View Full Version : Any "how-to's" for laser-cut inlays?

John Noell
04-19-2011, 5:56 PM
Seeing some inlay work here inspired me, but I quickly ran into some "issues." Even though I use a slightly longer focal length lens, the kerf is definitely slanted. So if you simply cut and glue two pieces together, they meet at the top but not at the bottom. If you sand the piece, a gap appears, and widens the more you sand. Okay, so you flip the inset pieces so the kerfs fit better, but when doing a complicated scene it is not always possible to match all pieces like that. Does anyone know of any tutorials that address these kinds of issues?

Frank Corker
04-19-2011, 6:09 PM
John, firstly that is really nice stuff that you have done there. I was actually going to tell you to do the cut out in reverse then flip them over because the kerf do match better. Most gaps that you are talking about are about are a thousandth of an inch which is the beam width. I think you need to create contour of that .001" to the outside, on the pieces that are cut out of the donor veneer, it would illiminate the problems you are encountering. When you have them all laid out and glued into position, a stick of wax rubbed over the joints will make them almost completly invisible. Well that all sounds good in my head!

Dee Gallo
04-19-2011, 6:23 PM
John, I have no advice for you... you are way ahead of me on inlay work! Those designs are shwweeett! I think I really love the big leaf the best, but the scene is so perfect for the piece of wood you chose. I imagine if they were any more perfect, people would think they were made in a factory by some robot.

Lots to love about those pieces, hope they sell well for you!

cheers, dee

Martin Boekers
04-19-2011, 6:31 PM
I think they look nice to. Did you do the border inlays to or get "pre inlayed" strips like Rockler sells?

Duane Parcells
04-19-2011, 10:34 PM
Hi John
I've been playing with inlays for a little while now. Cutting upside down helps with 1/16th thick and above. I don't sand the edges at all anymore. They get cleaned with Fast Orange and that is all. I had more problems appear because of sanding edges. (loose and irregular fit) Clamping..... When everybody else bought the flame polisher I backed out and built a vacuum press. It takes all the frustration out of clamping anything from home made plywood to intricate inlays. Right now I'm trying to find the right glue for small and intricate pieces. Some of the pieces are so small and delicate that wood glue turns it into mush before you can get it in place. These are about and inch and a half card holders for poker. Inlay is veneer of various species into black walnut and others. If the glue isn't getting the wood the laser is vaporizing the points of the most intricate parts. I think I'm just hitting the wall on whats possible with Titebond wood glue and laser cutting veneer. 192085192086

Dee Gallo
04-19-2011, 11:40 PM

Those are wicked cool - I love the delicate designs on wood. I had some luck with people using old bakelite and clay poker chips for card markers a while back, but yours are way nicer in my opinion.

You guys are making me want to get back to learning more about inlay!

cheers, dee

Dan Hintz
04-20-2011, 7:02 AM

Have you tried stabilizing the inlay wood with a glue soak first, like what turners do with punky wood? Soak a sheet of the inlay wood in a 50/50 water/glue mixture, dry, then cut out the pattern. When you add glue to hold it into the inlay during assembly, it shouldn't fall apart (that's my thought process, anyway).

Scott Shepherd
04-20-2011, 10:28 AM
John, here's an old post about it :


George M. Perzel
04-20-2011, 11:36 AM
192145192144192146Hi Gang;
Duane- what kind of glue are you using? Try to stay away from the waterbased stuff as veneer will warp and buckle under the influence of H2O.Try fish glue-Lee Valley has it. Good tack and cleans up with water. Also use thicker veneers if you can get them or cut your own on a bandsaw. For items with multiple small inlays (see pic1below) use the Mike Mackenzie technique. Small trivet (6"diam) was made by raster lasering the dark section out of a piece of 3/8" maple-go for about 1/16" depth-clean with a fine wire brush.
The mirror image of the light sections was raster lasered in a piece of 1/4" walnut-clean recesses with wire brush.Apply light coat of glue to both pieces, line them up face to face and clamp using multiple clamps (I use an antique book press). After it is dry run it through a drum sander using light cuts on the walnut until maple deesign appears-finish with fine hand sand. Of course, whole sanding process can be done with a RO sander. Pic2 (stamp image) was also done using this technique-easy to do mand no messing with little pieces. Celtic knot board was done by lasering the maple and cutting the image out of walnut veneer and inlaying.

Richard Coers
04-20-2011, 4:57 PM
I was shown some inlay work that was dead on perfect. The guy said he used the rubber stamp mode on his laser that cut a taper on the materials. Raster the base board, then raster a thicker fill stock(something like 1/4" thick) with mirror image. You don't cut through the fill board, so all the small detail parts remain attached. Clamp the tapered fill stock into the base. Let the glue dry, then sand off the thickness of the fill board till flush. I've never done it, and I'm sure there was a lot of trial and error to get the power set right.

