1 itted with a straight bit, a template guide, and a snap-on bushing, and guided by a shop-made template, a plunge router can plow a recess for an inlay quickly and accurately. The same setup can be used to trim the inlay to fit the recess perfectly. A wide range of inlays is available, from simple bands of exotic wood to elaborate marquetry patterns, as shown in the photo at right.
Routing the recess to the proper depth is one of the challenges of this operation. For marquetry inlay, the recess should be only slightly deeper than the inlay thickness—typically ‘/* inch. If after gluing the inlay in place, it sits below the surrounding surface, you can sand the wood adjoining the inlay until the two surfaces are flush. To minimize tearout as you rout the recess or trim the inlay, use a downcut spiral bit.
Making the template
The key to trimming an inlay and routing a perfectly matching recess for it is to use the same template for both operations. Outline the inlay on a piece of plywood, then draw a second outline /1 inch larger than the first to allow for the width of the bit
and template guide. Drill a hole to fit a scroll saw blade through the waste portion of the template. Feed the blade through the hole, fasten it to the saw, and cut just to the waste side of your second outline (above). Sand up to the marked line
2 Routing the recess
For best results, rout the recess and trim the inlay with a commercial inlay-routing set, which consists of a bit, a template guide, and a bushing that snaps onto the guide. You rout the recess with the entire assembly on your router’s base plate (inset), but remove the bushing for trimming the inlay (step 3). This will compensate for the bit and template guide diameter, and ensure a seamless fit. For the recess, mark references lines on both the template and the workpiece that intersect at the center of their top faces. Then set the work – piece on a table, position the template on top so the reference marks all align, and clamp the assembly in place. Set the router flat on the template with the bushing butted against the inside edge of the template. Plunge the bit into the stock, then feed the tool in a clockwise direction. Complete the cut (above, right), keeping the bushing in contact with the edge of the template throughout the operation.
3 Trimming the inlay
Set a backup panel on a work surface and fix the inlay to it using double-sided tape, making sure to attach the tape to the backing-paper side of the inlay. Position the template on top, centering its opening over the inlay, then clamp the assembly to the table. Remove the bushing from the router bit, but leave the template guide in place, and trim the inlay the same way you cut the recess, keeping the guide pressed against the inside edge of the template throughout (left).
Routing the border recess
With the same template used to rout an inlay recess and trim the inlay (page 67), you can plow a narrow recess around the inlay for a strip of banding. Once the adhesive securing the inlay has cured, clamp the template to the workpiece so its opening is centered over the inlay. Set the router’s cutter depth % inch deeper than the thickness of the template, then rout the recess the same way you trimmed the inlay (page 69), making sure the template guide is pressed against the template throughout the cut. Unclamp the template (left).
Installing the banding
Make the banding from a wood species that contrasts with the panel and the inlay. Cut the strip about 2 inches longer than the perimeter of the recess, beveling one end; since you will be installing the banding on edge, make it slightly wider than the recess depth and its thickness equal to the recess width. If the banding is stiff and difficult to bend around the recess, soak it first in hot water for 30 minutes. Spread some glue in the recess, insert the beveled end, and pack the banding around the recess (right), bending the strip and tapping it in place with a wooden mallet as you go. Mark a cutting line across the banding at the point where the ends meet. Then, with a backup board to protect the workpiece, cut a matching bevel at the straight end and finish inserting the banding in the recess. Sand the banding flush with the surrounding wood.