Butterfly keys

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Forum topic by drcodfish posted 11-10-2015 02:14 PM 1054 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View drcodfish's profile


124 posts in 1756 days

11-10-2015 02:14 PM

The last time I asked a question here I was chided for not doing a search. I have another question and meant to do a search but can’t figure out how, any help would be appreciated.

In the mean time I’m interested in putting some butterfly keys in some 1/2” qtr sawn white oak boards. I viewed a couple youtube videos but would appreciate any tips you have to share.


-- Dr C

6 replies so far

View ElChe's profile


630 posts in 2140 days

#1 posted 11-10-2015 03:42 PM

Get or make a template. Get appropriate bushing for router. Bushings are available from Rockler Woodcraft etc. Double sided tape the template (make it or buy it big enough to hold the router and be stable). Have at it. It is pretty simple to do. I bought a template because I’m too impatient to make templates. The template I bought had various sizes.

The other way to do it is to handcut the butterfly and use it as a template to mark the hole and chisel waste out the hole and fit the handcut butterfly. You can make delicate looking butterfly this way. But it takes time. Done it one time with nice looking butterflies. I wasted most of the hole with a router plane to depth. I think I go 1/8” deep on 1/2” material?

-- Tom - Measure twice cut once. Then measure again. Curse. Fudge.

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile


1053 posts in 1870 days

#2 posted 11-10-2015 03:46 PM

Google, LumberJocks – butterfly keys. The search on the sight is of no use to me.

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle"

View rhybeka's profile


4868 posts in 3925 days

#3 posted 11-10-2015 07:01 PM

what ElChe said – I just completed a project putting bowties/butterflies into 2x lumber for a decorative feature. Creating them first and then making the hole is much easier than the reverse. it sounds like yours will be very thin which will be interesting at the corners – my material ended up being 1/4” thick spalted oak/walnut and I had trouble loosing corners towards the end. hopefully it was just me and my newbness.

-- Beka/Becky - aspiring jill of all trades, still learning to not read the directions.

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 2026 days

#4 posted 11-10-2015 09:21 PM

To add to the rest of the responses , the templates can be nearly any design or size you consider pleasant.
Something to consider when creating a template is the intricacy of the design you choose, the tighter the angle changes the smaller the bit will need to be and 1/8” is the smallest with a working depth of about 1/4”

-- I meant to do that!

View jdh122's profile


1165 posts in 3621 days

#5 posted 11-10-2015 09:43 PM

For a decidedly low-tech approach (very well-explained) you could check out


-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View hhhopks's profile


659 posts in 3181 days

#6 posted 11-10-2015 10:39 PM

Here are my steps. Hopefully, I didn’t miss anything that is obvious. Nothing fancy but works for me.

  1. Pick the right wood stock with proper grain orientation. @Grain should be parallel to the length of the key. @@The end of the key should look like quarter sawn lumber.
  2. Cut key blank stock on table saw.
  3. The key blank stock makes multiple keys.
  4. Use the key blank stock is used as a template to draw (knife) the outline on to the joining surface.
  5. Go over the marks with a pencil so it can be seen better.
  6. Use a router the majority of the material out and to set the depth (about 1/8 – 1/16” to the edge).
  7. Use a sharp chisel to get to the edges.
  8. Cut key from blank stock with thickness slightly more than the depth of the router.
  9. Chisel the bottom of the key with a slight chamfer.
  10. Lay the key over the routed key hole.
  11. Check to see if the bottom of the key will go in.
  12. If not, go back and touch up the key hole or the key & retest the fit.
  13. If the bottom fits, then I apply glue on both surface.
  14. Tap evenly as possibly can.
  15. Tap harder if I am confident and hope that everything will be all right.
  16. Let it dry.
  17. If necessary saw off excess key protruding.
  18. Clean up with a hand plane (smooth and no glue).
  19. Sand if needed.

What I am not sure is: What is the required key thickness relative to the joined surface thickness? Currently, I am just shooting from the hip and making a judgement call.

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

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