That was the mistake! - Inlay Banding

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Blog entry by John8059 posted 05-23-2009 01:54 PM 2006 reads 5 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am finally working on this project again and ran into another problem. You can find out how I got this far from blogs I posted earlier. Last time I showed how I set up guides to cutting the inlay banding grooves. I eventually got all the inlay banding installed, but when I went to sand it flush with the veneer I found I could feel that the resulting surface was uneven. If I could feel it, imagine how bad it was going to look finished! (Keep in mind my hands are trained to feel irregularities after working many years in auto body repair.)

I made the banding myself and as careful as I was, the individual pieces (sliced off with a bandsaw) were not a uniform thickness. I trashed the pieces that were obviously bad and worked only with those that were within about 0.020. (That may sound like a lot, but try it yourself!) I purposefully cut the grooves about 0.010” shallower than the banding was thick. I guessed that I could take care of that and whatever else was proud of the veneer by sanding. THAT WAS THE MISTAKE. In retrospect, given what I had to work with I don’t know how else I might have done it? Got any thoughts?

The picture below shows an example of being careless, but it demonstrates the worst of what I had to fix.

There were mostly areas like that shown below where I just couldn’t get the inlay banding down any further or it was too thick and down as far as it would go. In the picture you can see I used a router with a straight bit set very close to the surface of the veneer to remove most of the excess banding. In a very few areas the bit did touch the veneer making it shiny and in fewer areas it actually removed a noticeable amount of veneer, but both sanded out very easily.

I gave quite a bit of thought to how I was going to modify the router base to compensate for moving the router over the banding that was sticking up. I came up with many elegant solutions but that wasn’t getting the job done. Finally one day I said I was going to just do it and get it done. I cut 4 pieces of brass from bar stock, rounded the edges, and used 2-sided carpet tape to attach them to the base – took 10 minutes. You can see the brass sticking out slightly from the perimeter of the router base.

I set the depth to zero bottoming the bit out on my table saw, backed it off about 0.005, and just did it. I soon found that it was not as dangerous as I thought and I did not even need to clench my teeth while I was doing it! I was done in no time.

Actually I tried sanding a sample piece before moving on to the 2nd panel. I covered the entire area in pencil lines and used 120 grit on an orbital sander applying moderate pressure. I replaced the paper often – no skimping here! I paid no attention to whether an area was bad or not and uniformly sanded the entire panel moving constantly first in one direction and then 90 degrees to it. I continued doing this until all the pencil was gone – never concentrating on where the pencil marks remained! I hope it isn’t too much longer before I see how it worked. Thanks for looking!

-- Cuz

13 comments so far

View woodworm's profile


14476 posts in 4229 days

#1 posted 05-23-2009 04:20 PM

Nice banding pattern.
Wouldn’t you want to plane it (using block plane) and scrape it?

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View lew's profile


12957 posts in 4394 days

#2 posted 05-23-2009 05:11 PM

Neat idea using the brass shims!!

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

View Splinterman's profile


23074 posts in 3999 days

#3 posted 05-23-2009 05:45 PM

Interesting solution.

View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 4478 days

#4 posted 05-23-2009 06:05 PM

I would definitely use a sharp block plane instead of the router. BUT, you need this jig:

This will allow you to cut repeatable, very thin strips. You’ll also need a high tooth hollow ground blade (about $7).

Now, about those patterns, let us know how you got the diagonal pieces clean…..whenever I cut them that skinny (I assume you did that at a 45 deg angle on the table saw and a sled?) I get a little tearout even with a Forrest blade and the cuts backed up.

Also, have any more patterns to share?


-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View John8059's profile


53 posts in 4055 days

#5 posted 05-24-2009 12:24 AM

If you can explain how I might use a plane – after the banding is installed – without gouging the surrounding wood, I have another project where I could really use that method. It is on narrow rails and stiles and there is no way a big cluncky router will do the trick.

Note – I see my pictures didn’t fit. If you need to see more, right-click the picture, look at properties, and follow the address you see there.

JC – To cut my banding, I made a setup exactly like you show but on the bandsaw. I can see how the table saw would produce cleaner surfaces and more consistent thickness, but it looks like you would waste twice as much banding in the blade as you get. Have you found an incredibly thin table saw blade?

To answer your question about the diagonal cuts, I couldn’t find a picture so I whipped up a couple diagrams. I did not use a table saw – bandsaw again! And the pieces were not perfect, but I challenge you to show me an imperfection in the finished product. I guess the blade marks and thickness irregularities sort of disappear in all the chaos of the pattern (and get filled in with glue).

I glued up a stack of 1/8” thick veneer about 4 inches thick. I staggered the pieces as shown so I didn’t waste a lot getting to the first complete slice at 45 degrees. I actually used a 45 degree block like you see in the diagram to help get them lined up.

