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Butterfly Inlay

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Butterfly Inlay

Make a perfect fit with a shop-made template.

By Tom Caspar

Purchase the complete version of this woodworking technique story from AWBookstore.com.


Don’t you just love it when something that looks extremely difficult turns out to be oh-so easy? Making butterfly inlay with a plunge router is a good example. The technique is very easy to learn. All it takes is a set of router accessories and some 1/4-in. plywood or hardboard to make your own template.

Butterflies appear to bind two pieces of wood together, but they’re really just for show and are only 1/8-in. thick. Few pieces of authentic Mission-style furniture were dressed up with butterflies, but in recent years they’ve become a common decorative theme in reproduction Mission furniture, adding a light touch to heavy-looking pieces.

 

Your router

The easiest way to make inlay is with a plunge router, but it’s possible to use a fixed-base router instead. The only problem with using a fixed-base router is that you’ll have to tip it into the cut by hand, which takes some practice. This technique may also put a good deal of stress on a fragile router bit.

Whatever kind of router you use, its base must accept a Porter-Cablestyle template guide. This is a stationary ring that screws onto the router base. If your router’s base doesn’t have a hole sized for a Porter-Cablestyle template guide, you can buy an adapter base.

 

The inlay kit

Inlay kits are available from several manufacturers, but they’re all very similar. You get a template guide, a 1/8-in.-thick collar that snaps onto the guide and a 1/8- in. solid-carbide bit. The bit is usually a spiral downcut that cuts exceptionally clean, chip-free edges.

The inlay set we used also includes a centering pin for installing the template guide in your router base. If the guide isn’t centered, the inlay may not fit well in the recess.

Click any image to view a larger version.

 

This kit has everything you need to make both the inlay and the recess it fits into:

1/8" Bit


Snap-on collar


Template guide


Guide-mounting ring


This story originally appeared in American Woodworker March 2003, issue #99.

March 2003, issue #99

Purchase this back issue.

Purchase the complete version of this woodworking technique story from AWBookstore.com.