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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.

 

 

Cool Square. But What the Heck is it Used For?

Cool Square. But What the Heck is it Used For?

One of my favorite tools is the “English Layout Square” I built for the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. Heck, I like it so much I put it on the cover of my book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest,” built one on “The Woodwright’s Shop” and even had its shape engraved on the sidewall Continue reading»

The post Cool Square. But What the Heck is it Used For? appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.

 

Highly Recommended: Grace USA Screwdrivers

Highly Recommended: Grace USA Screwdrivers

It’s sad to say, but all of the so-called “lifetime” screwdrivers I’ve tried over the years are sorely lacking in one way or another. On many of them, the tips are soft or poorly shaped. Soft tips are, of course, worthless and soon become useless (unless you need a shank in prison). The shape of Continue reading»
 

Discovery

  One of the joys of learning is discovery. I remember what it was like to be new to woodworking. The first few years were a constant period of discovery. Oh you can do this with this tool or you can make this shape with this coffee can or what’s a French curve? Cool. And [...]
 

& Tapered Mortises">Chair Joinery: Tapered Tenons & Tapered Mortises

Chair Joinery: Tapered Tenons & Tapered Mortises

Because chairs take abuse like a rented mule, the simple mortise-and-tenon joint is sometimes not enough. In traditional Windsor chair construction, the legs and spindles are attached to the plank seat using tenons that are cone-shaped along their lengths. So the mortises have to be the same shape. These tapered joints are clever. The more Continue reading»
 

Small End-table with Decorative Inlay

My youngest son (Brian) likes making intricate furniture as much, if not more than, the larger projects we do. He recently created an end table w/ a small inlay for us and we took a few pics of the various stages of production. This work is historically referred to as marquetry.
Like all design work, it starts with a drawing

then he created his bird from 1/8th inch maple
then he used the bird cut out to mark exactly the size and shape of the area to be removed on the table top
the router is used to create the inset area
he made the bird’s beak from a naturally red-colored wood called Paduak
inlay prior to finish coat
here is a detail of the drawer within the skirt
hand-rubbed oil finished with a urethane top coat
I began to think of how great one of these inlays would look as a small ‘signature’ on one of the doors or drawer fronts in a kitchen or entertainment unit. A rosette made from a contrasting wood could also make a piece richer
this is a pair of doors I made many years ago for a client using what is known as marquetry inlay banding.
It seems that the possibilities for cabinet and furniture makers are endless

Russell Hudson / Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc.

 

& Tenon">Wedged Mortise & Tenon

Wedged Mortise & Tenon

This joint will never loosen!

By Tom Caspar

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

Tap, tap, tap. The wedges go home, the glue squeezes out and a big smile lights up your face. “This joint isn’t coming apart for a hundred years,” you say. “It’s as solid as a rock!”

Making a wedged mortise-and-tenon joint is richly rewarding. Once you understand how it works (see photo, below), you can’t help but admire the joint’s elegant simplicity. It also sends a message. A wedged joint says to one and all, “This was made by a skilled woodworker.”


How the Joint Works

Here’s a cutaway view of a wedged mortise-and-tenon joint. Driving in the wedges forces the tenon to flare into a fan or dovetail shape. The mortise is tapered to match the angle of each wedge. Like a dovetail, this joint can’t pull apart after the wedges go home.

This tenon has two unusual features: saw kerfs that create flexible strips and holes that disperse the strain that the wedges create. The wedges cause the strips to bend; the holes prevent the bend from splitting the rail.

 

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker July 2006, issue #122.

July 2006, issue #122

Purchase this back issue.

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