The Trick to Butterfly Inlays

Throughout our Mission Furniture line you will find butterfly inlay keys in the doors and tabletops. In many cases they appear to join two pieces of wood together, but they are really just for show and are about 1/8" to 3/16" thick.

The most efficient way to make the inlay is with the plunge router, but it is possible to use a fixed base router instead. The only problem with the fixed base is that you will have to tip the router into the cut by hand which will take some practice.

Whichever kind of router you use, its base must accept a Porter-Cable style template guide. The Whiteside guide system will fit DeWalt, Porter Cable, Black & Decker and some Sear's routers and many others. In each router bit package from Whiteside are suggestions on how to to use the bit. If your router base doesn't have a hole sized for a Porter Cable style template guide, you can buy an adapter to fit.

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The Custom made American Furniture Design Template Guide has 6 different butterfly keys ranging from 1 1/4" to 2 1/2" so you have a wide range to choose from for your project. Select the wood for the keys in a contrasting  color like red and white oak, or a highly figured or quarter sawn material. This will help your project really stand out.

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To begin, route the butterfly's in stock 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 20" or as long as you need based on the size of the inlays. Attach the template guide to the router base without the removable collar. Install the centering pin and tighten the collar. Remove the centering pin and install the carbide bit. Adjust the plunge router depth so that it cuts 1/8" deeper than the template.

Either clamp the template to the stock or use double-sided carpet tape to hold it in place. Cut the butterfly inlays by following the pattern clockwise.

After you have cut the number of butterflies necessary for your project, use the bandsaw to cut them free from the stock.

Install the removable collar on the template guide. Adjust the plunge router depth to 1/32" to 1/64" shallower than the inlays that you have just made.

Clamp or tape the AFD template to the work piece. For vertical alignment, match the template to a glue line if possible. Route the recess. Be careful because the 1/8" solid carbide bit can be fragile. The guide will not create square corners and it will be necessary to use a chisel to cut them square for the inlay to fit.

Spread a thin layer of glue into the recess, put in the inlay, remove any glue squeeze out, cover the inlay with a piece of paper from a brown shopping bag. Clamp a board on the top and when dry, remove the paper by wetting the leftover paper. Use a sander if necessary or a scraper to level them with the top.

You have now completed a perfect inlay in the same manner as we do here in our shop.

Brian Murphy
American Furniture Design Co.

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