The term ‘tool slaving’ is used to describe the process of using hand tools that are dedicated in size, to the job required.

In fact, more often than not, the tool size dictates the job.

For instance, if you’re making a mortise and tenon in a frame and panel door,

you could start off with a 1/4-in. cutter in your plow plane to make the panel groove.

Follow with a 1/4-in. auger bit to excavate the bulk of the waste in the mortise, and then a 1/4-in. chisel to clean things up.

Little chance of error when the tools dictate the design.


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Scratching a groove into the drawer front.



In my last video post, the Gentleman’s Valet part five, I inlaid holly banding on the drawer front.

Understand that nothing about this process is left up to chance- every detail was considered.

To begin, I knew I had an 1/8-in. detail chisel to work with.

Not a 3/16-in. or a 3mm; no, it’s 1/8-in. in width.

That step is important; make sure to double check as some tools may say they’re 1/8-in., but in fact they’re a little wider or narrower.

A little narrower could be OK, but wider results in a sloppy fit.


making a dedicated cutter

Filing a dedicated cutter for my beading tool.


From there I made a scratch stock- you may think a Router Plane with 1/8-in. cutter and auxiliary fence would be the best option,

and you may be right.

The truth is, when I did this inlay work, Veritas wasn’t yet manufacturing their updated,

and more complete line of Router Plane Irons and Accessories.

I simply used a small piece of card stock metal, and filed the inlay profile into the end.

This stock is actually a blank that came with my Wooden Beading Tool at the time of purchase;

I’ve had this beading tool for a decade and I think this was the first time I made a dedicated cutter for it!


Cutter installed in beading tool.

Cutter installed in beading tool.


At any rate, the cutter was made and the scribe lines were scratched.

The lacewood I used for this project was brittle, so deep, clean scribe lines made sure I didn’t blow-out any face material.

These scribe lines were easy to cut using the Dual Marking Gauge.

Finally, an application perfect for this tool~; )



With my tools set, to cut an 1/8-in. channel for the inlay, the only thing left was the wood!

Again, the holly was a little heavier than 1/8-in. square and was carefully fit, one shaving at a time,

until it ‘just’ fits into the groove.

Lie Nielsen Tool Works make some really nice inlay tools designed by inlay master, Steve Latta.

Now at the time of me building this Valet, inlay work wasn’t something I did very often,

so I couldn’t justify the expense of purchasing this line of tools.

Instead, I purchased the cutters for the radius cutter, and the thicknessing gauge and made my own.

The thicknessing gauge allows you to sneak up on a perfect fit for the inlay.

This is the way to do it.

Make the groove and carefully fit the inlay – NOT – the other way around.

Leave the inlay material a little thick to start and you’ll have a better fit.



Basic stringing and inlay work like this drawer front detail, or the other areas of the Valet project can be quite enjoyable.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]When you have the right tools, properly sized to the job, inlay will add another element to your projects.[/inlinetweet]  ( Tweet that )

It doesn’t require a lot of tools, and it really isn’t that hard to master.

I recommend you try adding some simple inlay work to your next project.

It’s a nice detail to keep things interesting in your woodshop.


Do you enjoy inlay work?

Do you use the Lie Nielsen/Steve Latta inlay tools?

Do you like them?

Have you tried the new Veritas inlay tools?

What do you think about them?

I’d love to hear some thoughts on inlay and the tools and techniques you use-

Join the conversation and leave me some comments below!