String Inlay Made Easy
Two simple, shopmade tools make the slits and the stringing
Synopsis: String inlay is a decorative technique that can add instant appeal to a chair back, tabletop, jewelry box, or other piece of furniture. And while you could use a router to cut the narrow recess required for this accent, Michael Fortune prefers a shopmade cutter he creates from a card scraper. It allows you to work efficiently but without the risk of mistakes that a power tool can pose. It also puts you in control of the width of the inlay. Here, Fortune shows you how to create the inlay tool and how to choose the right wood, cut the strips for the string inlay, and install it.
I love my power tools, but sometimes in woodworking the most effective way of doing something does not involve plugging in a tool. That’s certainly the case with string inlay. This decorative technique can light up a chair back, a tabletop, or a jewelry box, instantly increasing its appeal—and its value, by the way.
I create the slits for string inlay with a simple, shopmade cutter. It takes me an hour or so to modify a standard card scraper into a custom tool that flawlessly cuts straight or curved slits in flat stock and just as easily handles slits on convex or concave surfaces. You could use a router to cut some of these slits, but the process is far more laborious, requiring jigs and offset fences and many light passes to cut a narrow slit without snapping the fragile bit. And that’s not to mention the ever-present peril: routers are not known for small, easily repaired mistakes. Using a shopmade inlay tool allows you to work briskly with confidence and to position your fence right along the line where you want the inlay—there’s no need to follow the…