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I just purchased a router inlay kit and i'm going to be starting a project where I want to cut out a section of a tabletop all the way through, and then create an insert for it. But, I want to create a lip on the underside of the insert that's about 1/4 inch wider so that I can insert and remove it whenever I want and the lip will guide it into place and keep it flush with the top.

I know I need to create a template to accomplish this, but I'm not 100 percent sure on how to go about it.

Underside of table top

Insert for table top

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  • How thick is the tabletop? What shape is the insert? (I know these are strange questions, but the hardest part of your task is accurately cutting the bottom face -- the part that rests on the cut in tabletop -- of the insert.) May 23 '20 at 16:22
  • Maybe include a simple drawing of the profile you have in mind, and the general dimensions. I'm having trouble imagining the details of what you are describing.
    – jdv
    May 23 '20 at 17:44
  • I added some images for reference. The cut in the tabletop is 51" x 7" and the lip is 1/4" around. Table top is 3/4" thick
    – Tom D
    May 23 '20 at 19:47
  • Tom, is the Sketchup image upside down? Reason I ask is that I can't figure out what purpose the rebate/rabbet serves unless this is flipped over, where the projecting lip then acts as a natural support for the insert.
    – Graphus
    May 24 '20 at 8:29
  • Its because I'm going to add mechanics under the table to lift the insert into place from the underside, rather than dropping it in from the top
    – Tom D
    May 25 '20 at 2:52
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Standard router inlay kits rely on different size guides to cut the inside (tabletop) and outside (insert).

One template (in your case, a little bigger than 51"x7") will guide for both the tabletop and the insert cut.

If you wanted to get fancy, you could make a second template that would guide for the smaller hole, but since there's math involved, I wouldn't bother. Plus, you'd have to be perfectly accurate to center the two.

I would use a router guide collar to cut to a slight offset within the original tabletop cutout. (If the guide is deeper than you want the first recess, you'll have to shim the router base with something.) That'll take care of the stepped hole through the rest of the tabletop. Square the corners if that's important to you.

Now that you know what size the smaller (lower) hole in the tabletop is, you can cut your insert to size. You can go nuts with accuracy, or make it slightly loose... if loose, the top will hold it in fine. The goal is to get the underside of the insert dead flat.

My best idea would be to use a bearing guided rabbeting bit (exact size would be tricky), though you could also use a straight bit on a router table with a fence. A bearing guided wing cutter from the top side would work, but would be tough to keep perfectly accurate. You could also pass the insert through a table saw.

Last tip: make your template way oversized so you'll have the ability to clamp it to the table without getting in the way of the router.

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  • I think the idea of using the bearing guided rabbet bit might be what im looking for, I guess the idea is that I could switch out to a smaller bearing to cut the outside while still using the same template? Something like this?amazon.com/Whiteside-Router-Bits-1952-Diameter/dp/B000K2C862
    – Tom D
    May 24 '20 at 5:37
  • honestly I guess if I used my routing pattern kit and just added a bearing that added 1/4 inch of radius, do you think that would work? I was also just planning to use my plunge base to cut the different depths
    – Tom D
    May 24 '20 at 5:41
  • @TomD, yes you can simply use bits with different sized bearings to do this — a vid was posted within the last week or two showing this method for enlarging an existing hole drilled with a hole saw. Alternatively using a bit with replaceable bearings, where you swap in a larger or smaller bearing for the next stage in the routing process, will yield the same result.
    – Graphus
    May 24 '20 at 8:26
  • If you only have a trim router and are limited to 1/4" shank bits, then the linked rabbetting set will work -- I'd just be careful to take very small bites. If you have the option, I'd suggest 1/2" shanks with such a large cutter head. May 24 '20 at 13:31
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    Thanks all, I think this will work now based on the info you guys have provided
    – Tom D
    May 25 '20 at 2:54

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