Meet the Aumbry (You Know its Grandkids)

  When it comes to understanding the history of furniture, I think John Gloag put it best when he wrote: “Nearly all articles of free-standing furniture are variations on two basic shapes: a platform or a box.” (“A Social History of Furniture Design: From B.C. 1300 to A.D. 1960” pp. 3-4, Crown) Platforms include: tables, chairs, stools, beds and benches. Boxes include: chests, cabinets, bookcases, cupboards, dressers and the like. […]

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Butterfly Inlay

Butterfly Inlay

Make a perfect fit with a shop-made template.

By Tom Caspar

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

Make the template

All you need is one template to make both the inlay pieces and the recesses they fit into. Our shop-made template produces perfectly symmetrical, straight-sided butterflies, but you can modify the template for any shape or size butterfly you want. You can also buy a template that has seven different sizes of butterflies (see Source, below).

The material you make the template from should be 1/4-in. thick. If it’s thinner, the router’s template guide will bottom out on your workpiece. Most of the material you probably have on hand, such as plywood or hardboard, is actually less than 1/4-in. thick. You can use it, however, if you add a shim, as shown in Step 4, below.

Cutting List

1. Make two rectangles of 1/4-in. material (A) and cut them in half at a 15-degree angle.

2. Flip one half of each rectangle over and glue it to the other half. You don’t have to clamp them. Simply apply a thin bead of glue to one edge and rub the two pieces together. Pull the joint tight with a piece of masking tape and set them on a flat, non-stick surface, such as a piece of melamine or waxed paper.

3. Cut two larger rectangles (B) from the same material and glue all four pieces together. Use the same rub-and-tape technique. Make sure all the top surfaces are even.

4. If your material is less than 1/4-in. thick, shim the template with cardboard, plastic laminate, mat board or whatever you have on hand. The total thickness of the template and shim should not exceed 5/16 in. Cut a hole in the shim that’s about 1/8-in. larger than the hole in the template. Glue or tape the shim to the template.

5. Draw centerlines on the template. (If you’re using dark hardboard, first apply a dab of white correction fluid to make these lines more visible.) Cutting the corners off the template makes it easier to clamp the template to a workpiece.

Rout the butterflies

Prepare some straight-grained blanks 3/4 in. x 1-1/4 in. x 16 in. It’s a good thing to have a little bit of contrast in color or grain pattern between the butterflies and the surrounding panels. Butterflies made of white oak go well with panels made of red oak, for example.

Attach the template guide to your router base and install the bit. Adjust the plunge depth of your router so it cuts 1/8-in. deeper than the template and shim.

Clamp the template to a blank. You can center it by eye. To cut butterflies near the ends of the blank, support one side of the template with another piece of 3/4-in. wood. Set the router on the template and butt the guide against one of its inside edges. Plunge the bit and follow the pattern clockwise.

Cut the butterflies

Stand the butterfly blank on edge and glue it to a backer board about 6-in. wide. Run a piece of tape along the top of the butterfly blank. Then put a zero-clearance insert in your tablesaw, which is essential to make this cut safely. Rip a 1/8-in.-thick strip from the blank, remove the tape, and you’ve got six identical loose inlay pieces.

Rout the recess

Put the collar on the template guide. Adjust the plunge depth of your router to cut a recess 1/32 in. to 1/64 in. shallower than the thickness of the butterfly inlay.

Clamp the template to the workpiece. For vertical alignment, match the template’s center glue line with a centerline drawn on the workpiece. For horizontal alignment, match the centerlines on the template with layout lines on the workpiece.

Rout the recess. Take it easy, because the 1/8-in. bit is fragile.

Glue the butterflies

Cut the corners of the recess with a chisel or knife. They’ll be rounded after routing, but they must be cut to acute angles so the inlay fits.

Spread a thin layer of glue in the recess, put in the inlay, scrape off any glue squeeze-out, and cover the inlay with a small piece of white paper. Clamp a thick board over the inlay and let the glue dry. The paper will absorb any further glue squeeze-out. After the glue dries, remove stuck pieces of paper by lightly wetting them. Level the inlay with a block plane or by scraping and sanding.


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

Woodcraft,, 800-225-1153, Router inlay set, #09I16; Replacement 1" bit, #09I17; Router adapter baseplate, #144931 (fits routers by Sears, Ryobi, Makita, Bosch, Porter- Cable, Milwaukee, Hitachi, DeWalt, Fein, Elu and Freud); Butterfly inlay template, #146903.

