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    Make a Simple Checkered Inlay Banding

    more on woodworking safety

    Tools and Materials

    Inlays and bandings are one of things in fine furniture making that most folks veer away from, fearing that it’s too complex a process to attempt. In reality however, most furniture banding is crafted by gluing up laminates of contrasting woods, sawing the resulting block apart into individual pieces, and then re-orienting and gluing them back together to make a pattern.

    The easiest inlay I’ve ever done is a simple checkered pattern. It’s great for adorning picture frames and boxes and best of all, you can often find scrap wood in your shop that will fit the bill perfectly for this project.

    How to Make

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woodsclick to enlargeresawing a block of wood for banding

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woods: Select two contrasting wood species—in this case walnut and maple—and glue up a chunky block, of 1/4-in. thick strips of each wood. At the bandsaw, re-saw an 1/8-in. strip off the resulting block. You'll notice in this image that the two outer layers of the "sandwich" are both walnut. That was actually a mistake on my part. The two outer layers should be of different species if you want to maintain an alternating pattern throughout the final banding.

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woodsclick to enlarge

    Create a Custom Set-Up Block for Crosscutting: The next step will require crosscuting that thin strip into various pieces. For a cleaner cut, I’m going to use a think kerf blade on my tablesaw but this requires some careful thinking when it comes to safety. Before you begin, make a hold-down that doubles as a stop block for use on your tablesaw crosscut sled. The importance of this comes into play in the next step. You don’t want that little off-cut vibrating next to the saw blade and shooting off into space, where it could harm you.

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woodsclick to enlarge

    Set Up Your Crosscut Sled: Here's my final set up for crosscutting the small 1/4-in. wide slivers which will make up the checkered banding. I used a stop block (at extreme right) to position my set-up block in such a way that I would achive 1/4-in. wide off-cuts from my banding workpiece. I chose 1/4-in. widths for the off-cuts because that is also the same width as the alternating walnut/maple strips. You'll also notice that I screwed down a new auxiliary fence and base (both of masonite) to my crosscut sled to get perfect zero clearance cuts (no tearout).

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woodsclick to enlargecrosscut set-up for banding pieces

    Crosscut Your Workpieces: Here are the resulting 1/4-in wide strips which will be inlaid into a shallow groove in my workpiece (whatever it may be). I could see using these inlays for a picture frame, or even some fancy drawer fronts.

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woodsclick to enlarge

    Glue in the Inlay: After cutting a 1/4-in. wide groove in my workpiece, I added a bit of glue in the groove and inserted the checkered inlay pieces. A block of hardwood and a mallet made bottoming out the pieces that much easier. The depth of the groove was slightly less than the 1/8-in. thickness of my inlay. It's best to have the inlay pieces slightly proud of the workpiece. That way you can come back with a block plane and a sanding block to flush everything nicely.

    Glue-Up and Resaw a Block of Contrasting Woodsclick to enlarge

    The Final Product: The resulting inlay didn't take much time to produce. Better yet, folks looking at your project will be fooled into thinking you painstakingly inlaid each checker block individually. Don't give up the secret! Again, note my little "error." Because my initial glued-up block had walnut on both outside faces, every inch or so you'll see two pieces of walnut side-by-side--as opposed to walnut/maple/walnut/maple. It's still a repeatable pattern so it's not such a big deal, but it is something to consider.