A Beautiful Butterfly

If you’ve ever read the The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a child, you might understand the title of this post. The metaphor is quite fitting seeing as though I started this journey several weeks ago in a semi-cocoon of inlay ignorance and now I have several beautiful butterflies to marvel.

Since I didn’t find much on this subject, I’m going to provide a detailed description of how I created the inlays. It all starts with purchasing a kit. For me, I went with this one from Eagle America. There really was no rhyme or reason why I picked this one over others; it just seemed like a good deal but I’m sure the other kits are just as good.

The first thing was determining the size. This is a bit deceiving since I used the ENTIRE template size in my estimates. The actual size of the final product is much smaller. I’ll keep this in mind next time.


Note the difference between the entire template size and the actual butterfly.

The next thing was to practice on scrap. This is where I determined using the 1/8″ diameter bit to hog out the entire mortise would be a real pain. I chucked up a forstner bit into my drill press and used it to hog out the majority of the waste. Going back to the size matters discussion, the scrap helped me realize the size I’d chosen was too big for the desired effect. I can’t recommend using scrap enough because it helps develop a feel for the process and work out the design without damaging my final workpiece.

Practicing also helped me dial in the depth of the inlay; whereupon, I noticed my bit didn’t go as deep as I wanted. I ended up firing up the planer to take about 1/4″ off the inlay material (cherry in this case). I was a bit conservative with the amount of material I removed, which lead to some forced ingenuity when making the inlays. You see, even at maximum depth, I couldn’t get the router to break through my inlay cherry. I used a small drill bit and a chisel to break out the inlays. Then it was floats, chisels, and sandpaper for final fitting.

Another thing to note is the importance of getting a truly flat mortise bottom. Once I switched to the smaller template, it was a breeze to move the router back and forth to achieve good results. With larger holes and/or sleeping children, I would’ve pulled out my router plane. Since I did this sans little ones in the house, it was power tools all the way.

Fitting all the inlays would’ve been too easy, so Murphy decided to help out. I didn’t use enough double-sided tape on my last mortise, which caused the template to move on me after a few passes. The template doesn’t come with crosshairs (hint: crosshairs rule), so I couldn’t get it completely back in position. This caused one of mortises to be a bit big. Again, an opportunity for creativity: channeling my inner Spagnuolo I decided to repair with epoxy. My home center epoxy leaves a bit to be desired and I’ll step up to West System at some point. I couldn’t justify the cost with nearly a full bottle of the other stuff sitting on my shelf.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. This is a bit long for a blog post but I wanted to capture as much as possible since very little exists on this topic. All-in-all, this was pretty fun and great way to add to my skill set. I’ll be doing this again.

Sanded and ready for finish.

Sanded and ready for finish.


About Shawn Nichols

Heady. Phishy. Woodworker
This entry was posted in Kids Furniture and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Beautiful Butterfly

  1. I’ve always liked the contrast of maple and walnut. The butterflies turned out real nice… and I bet they felt better on Sunday.


  2. Pingback: Cutting Board Season 2015 | While The Glue Dries

  3. Pingback: Butterflies on the Inside | While The Glue Dries

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