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

March 2003, issue #99

Purchase this back issue.



When Weird Chests Look Less Weird

When Weird Chests Look Less Weird

For most of my life, I thought wood that was grain-painted looked like… an unprintable bad word that rhymes with “bass.” Many pieces of furniture were grain-painted to make a less-expensive wood look like a nicer wood. During the Arts & Crafts era, pine was painted to look like quartersawn oak. If you go back in time a little further you see plain woods that were painted to look curly […]

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Remodeled Mantel 

A fireplace is often the centerpiece of a room. Most often the room and furniture is arranged around a fireplace's location. Family photos and heirlooms are showcased on the mantel and it becomes a place of interest for your visitors. From an interior design standpoint, a fireplace does wonders in setting the stage for the rest of the decor. Many of our customers come to our two stores looking for ways to update their fireplaces. Often times our customers are updating their fireplace from a wood stove to a gas insert or they are replacing their existing fireplace insert which is the perfect time to also update the rest of the fireplace surround. One of our local contractors, Brad Tufts, with Curb Appeal Construction recently completed a fireplace remodel with one of our custom mantels. He was nice enough to send us some before and after pictures of the mantel he just completed. As you can see the customer decided to have the dated red brick removed and replaced it with a flagstone type rock. We helped him pick out a reclaim timber beam to use as a mantel and found some block style corbels to give it a little extra flair. 

V-Carve Inlay

V-Carve Inlay

A simple method for creating precision inlays from almost any design.

By Randy Johnson

V-carve inlay takes advantage of a CNC’s ability to precisely rout matching parts. In this case the parts are made as opposites and fit together to create a precise-fitting inlay. The sides of the parts are beveled and fit together like the lid on jack-o’-lantern pumpkin. The technique is surprisingly easy to learn and implement, in spite of the fact that it would be nearly impossible to create these parts any other machine or by hand. It’s truly a technique that’s unique to the CNC. The fact that almost any design can be used, opens up many creative opporutunites. As CNC’s become more common in small shops, I fully expect to see v-carve inlays showing up on furniture in some intersting ways.

Step 1

Layout your design. Almost any design will work, but all individual parts of the design must be made with a single continuous line so the router has a complete path to follow. A shape that is open-ended or has a gap in the line will not be recognized by the v-carving program. I designed this pattern (right) in about 15 minutes, using V-Carve Pro from Vectric. I started with a single “petal” shape and then copied it using a function called “copy circular array” to create the 12 identical shapes. There’s no need to shy away from sharp details such as corners or points. V-carving programs excel at capturing such detail. For more information on v-carving see “V-Carving in 10 Easy Steps”.

Click any image to view a larger version.

Step 2

Set the flat area cutting depth for the pocket portion of the inlay to .15”. Setting the depth to this dimension provides clearance under the inlay to ensure that it doesn’t bottom out in the pocket. The dotted line represents the location of the pattern, which in this case is the surface of the board.

Step 3

Set the cutting depth for the inlay in two stages. First set the “start” cutting depth at .10” and then the cutting depth at .10”. Setting the cutting depths in this fashion will ensure a small amount of clearance between the inlay and pocket boards. The dotted line also represents the elevation or the location of the pattern in the board.

How it works

The angled shoulders of the inlay and pocket intersect to create a tight, wedged fit. The cutting depths for these parts are set to provide clearance between the parts (Steps 2 and 3). The excess top portion of the inlay is removed down to the dotted line to reveal the final pattern (Step 7).

Step 4

Rough rout the background and wide areas with a straight bit. Rough routing removes the majority of the wood in the large areas. This reduces the amount of material the v-bit needs to remove in Step 5 and shortens the overall machining time for the project by about 15 minutes. I also routed the cutout profile around each part at this time, although the parts are still attached to the outer boards with tabs. It took about 20 minutes to rough rout and profile this design.

Step 5

V-carve the design details with a 90° v-bit. Notice that the inlay on the left is a mirror image of the design on the right. They must be opposites in both relief and orientation in order to fit together. This is important to remember when laying out and programming your design. This step took about 25 minutes.

Step 6

Apply glue to both parts. A small brush makes it easy to get the glue into the v-carved areas. The inlay portion has been trimmed to rough size on the bandsaw.

