Inlays: v carve vs square. Pros and cons?

I mostly see videos discussing how to do v carve inlays on youtube. I get that using a v bit allows for sharp corners and a lot of detail but are there other reasons to go v over a more vertical cut approach?

Certainly rounding our corners such that the inlaid piece will fit in the containing piece takes some work. Are there other reasons?

A vertical cut approach requires very tight tolerances. With a V Cut, there is a lot of adjustment available that happens automatically by how deep the plug goes into the recess.


If you pocket you will likely have gaps. The vcarve is more forgiving. Plus you get sharper corners.

I seem to be the exception. I used to make guitars and the inlay work was a feature, all my inlay work was “square”. Sure wish I had the Nomad then! One reason I prefer square cuts is that I inlay MOP, silver, gold, stone and more in addition to wood. I would consider v-carve inlays for, say, a cutting board or sign but for smaller detailed work, such as a jewerly box of headstock, square cut.

As far a “likely having gaps”, not if you take care. I mill the pockets a very small amount larger than the inlay, typically about 0.027 mm for inlays on the order of 20 - 50 mm. (I do this by claiming the bit, as a separate tool, is 0.055 mm smaller than it is.)

It is true you can automatically get “sharper corners” with v-carved work but my work is mostly organic and I can accept corner radii of 0.178 mm. But when truely I need a sharp corner it’s easy enough to remove the radius with a sharp blade as long as there aren’t too many.

Mind you, I’m using a Nomad which has excellent precision and repeatability, no matte lines. YMMV if using a Shapeoko.


Excellent work Byrne.
What did you use for the green of the trees and the silver moon, epoxy?

Thanks. The moon is silver. The tree leaves, as well as those of the shrubs, are powdered stone. All inlays were cemented in place with CA glue. The powdered stone was set dry into the pockets then thin CA glue was applied as well.

If this were an item, such as a cutting board, where no finish was to be applied over all, I could have opted for epoxy. But I’ve found, from years of inlaying guitar headstocks, that eventually epoxy will shrink a tiny amount and show as depressed lines around the inlays when under a smooth, thin overcoat. This doesn’t appear to happen with CA glues. Also, I’ve read that CA has a “negative index of refraction” which causes light to get swallowed up inside a glue line. As a retired Physics teacher I’m not sure what that means (index of refraction is the ratio of two positive numbers!) but it does seem that, even with fat border lines, more common with non CNC work, the CA lines are less obvious. The only disadvantage to using the CA is it’s a little harder to level after application on big areas.


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