Simple Wood Inlay Techniques

By Wade Shaddy

There are a few simple wood inlay techniques commonly used by woodworkers. One easy technique used to create a simple dot inlay involves the use of a special drill bit, known as a Forstner bit, and a plug-cutting bit. Another inlay technique uses a simple hobby razor pen and some thin luan mahogany.


You will need a 1/2-inch plug-cutting bit and a 1/2-inch Forstner bit to create a dot inlay. You can find both of these at any home improvement store. Start by placing the plug-cutting bit in a drill press. Place a piece of 1/2-inch-thick black walnut under the bit and cut out three plugs. The plugs will stay in the bit, so use a screwdriver to pop them out. Remove the plug-cutting bit and install the Forstner bit into the drill press.


Place the 3/4-inch maple under the Forstner bit. Drill three holes to a depth of about 1/4 inch; it doesn't have to be a precise depth. Place a small drop of white glue into the holes. Place the walnut plugs into the holes and tap them down tight with a hammer. Wait 30 minutes for the glue to dry. Use a handheld oscillating tool with a sanding attachment to sand the top of the plugs off flush with the maple.


Use a pair of heavy-duty scissors or a small coping saw to cut a small trapezoid out of a piece of 1/8-inch luan mahogany. Make it about 1 by 1 1/2 inches in size. Place the cut-out trapezoid on a piece of 3/4-inch white pine. Use a hobby razor pen to trace around the perimeter of the trapezoid. Remove the trapezoid and use the razor pen to deepen the tracing in the pine to a depth of about 1/8 inch or slightly less.

Placing Inlay

Use a small chisel to chip and carve the inside of the tracing out to a depth of just less than 1/8 inch. Test fit the mahogany trapezoid in the hole. It probably won't fit, so use a piece of 100-grit sandpaper to delicately sand the sides of the trapezoidal figure until it fits tightly in the hole. Place a small amount of glue in the hole. Tap the trapezoid into the hole. It's okay if it sticks up higher than the hole, or if it sinks slightly below the surface. Wait one hour for the glue to dry and sand the mahogany and pine down flush with each other. You can sand by hand or use a handheld oscillating tool with a sanding attachment.

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