-RC.

This story is a companion piece to “Stringing Inlay,” which originally
appeared in American Woodworker, December/January 2012, issue 157.

Click any image to view a larger version.


1. This straight line cutter works like a marking gauge
to make grooves parallel to an edge. It’s made by Lie-Nielsen (see Source).


2. A radius cutter works like a trammel to make circular
grooves. It’s also made by Lie-Nielsen.


3. This slitting tool cuts stringing material into narrow
strips. You can buy a slitter, but I made this one.


4. This shop-made jig shaves the stringing to exact
thickness. It also cuts a taper on the stringing, making it
easier to install.

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