Step 7

Tighten the clamps lightly at first and then add a little pressure to each clamp until they are all fully tightened. Applying uneven pressure can cause misalignment of the parts. Leave clamped until glue is completely dried.

Step 8

Rout off the excess material to reveal the final inlay. The ability to control the cutting depth in increments as small as .001” makes it easy to precisely remove the extra material. For this project I used a 3/4” straight bit and programmed it to remove the majority of the material in 1/8” deep passes until it got to within .02” of the surface. I then continued with .005” passes until the bit removed just enough material to expose the inlay and get rid of the dried glue. This step took about 10 minutes.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker August/September 2011, issue #155.



Improve the Clinching Power of Your Cut Nails

Improve the Clinching Power of Your Cut Nails

Here’s a tip from Tim Henricksen, a fellow woodworker who has been building some six-board chests with me as I research this important early form of furniture. One of the trickiest things to do when building a chest with nails is to clinch the nails’ tips so they bend back into the work and hold Continue reading»

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Custom Projects Pinterest Style

Recently the Millwork Outlet has jumped on the social media bandwagon and has joined Pinterest. For the most part our Pinterest boards showcase projects that were built out of our materials or could utilize materials we have in our store. Since reclaim has become cool we have seen an increase in the number of crafters who visit our store looking for unique items to incorporate into their DIY projects. I love it when customers come into my store searching for a rustic piece of wood to recreate that rustic shelf they saw on Pinterest. 

In addition to the DIYers, we often get people who prefer the easy way out and hire us to create their projects for them. One look on the Pinterest Epic Fail Blog should convince anyone that just because it looks easy on Pinterest doesn't mean it actually is! Often times you end up spending more money buying the supplies to make a project than you would if you paid someone else to do it. 

Below I have created a photo gallery of some recent Millwork Outlet projects that are truly Pinterest worthy. All the photos are of projects our shop has completed within the last three months. Each project was the vision of our customers but was brought to realty in our door/woodworking shop and uses Millwork Outlet materials. Dan Drllevich, one of the owners at the Maple Valley store, is incredibly talented at finding unique materials to incorporate into furniture and architectural pieces. So, before you go out scouring the local junk yards for materials, set up shop in your too small garage and spend a fortune on tools for the job, make sure you visit the Millwork Outlet to see how we can help bring your reclaim projects to life. 

Overhead Lattice Wine Rack 
Custom built at the Millwor Outlet with 2" x 4" worm wood and iron. Materials supplied by Millwork Outlet.
Custom Oversized Dutch and Carriage Door 
Custom doors crafted by Millwork Outlet. Reclaim wood supplied by Millwork Outlet. Customer supplied antique windows. Door on the right is a dutch swinging door. Door on the left is a 48" wide single door. 
Worm wood sliding barn door and coffee table top
Left: Tongue and grooved worm wood and black walnut sliding barn door built by Millwork Outlet.
Right: Worm wood and cherry tongue and grooved coffee table top. Glass cover will be added when installed. 
Reclaim Dining Table Top and Legs 
Table top built at Millwork Outlet from milled reclaim beams. Heavy table legs built from reclaim 12" x 12" beams. All materials suplied by Millwork Outlet. 
Antique Table 
Planed, sanded and refinished antique construction table. Table bought from Dan Drllevich and refinsihed by Millwork Outlet.

Experiments in Board Chests

Experiments in Board Chests

For too long now I’ve been researching vernacular forms of furniture. I dislike the word “vernacular,” so I call these designs the “furniture of necessity.” These are the pieces of furniture that aren’t heralded in books or at Sotheby’s. Yet, they have remained almost unchanged in form for hundreds of years. One of these forms Continue reading»

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A Stent-style Workbench in the Wild

A Stent-style Workbench in the Wild

It’s fairly uncommon to find old workbenches in the wild that don’t have stretchers below the benchtop. After all, it’s quite handy to have a shelf down there for planes, other tools and furniture parts. So even if a workbench started life as a Roman-style bench without stretchers, I think there’s a fair chance that Continue reading»

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My Introduction to the ‘Polissoir’ – Roubo’s Wax Polisher

My Introduction to the ‘Polissoir’ – Roubo’s Wax Polisher

For most modern woodworkers, wax is not a finish. It goes on top of the finish and creates a barrier to scratches. But after reading the forthcoming translation of A.J. Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier,” it’s clear that wax was once a fast and beautiful finish for furniture. That is, when assisted with a tool that’s Continue reading»

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