Hand made inlay tool

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Project by GaryK posted 05-07-2008 10:51 PM 17694 views 137 times favorited 49 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Ever since I saw Feb 2008 Fine Woodworking magazine with the guy doing the inlays, I got interested.
The tools are available on Lie-Nielson for $155 for two of their tools, but I decided to buy two replacement cutters for $10 each instead and make my own.

I decided to make both tools in one. I use the same head with the cutter and a different attachment depending on whether I am doing curves or straight lines along an edge. The one they sell is only about 5” long and I wanted to make something a little longer, so mine is about 18” long. At this point it seems a little long, but after using it for a while I can always cut it down.

I used two woods, cocobolo for the bar because it is hard and resists bending very well, and South American boxwood for the rest. I used that because it is very strong, tools well and is abrasion resistant. I also thought that they looked good together.

I use brass sheet to keep the adjustment screw from gouging the top of the bar, and stainless to hold the blade. I used stainless because that’s what I had and again I thought it looked good. The thumb screws are brass.

For the inlay I just band saw my own strips and run them through the drum sander to get them to thickness.
Holly is the only wood for the inlay as far as I’m concerned. For you base wood you either have to use dark wood or pre-stain/dye a lighter wood to get the contrast. If you stain it afterward the inlays will be too dark defeating the purpose.

This is the setup for doing curves:


This is for doing straight edges:


This is my first test piece

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

49 comments so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4717 days

#1 posted 05-07-2008 10:55 PM

When are you going into the tool manufacturing business, K. That’s a terrific looking gauge. That’ll be in my favorites. Thanks for the post.

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4739 days

#2 posted 05-07-2008 11:11 PM

Gary, you truly are a master. Great job and thanks for the post.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View SteveKorz's profile


2140 posts in 4686 days

#3 posted 05-07-2008 11:21 PM

Wow, Gary, I’m always impressed. You have more talent in one of your fingernail clippings than I have in my whole body…

That looks very well done! I need to get a feb FWW now to see how to use it, or maybe you could do a short blog and show us. THANKS!!!!


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View Kerry's profile


162 posts in 4762 days

#4 posted 05-07-2008 11:21 PM

Looks great Gary. The few times I’ve done stringing like this I used a scratch stock to make the channel. It works fairly well, but you can end up with rough edges when cutting cross-grain. Your cutter will do that much better. Very nice,

-- Alberta, Canada

View 3DBMe's profile


134 posts in 4657 days

#5 posted 05-07-2008 11:39 PM

Nice job. I like guys who make their own solutions!

View Joey's profile


276 posts in 4788 days

#6 posted 05-07-2008 11:50 PM

that’s great gary. I have that issue too. I never thought to try and make that myself. i’ll have to put that in my things to do down the road file.

-- Joey, Magee, Ms

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 4847 days

#7 posted 05-07-2008 11:56 PM

Looks like a manufactured tool, Gary. That is terrific!

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View Slacker's profile


178 posts in 4673 days

#8 posted 05-07-2008 11:57 PM

That is too cool… where did you get the replacement cutters?

-- Adapt, improvise, overcome

View CanadianWoodChuck's profile


402 posts in 4886 days

#9 posted 05-08-2008 12:23 AM

Gary that looks great – I’ll have to get more details on this tool. The tools look manufactured. Thanks for sharing the information.

-- Wood Chuck (Bruce)

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5219 days

#10 posted 05-08-2008 12:54 AM

I don’t even know how to do inlay but I sure want to try. Maybe with something like this I could. I’ll have to find that issue also. thanks Gary. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 5299 days

#11 posted 05-08-2008 01:33 AM

where your test piece looks so nice, I can’t wait for you to post a completed project!
nice work all around.

View Grumpy's profile


26793 posts in 4823 days

#12 posted 05-08-2008 01:48 AM

Nice engineered tool Gary

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 4994 days

#13 posted 05-08-2008 01:49 AM

Shoot Gary, now I want something else! <g>
Very pro job.
Waht do you figure the cutters are made from?
They look like surgical stainless steel in the pictures. (A440) ???


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4794 days

#14 posted 05-08-2008 03:01 AM


Why am I not surprised at this well-engineered effort? Very nice job. You have both a functional piece and it is gorgeous as well.

Well done!!! You are an inspiration.

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

View blackcherry's profile


3345 posts in 4795 days

#15 posted 05-08-2008 03:11 AM

It looks like a 20.00 order is in order…nice post Gary…Blkcherry

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