I rigged up a contraption similar to what I show below. I think I actually built it on a sheet of thin melamine that I clamped to the bandsaw table. It had something that acted like I show the edge of the saw table doing. It was as paralllel as I could get it to the direction of feed, which if you have any bandsaw experience you will know it is NOT parallel to the blade. I remember having to play with that to get it to work, but all I had to do was rotate my contraption slightly.

I pulled the block of veneer in front of the blade and let it slide down the table to rest on the “fence”. I tightened the adjusting knobs taking up any slack and pushed the block through the blade making a cut through what must have been about 5 inches thick. As the block passed the blade and the support of the fence, the contraption took over supporting the block so it didn’t go crooked. With some patience, I ended up with enough slices to make a 40-some” long by 6’ wide stick of inlay and I have tons left over. Below you can see what you probably already figured I did to actually assemble the pieces.

I’ll take a pictures tomorrow showing some of the stuff I rigged up, the left-over slices, and some other diagonal banding I made.

-- Cuz

View John8059's profile


53 posts in 4055 days

#6 posted 05-25-2009 02:55 AM

Here is what I could find. Below is what was left after slicing the sheets of diagonals used to make the oak/cherry banding you saw above.

This is the setup I used to slice the diagonals (shown above in the diagrams). You can see some I did not use stacked at the cut end. One of the arms is purposely raised up so you could see (barely) the hole where you would screw the locking knob into. The knob has since been used for something else. It looks as though I might have used the bandsaw table edge as a guide – with the block at the right hanging over it just as you see it hanging over the panel in this picture.

Here are some slices laid top to bottom as they would be in the glue up.

My second and last batch of edge banding made from the oak and mahogany diagonals above.

A close up. Hard to tell where the banding starts, but it is sandwiched between oak on both sides. Total width 0.25”.

More of the project (in limbo) I used the inlay on.

Hope that I clear as mud now? Looking forward to hearing how to use a plane to knock down the rest of my banding.

-- Cuz

View a1Jim's profile (online now)


117955 posts in 4215 days

#7 posted 05-25-2009 04:13 AM

Hey Cuz
Most people use a card scraper. thanks for sharing.


View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 4478 days

#8 posted 05-25-2009 05:52 PM

As for the block plane method, just make sure you give a slight camber to the outer edges of your plane blade and you’ll be fine.

Thanks for the post John. TMac turned me on to a 7.5” hollow ground circular saw blade, so the kerf is pretty thin….You do waste some but you can get the banding SUPER thin… thin or thinner than commercial veneer.

On your pics, it looks as if the block or blade is diving into the block?

Forgive me John, but this looks a little scary….Have you ever tried this on the TS with a 45deg crosscut sled using a shorter stack? I think it may be a little safer and you won’t have that issue you mentioned. The only drawback is more waste…..

Please don’t take the above in a negative way, quite the opposite, I’m just tossing some ideas out there. When I first started making banding, a lot of people, (even some LJ’s!) asked me why I would make it instead of buying….I was floored! The answer seemed obvious to me…..and you too apparently. You deserve some commendation for your ingenuity and efforts. Oh, BTW, welcome to the inlay banding club….it’s pretty exclusive, and addictive :)

Now, let’s get some patterns going! You should check out the inlay posts over on TChisel’s site….He got me started in this madness.


-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4223 days

#9 posted 05-25-2009 07:00 PM

why not just go for a belt or orbital sander it should be easier ?Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 4478 days

#10 posted 05-25-2009 07:04 PM

Powered sanders and veneer do not mix….....


-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View John8059's profile


53 posts in 4055 days

#11 posted 05-26-2009 12:06 AM

I think my inlay banding days are long over, at least making it! It was an adventure I undertook with no instruction and I think I was pretty lucky that it turned as good as it did. I am close to finishing the coffee table where you first saw the banding and maybe next I will pick up on the display cabinet you see just above this. It has been sitting for at least three years. When those projects are done, I doubt I will ever touch the inlay banding agian. Few people appreciate it and probably don’t realize how much work goes into using it even if you buy it premade. If they knew how much work went into making it, surely they would think we are idiots! I do (know how much work that is) and it looks like maybe I put more work into it than required, but I am glad I had the experience and can saw I made the banding too! Where do i find TChisels site? I’ll check it but I swear I am not going to make more banding!

-- Cuz

View Karson's profile


35212 posts in 5039 days

#12 posted 05-26-2009 12:53 AM

A nice job on the banding.

-- 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 TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 4478 days

#13 posted 05-27-2009 03:51 AM

Cmon John! Don’t give up! Although you did an outstanding job on the above banding, I think there is some room for procedural tweaking which would cut your work down a lot….which leaves more time for pattern exploration! :)

TMac’s site is …..check the forums in the federal table section…..he also has some videos in the Ask the Masters series that show how they do it over at NBSS….

Have you seen my blogs on diamonds? What a PITA! But now I have that down for when I make my real ones…..once you combine straight, 45s, and diamonds, you can get thousands of patterns…..

Check these out: <- be sure to click the pages of the book to see the bandings!


-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

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