Getting Inlays to "pop" in stained wood.

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Forum topic by Niches posted 06-28-2019 03:24 PM 995 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Niches's profile


10 posts in 1060 days

06-28-2019 03:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question pine finishing

Hello all I need some help finishing a project. I’ve been working on a dining room table/game table that has two removable panels on the top. For the panels I had planned on adding several butterfly inlays just for decoration (and because I had never done them before and thought it sounded fun) but after staining my test piece they blend in and the only thing that really stands out is the cut around them… I used pine for the panel and the inlays were a piece of hardwood scrap, I’m not sure what kind of wood it is. I believe this is the stain I’m using:
I had thought the harder wood would take the stain differently than the pine but I guess i was wrong.

Is there a way i can get these inlays to pop? Or does anyone have any other ideas to replace the butterflies to add a little more style?

I appreciate any suggestions anyone may have! Thanks.

7 replies so far

View EarlS's profile


4969 posts in 3679 days

#1 posted 06-28-2019 03:52 PM

Usually, taping off the areas where you don’t want stain is the best approach. Tape the area then use a sharp knife to cut along the butterfly cuts, then peel off the tape from the area you want to stain. Make sure and press the tape down well so you don’g get bleed through. keep the stain rage on the dry side as you stain around the taped off area.

There is a version of blue painter’s tape that is supposed to seal off well.

Otherwise, you could have stained the wood before you glued the butterflies in place. It’s all about keeping the stuff you don’t want stained away from the stuff you want stained.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View bondogaposis's profile


6095 posts in 3682 days

#2 posted 06-28-2019 04:32 PM

Use a much darker wood for the inlays like Wenge or a really dark piece of walnut, then don’t stain the pine so dark.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View UKkid89's profile


9 posts in 1125 days

#3 posted 06-28-2019 04:38 PM

At your HD check and see what kinds of “other” wood they have. I have used cedar fencing, which was really cheap compared to the planks, to fill in a broken piece on someones drawers. It took a lot of sanding but after it was done you couldn’t tell the difference.
My local HD store has small blocks of various woods that would work for your small butterflies. You can never tell what they have on hand it seems to be a grab bag of whatever shows up. I once saw some mahogany and a zebra wood.

-- If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy. --Red Green

View pintodeluxe's profile


6518 posts in 4144 days

#4 posted 06-28-2019 04:45 PM

Use a much darker wood for the inlays like Wenge or a really dark piece of walnut, then don t stain the pine so dark.

- bondogaposis

1+ to this idea.

FYI I wouldn’t trust the taping off technique.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

3033 posts in 1494 days

#5 posted 06-28-2019 05:35 PM

Niches; I agree with Earl – stain your piece first, apply a coat
of your clear. then install the butterfly with a dab of glue and
tap it in flush with a wood block. after the glue dries, gently
block sand and apply your clear finishes.
practicing different techniques will get you to where you want to be.

and just for decorative features, the patch only needs to be 1/16~1/8” thick.
so look for some different colored veneer pieces you can use for the bowtie.



-- I am a painter: that's what I do, I like to paint things. --

View Niches's profile


10 posts in 1060 days

#6 posted 06-28-2019 05:44 PM

Thanks for some good ideas. I’ll probably at least give several of these a try. I was also thinking about just painting the butterflies black (or at least something very dark) in my head that would be easy and looks pretty good now in the real world…

Appreciate everyone’s suggestions. Keep them coming if you have more!

View LesB's profile


3237 posts in 4774 days

#7 posted 06-28-2019 06:32 PM

You inquired about adding style to the inlays. If they are only decorative you can make them almost any shape you desire. I have used figure 8 shapes instead of the traditional sharp cornered butterfly shape and they were actually functional splines. But I have also done hearts, teddy bears, and etc.
If you have a router you can get an inlay cutting guide that both cuts the recesses and also cuts very precise inlays just by adding and removing the spacer ring. Once you have a template made you can make multiple inlays very quickly. If you haven’t seen them here is one:

You design is only limited by your imagination. Sharp corners can be a problem and need finishing by hand with a chisel.

As far as color that pops or contrasts you could stain and seal the inlay before installing it.

-- Les B, Oregon

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