Installing Inlays into a Floor Without Jigs (Part One)

When you participate in a discussion, everyone comes to the table with different experience. Different craftsmen and women look at the same floor through different lenses of knowledge.

My point is that a lot of us look at other people’s floors and we don’t realize what went into the creation of the floor. The more educated you are, the more you’ll understand and appreciate the technicality of custom floors. I separate technicality from art/design. One floor could be stunning and so easy to make. The other could be so boring, but what a technical challenge for the installer. The real deal for me is when a floor is both.

My first custom floor had ¼” thick (6.35mm) leaves and branches. I scrolled the leaves one petal at a time, sand shaded each one, assembled them, carved them into the floor, and put in the stem as a final touch. In this post I’ll show you how to take a free form and put it in a floor without guides or jigs. After you make the inlay (in this case a leaf), these are the general steps I take:

  • Decide where you want the inlay, make sure the customer agrees, and get it in writing.
  • Trace you inlay with a fine pencil or a marking knife.
  • Use a plunge router with inlay bits and route out the cavity stopping just shy of the line.
  • Use hand tools to do the final clean up and work to the line.
  • Dry fit your leaf. Do not push it all the way in. It needs to be snug, but not too tight or it’ll break when you tap it in.
  • Apply yellow glue to the floor and walls of the cavity.
  • Carefully tap you leaf into the floor using a block.
  • The leaf should be a hair proud of the floor.
  • Sand it so it is flush with the floor.

Reading this you might think it is easy and quick, but it is not. Understand that there are so many wood working techniques and skills that go into every step. In my next post, I will explain and analyze every step of that process; we’ll go hard core technical. Thank you for reading, and I hope this will trigger someone’s interest into making a special floor.

avi hadad

Avi Hadad


Avi’s Hardwood Floors Inc.

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