Doing Inlay with my Shapeoko

You’re barely giving yourself any room (half a mm) for error with the numbers in your first pic.
Most likely your Z-zero is set a bit too low. How are you setting that zero? Does your 30° bit have a flat at the tip.
The bottom one looks good. When you clamp that it’ll be nice and tight.

Check Community challenge #5: V-carving (closed) - #58 by neilferreri.


The numbers I used in the first picture came from the video that i3oilmaker attached in this feed. It was done by a guy named Andy Johnson. Don’t know if you watched it but this guy seems to know
What he’s talking about. He did some really nice inlay with his CNC.

So I’m not sure why his numbers were so off for me. I can only conclude that I misunderstood what he was saying. I plan on watching again. As mentioned he uses Vectrics to run his machine. Numbers get inputted into Vectrics different then Carbide Create so I had to do a little converting. I think that’s were I might have screwed up. Maybe someone else reading this could watch the video and comment on what numbers they come up with.

The second picture shows the numbers I have been using from the start. They have been working pretty good for me so far. As you mentioned, once I glue and clamp those parts, I will get a nice tight fit.

I kind of under stand how starting below the surface of your inlay stock effects how it fits in the pocket you create but i think im going to play around with that start depth number so i can see how it effects the fit.

It seems that the max depth on both the pocket and plug remain the same. In my case 0.200. The pocket start depth is always 0.00 so the only number that get manipulated is the plug start depth. I’ll post what I come up with.

This thread has some different ways to use CC to create inlays and lots of explanations on what the different depths of cuts do.


I have seen this thread before when I first looked into how to inlay but forgot about it until you just reposted it. Now that I understand the steps required to do inlay with a CNC, this article’s makes a lot more sense now so thanks for bringing it up again.


Neil – thank you for this reference! I had no idea this thread existed.

Obviously I’m not the first to tackle this problem. I will be studying your process very closely.

The files show it better than it was explained in that post. Let me know if you have a question.

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Hi Neil - I will probably have more than one question! Hope I’m not hijacking this thread –

I’ve been studying the female-side toolpaths in your “dawg” example. I see most of what you are doing, but I’m puzzled by a couple of settings. The MainPocket mills -4 mm from the selected contour; that makes sense to me. But the ClearOutPocket Top Height setting of -2 mm puzzles me. What is that setting accomplishing? The toolpath still mills down to -4 mm from the selected contours, so…?

Also, I noticed that in the MainPocket you have radial stock-to-leave of 0.2 mm but in the ClearOutPocket you have radial stock-to-leave of 2.5 mm. Any significance for those two numbers, or for the difference between them?

Finally, you said in your writeup The pocket is set to have an overall depth of 5mm. But your flat bits are only milling to -4 mm, and only the last V-bit inlay toolpath goes down to -5 mm. Doesn’t that mean the flat spaces in the female side will only be at -4 mm, with a -5 mm v-groove from the v-bit around the periphery?


Off the top of my head, the “clearout pocket” was to catch some things that were not cleared by the tapered MainPocket. I used the same toolpaths for several designs, and it was more essential in some designs than others.

The MainPocket leaves a bit for the V-bit. The ClearOutPocket is not tapered, the stock to leave was to prevent it cutting through the tapered steps and just get the bottom.

Yes. I don’t remember. That may have been a mistake or I noticed something in the preview. The bottom of the pocket was not pretty, but that didn’t matter for inlays.

I hope that helps clear up a couple things. It was mostly an exercise in proving it was possible to myself, but it was cool to see it work with just a sketch in Fusion.
@MarkDGaal used my toolpaths to make a cool cutting board. I believe he used a 1/16" endmill on the ClearOut pocket to get even more cleared out. I remember telling him to “trust the math” and go for it. I was half expecting him to waste some expensive stock (sshhh…I didn’t tell him that), but that inlaid cutting board turned out great, right Mark? I can’t find the link to his post.

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Ha, something like that. Fusion File linked at the end, not 100% sure about any of it, but that’s what the rabbit hole is for. :slight_smile:


Neil – thanks for the response! I definitely need to devote some study time to these concepts.