Scott Shepherd
04-20-2011, 6:35 PM
Richard, look at the link I posted above, it has examples of that exact technique. I can't speak for loads of practice, as I seem to recall my two examples worked right out the box. It was dead easy.

John Noell
04-20-2011, 7:21 PM
Duane those are beautiful!! I'll have to try Fast Orange. (Have to do it mail order as they don;t have it in Fiji.) Can you tell me more about the vacuum press? How does it work? What an inspiration!

John Noell
04-20-2011, 7:23 PM
When you have them all laid out and glued into position, a stick of wax rubbed over the joints will make them almost completly invisible. Okay - I gotta try that!!! (But I assume you do it after the last coat of varnish, eh?

John Noell
04-20-2011, 7:27 PM
Hmmm, that link is not working but I got a cached version from Google. Thanks! I guess I am doing both inlay and marquetry (and did not know it!) Very helpful info!

John Noell
04-20-2011, 7:30 PM
I did the borders as well. The palm leaf oval strips (of a wood called raintree) are simply cut and inlaid into the rastered out into the dakua background. In the scene (done in Fijian "primitive" style), the entire thing is made up of separate pieces (marquetry?). Gluing up the gazillion little tiny inserts was a bit of work. :)

John Noell
04-20-2011, 8:55 PM
Great idea to use rubber stamp mode!! I am going to try that.

Belinda Williamson
04-21-2011, 7:58 AM

I cut all veneer from the back side. I then offset or inset, depending on your point of view, to get a tight fit. On the world map the female part vectors were inset 0.005" from the original vectors to cut the male part. On the clock face the inset was 0.007". Sorry for the glare in teh clock photo, I didn't take it.

Frank Corker
04-21-2011, 8:34 AM
Belinda, great job on both the clock and the wall map. Wall map looks amazing.

Belinda Williamson
04-21-2011, 9:37 AM
Thanks Frank. Here's a photo of the entire map. One of those times when the customer said "Can you do this?" I said, "Sure." I had some scrap veneer so I made this as a mock up of the final to be done in veneers of his choice.


Dee Gallo
04-21-2011, 10:23 AM

Stunning, just stunning.

Steven Wallace
04-29-2011, 1:58 AM
The inlays I have been doing on my laser I use a contour of .004" and laser face side down. Then cut with a mirror image and have had great luck doing it this way.

Chuck Stone
04-29-2011, 7:41 AM
I might just try this.. I love the results I'm seeing.
A process is forming in my mind, we'll see if it works. It combines things
people are saying here already.
I would try assembling face down and then filling from the back with a
colored epoxy. (after test cuts to see how much loss there may be)
I have a set of pastel chalks in various colors that I shave with a
razor blade that I use to mix with CA to get the color I want. I think
it should be easy enough to get a color the complements both woods
and apply that from behind to fill any voids. Then turn it over and sand
away whatever comes through the font. I wonder if the epoxy would
take something like TransTint? Never tried that.
Measuring the offset/inset and adjusting to get the smallest line is going
to help make it look cleaner. And I could use that info to make some
shims to hold the pieces equidistant from each edge till the glue starts
to set up.
I want to go try this right now, but my list of things to do keeps
getting longer..
Thanks for some great ideas!

Scott Challoner
04-29-2011, 10:18 AM

A little different than what you described, but there is a resin product called Inlace. You just engrave, fill with resin and wait for it to dry. Steve Good at Scrollsaw Workshop did a tutorial on it a while back, but I can't seem to link to it. There's plenty of info on the web though.

Chuck Stone
04-29-2011, 12:01 PM
Scott.. the Inlace is one of the Reichold Polylite resins that I use. I have
some here that I'm using for casting. (just not under the Inlace name..
much cheaper this way) It will take up to about 70% load of filler or
pigment, which is much more than the 5-7% of the polyester i normally
use. (Silmar 41)
Both the resin and the epoxy would hold, the main difference would be the
set time, I think..

Myron Benware
02-25-2012, 8:06 AM
Richard, look at the link I posted above, it has examples of that exact technique. I can't speak for loads of practice, as I seem to recall my two examples worked right out the box. It was dead easy.

Would you please check the information on your link regarding inlaying? It comes back as invalid.

Myron Benware

Ross Moshinsky
02-25-2012, 9:23 AM
Would you please check the information on your link regarding inlaying? It comes back as invalid.

Myron Benware

The process is:

1. Raster your main piece's depth to around 3/4 to 5/6 of the thickness of the inlay material.
2. Take your image and create a negative version.
3. Engrave the negative onto your inlay material so that you're left with your inlay being the full thickness and the rest is paper thin.
4. Glue in your inlay.
5. Sand away.

Rudy Ress
02-25-2012, 10:47 AM
Myron - works for me. Are you sure you are logged in when trying to view the link?