I want to make walnut inlays in a maple board as shown below. How might I make the necessary cuts?

P.S. this picture is from -- https://herringboneboards.com/boards/maple-herringbone-board-with-walnut-inlays/

**Herringbone Pattern Cutting Board**

  • 2
    There seem to be two questions here, one about "45 degree cuts" and one about how to do a dovetail key/butterfly joint. I'm not at all sure what you're referencing with the part about the "45 degree cuts", so maybe you could clarify that? Dec 5 '18 at 23:57
  • Please try to limit any future Questions to one major query, the 'inlay' here and the dovetail keys are two separate queries and shouldn't be combined. Also, as with most things, there's rarely if ever one best way to do anything so it's best to ask for good methods rather than a best method.
    – Graphus
    Dec 6 '18 at 8:33
  • Despite the concerns about the question quality, it's a very pretty board and figuring out how to make them yourself definitely seems like a worthwhile endeavor!
    – FreeMan
    Dec 6 '18 at 15:20

How might I make the necessary cuts?

I don't think there are cuts where you think there are.

The walnut 'inlays' here are not all inlays I'd bet, I can't be sure but I'd bet the boards are built up much as seen, the edges sawn square afterwards and then finally the bowties (AKA butterfly keys or Dutchmen) laid in.

If you look carefully at the picture and the orientation of the maple blocks used to make up the herringbone main field, the walnut pieces could simply be glued in place along the sawtooth edges at the time of construction (with more maple blocks glued outside of them and so on).

The main challenge building up a board in this way would be in clamping it firmly without everything moving around due to the lubrication provided by the glue. Other than using many clamps I think the ideal method might be to build a simple clamping frame on a piece of MDF or plywood to help contain the pieces* and limit the total number of clamps needed.

If built with care a clamping frame could probably allow a board of this size to be clamped successfully with just four stout clamps, without a clamping frame I think you'd want at least eight and possibly 12 or more.

Also, how do I make those bowtie inlays?

This should be asked as a separate Question.

*An alternative would be custom clamping blocks or cauls.

  • Thanks for the answer. I think you are right. Those are not cuts but glued up maple and thin walnut boards as seen in the picture. The clamping will definitely be a challenge.
    – nuaavee
    Dec 20 '18 at 19:02

The joint you're referring to is normally known as a "dovetail key" or "butterfly joint".

The usage you see here is not typical. Normally this would be used to keep a wider board/slab from "checking", or splitting along the grain from the end of the board. As such, the key would be oriented perpendicular to the grain of the larger board.

There are many ways to make the key, but the easiest is probably just to lay it out with a bevel gauge and cut the waste out with a hand saw. You'll want to leave it as a part of a larger board to allow easier handling and crosscut it free as the last step.

To inlay the key I would just place it where I want it, trace around it with a pencil (or, better yet, a marking knife) and then chisel out the waste.

I would start chiseling carefully around the edges, alternating paring down (with hand pressure at first) and then pushing in almost horizontally (bevel up) to your pare line to pop out some waste. This is similar to how you'd start a "first class cut" with a hand saw. Repeat this deeper and deeper until your edges are well established and then hog out the center waste with your chisel (bevel down) and a mallet.

Repeat establishing edges and hogging out waste until you're at your desired depth. (Make sure the depth of the mortise is less than the thickness of the key!)

Alternatively, you can hog out most of the waste with a router and a plunge bit and then clean up the edges with a chisel. Just be very careful not to let the router get away from you. Practice on some scrap first to get a feel for how the router handles freehand.

It may help inserting the key if you put a slight bevel on the bottom edges.

Once you glue it in the key should be slightly proud of the surface. Flush it up with a hand plane (or a scraper/chisel/router/belt sander/whatever you prefer).

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