Inlay Banding Tips

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Blog entry by CharlieM1958 posted 01-07-2009 09:01 PM 22067 reads 12 times favorited 28 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I just thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned about installing inlay banding. Everything I’m going to say will be pretty elementary to most, but might be helpful to some who haven’t tackled this technique yet. Here is a closeup of one of the corners of my recently posted chess table project:

The easiest way to install banding on a mitered frame like this is to do it on the individual pieces before the frame is glued up. Once I had the four sides roughly cut to size, but before mitering the ends, I cut the channels in each piece to accept the inlay. You can either do this on the router table, or, as I did in this case, on the table saw. Your method will most likely be determined by the width of banding you are inlaying. Since this one is only about 1 and 1/2 the width of a saw kerf, I thought the TS would be easiest.

The main thing to remember at this point is to set the fence for the first cut, and then cut a groove on all four pieces before moving the fence a smidgeon to widen the channel to the proper measurement. Then recut all four pieces and you’re ready to glue the banding in.

(Note: Most instructions I’ve seen tell you to cut your groove a bit shallower than the thickness of the banding so that it will sit a little proud of the surface. Then you can sand the banding down flush. I have found that it is very easy to sand all the way through the banding when doing this, so I prefer to cut the channel deep enough so that the banding is just slightly recessed, then come back and sand the entire surface down until everything is flush. This is somewhat more time-consuming, but you are a lot less likely to make a big mistake.)

A very thin bead of glue will suffice to hold the banding in place. Once it has dried, you can proceed to cut the miters. If you followed the instructions about cutting the groove in all four pieces before moving the fence, you should find that your banding meets up perfectly at the corners.

If you are a real perfectionist, you can miter the sides before installing the banding. That way, you could take the time to line up the banding so that the pattern match will be identical on all four corners. Personally, I’m just not that picky (which is why I’ll never be a real master woodworker).

Another note: If you want to install an inlay band in a rectangular pattern on a non-mitered surface as I did in the photo below, the best way I’ve found is to use the router table with stop blocks, then a sharp chisel to square the corners.

Now in case you are wondering about the plain bands of maple and walnut around the chess board, those are not inlays at all, but actually a frame-inside-a-frame. I first glued up the three thin strips into a single piece, then miterd the corners and glued them to the board before moving on to the main walnut frame.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

28 comments so far

View lew's profile


13425 posts in 4997 days

#1 posted 01-07-2009 09:10 PM

Thanks, Charlie!

I have never tried this- mainly because I had no idea even how to start. You have given me the courage and knowledge to give it a try.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 5127 days

#2 posted 01-07-2009 09:40 PM

Thanks Charlie!!!!!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 4742 days

#3 posted 01-07-2009 10:05 PM

Thank you! and happy new year by the way. I will have to give this a try some day. Did you make the bands or buy them made?

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5460 days

#4 posted 01-07-2009 10:11 PM

Actually, this is from a stash of really old stuff I picked up on eBay. I wrote about it here.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14192 posts in 5225 days

#5 posted 01-07-2009 10:15 PM

Thanks for the post. Don’t cut yourself short, you really are a MASTER woodworker.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View mtnwild's profile


4448 posts in 4769 days

#6 posted 01-07-2009 11:44 PM

Thanks from me too! You make it sound doable.

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View Roger Gaborski's profile

Roger Gaborski

341 posts in 4990 days

#7 posted 01-07-2009 11:56 PM

Excellent job.

-- Roger

View CanadianWoodChuck's profile


402 posts in 5155 days

#8 posted 01-08-2009 01:56 AM

Great advice Charlie. Did you make the two tone banding? I’d like to try that technique. Actually the pool in the background looks very tempting when it minus 10 or 20 c these days. :)

-- Wood Chuck (Bruce)

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 5064 days

#9 posted 01-08-2009 01:56 AM

Thanks Charlie. This was a nice primer on doing inlays. Like Lew, I have never tried this and been somewhat intimidated by the process but this definately looks doable to me.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5642 days

#10 posted 01-08-2009 02:16 AM

Thanks for the suggestions Charlie. A great job. Of course having all 4 corners match on banding means you need to design the space where the bands will appear so that they are an exact multiple of the pattern.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5460 days

#11 posted 01-08-2009 03:03 AM

If I can do it, it ain’t rocket science, folks. :-)

Karson, that’s why I said “line up the banding so that the pattern match will be identical on all four corners.” You can have all four corners look the same, but still not have the pattern be continuous as it rounds the corners. You are absolutely correct that the dimensions of the piece and placement of the banding would have to be planned in advance to make that happen.

Bruce, if you mean the wider bands, those are just strips that go all the way through…. not banding.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4915 days

#12 posted 01-08-2009 03:23 AM

Looks nice, Charlie.

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 4950 days

#13 posted 01-08-2009 04:15 AM

Nice writeup Charlie. One thing I’ve found that works well for bandings that have a pattern is to cut the corners so they are identical and continuous around the bend. You’re actually cutting 2 pieces for each side, concentrating on the corners. Then at the midpoint of the inlay, cut the ends to get a symetrical piece on each end. This sometimes means you get a longer run of one color in the center, even skipping one of the pattern blocks, or a shorter pattern block in the center. But I think it’s less noticable at the center than breaking it up at the corners. Course, if you happen to get lucky enough that your pattern length works out to an even break with your channel length you can skip alll that.
The other thing I couldn’t do without are thse cheap plastic glue syringes for getting glue into the channel.

-- Use the fence Luke

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5460 days

#14 posted 01-08-2009 05:37 AM

Doug, that is a great tip…. I never thought of that, but the eyes are drawn to the corners. A little cheating in the middle of a long run would never be noticed.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 4974 days

#15 posted 01-08-2009 02:16 PM

Thanks, Charlie!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

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