I struggled with inlays also, but I finally found a recipe that works. Using a 30 degree v-bit, I use 0.0" and 0.2" for the pocket, and 0.18" and 0.08" for the inlay.


I pretty much came to the same conclusion and numbers as you.
I watched a lot of how to videos on inlay and it seamed so complicated so when I saw a video basically using your numbers except for the numbers on the inlay. I thought I just lucked out but it worked a second time.

I’ll try your numbers of 0.180 and 0.08 on my inlays to see how it works.


Ok so I asked a lot of questions on how to inlay. Got the basic concept down regarding one species of wood into another. So now I want to try doing a inlay project that will require me to inlay three species of wood. In this inlay I will need to inlay different woods next to each other. While thinking how I would do this I came up with a few different methods. Each time I run the order of operation through my head I see problems.
I thought I would take the image and divided it up be the different woods I will be using and then cut out all three inlays first. Then I would mount the pocket material on my machine and pocket out the entire image. Then I thought I would glue and clamp each species on at a time until all three are inlayed. I don’t see the different woods fitting very well next to each other doing it this way.

I see projects out there that have several different woods next to each other so I know there most be a correct way to do this. Could someone who has done this before point me in the right direction?

I would consider doing inlays into the inlays. Pocket and inlay the first wood, then pocket that and inlay the second, etc. The second pockets don’t have to sit within the first, but could do or overlap - the key is that you are cutting a pocket/inlay pair and thus get an exact match.


That’s what I’d recommend. Make sure you have a fixture to keep the board in place.
Here’s an inlay in an inlay I did. Maple in cherry in walnut.


So using the picture above. The large, single “L” was inlayed first completely. Your suggestion about having a fixture to keep the board in place I assume is because as I do each inlay I’m going to need to remove the board to cut each species of wood as I work my way through.

Once again, assuming you did the big “L” first. That operation was done completely. Meaning you cut the pocket for just the “L”. Then you cut the inlay for the “L”. Then you glued and clamped them together. Then you milled the excess off until it was flush to the surface. Once all that was done you moved onto the word “Lewis” and the date?
In this example it’s pretty obvious how the letters are stacked on each other. In the image I plan on inlaying all the different woods are on a single plane. Meaning they all butt up against each other rather then pass over.

Attached is the picture I’m looking to inlay. I plan on using a dark walnut for everything that is black. Maple for everything that is white and cherry for everything that is grey.
So following what both of you have suggested. I would inlay the entire image first with walnut. Then come back and inlay all the white and grey areas with maple into the walnut. Once that’s complete come back and inlay the cherry into the maple. Which would be all the grey areas.
Being that I will be moving the board I’m doing all the inlaying in that’s where the fixture comes in because I’ll need the board in the exact place each time I start the next inlay otherwise my image will look like a bad fitting jig saw puzzle.

Thanks you both for your suggestions.

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One thing I left out of the above steps, incase anyone else is reading this. I will need to make three versions of this image file. One that will cut the entire image for the walnut inlay. A second one that will just cut all the grey and white areas for the maple inlay and finally a file that will cut just the grey areas for the cherry inlay.
I will use a Advanced V bit operation to cut these.

The background is maple, correct?
Cut inlay pocket (as if doing one inlay)
Cut inlay plugs.
Glue in walnut.
Surface to within a mm or so.
Glue in cherry.
Surface entire piece.

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I thought about doing it the way you mentioned but as I ran it through my head I thought about the possible problems that might acurr.
Not sure how to explain this. If I cut the entire inlay pocket first then install one inlay at a time I would run into a fit problem. One because only the last inlay will have a pocket that incompetences it all the way around. The other inlays won’t have that so when I glue and clamp them in place they could shift and depending one how much pressure I clamp them with the could over lap into the space of the next inlay causing that inlay not to fit well.
if I could put glue in the pocket and install and clamp all the inlays at one time they would probably all squeeze together as I clamped them down into the pocket but since I have to glue them one at a time I could not do it that way.

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