How to Inlay Metal

Some projects require a little something extra whether it’s a metal bracket to strengthen a joint or something to cover-up an unsightly mistake. If you ever find yourself in one of those situations, consider inlaying the metal into the wood project to really take it up a notch. In this article, I’m going to outline why and how I went about inlaying metal into two projects using different approaches each time. Both projects started without the intention of including metal but by the end, I wish I would have planned it from the start because it turned out amazing each time.

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Counter Top Seam

Late last year I had a commission for a family friend IMG_0478to build a wrap around cabinet and make a rustic/reclaimed looking counter. There were two 45°ish corners and one 90°ish corner involved. The entire cabinet was a little over 14-feet in length and was made in two pieces. I stressed out over the angles for a bit knowing that walls are rarely straight and finally decided to make the two sections just shy of 22.5° so when they came together I could pivot them together closing the gap at the front. I knew this would create a slight gap in the back but that was a IMG_0469non-issue since it would be covered up by the counter.

Everything was going great, the cabinets pivoted into place, all gaps were covered up and then I started to install the counter. I was furious when I put the counters in place and realized that I also cut the counters just shy of 22.5° which caused the same gap I was planning on for the cabinets… After swearing at my stupidity for a few minutes I came up with a game plan. I knew that these clients liked the rustic & industrial style so I decided to cover up the gap with a rustic metal band. I covered up the gap with some tape and let them know I would be back the following weekend to finish the install.


When I came back the following weekend I had a 2-inch wide metal band that I rusted up a bit and applied a little polyurethane to. I cut a section off and welded it onto the bottom to create a 45° bend that would cover the front of the counter as well. I didn’t bother cutting the entire thing to length and planned on cutting it to size on site with my grinder.

Since the counters were already finished I laid out multiple layers of tape to prevent any scratching. After deciding exactly where the metal band was going I marked both sides of the tape using a marking knife. I then laid out my chisels, mallet and router plane and got to work.


I started off by gone up and down the lines with my largest chisel and then used my router plane to clean out the material in the center. I kept switching between the chisels and router plane taking the edges down another step and following up with the router plane until I was down deep enough to let the metal band sit flush with the stop of the counter.

I picked up some caulk on the way over that would closely match the color of the finish and used that as adhesive. I put a little extra on the sides so it would squeeze out a bit and then using soapy water, I wiped the excess away and removed the tape.


Barn Door Brackets

IMG_8100I recently had a commission for two large barn doors. One measuring 8×6-foot and the other measuring 8×8.5-foot. We decided to go with alder wood and did a tongue and groove floating panel. After moving these large doors around a few times I started to get worried about the joinery in the frame taking the abuse and lasting many years to come. Since we were already making all of the barn door hardware, I decided that some inlaid brackets were in order both to increase the visual aspect of the doors as well as settle my nerves about the entire thing holding up for many years.IMG_0717

Each door had a total of twelve brackets, six on the front and six matching on the back. The plan was to use countersunk flat head bolts to bolt the front and back brackets together clamping the door in between. This way everything was ridiculously strong and flush.



Since I had so many similar brackets to inlay, instead of taking the same approach as I did with the counter top, I decided some templates were in order. Only two templates were required which I made by tracing out the brackets on some scrap wood and cutting out the shape with a jig saw. They didn’t need to be absolutely perfect as I was going to be finishing it off with chisels.


Since these brackets were hand-made, I needed to account for a little variance. I decided to use a router bushing that would give me about an 1/8th-inch of “goof” room around the perimeter of the bracket. After adhering the template to the door using some double-sided sticky tape, I hogged out most of the inlay in two passes using a 1/4″ spiral up-cut bit.


After most of the material was removed, I put the bracket over the inlay and traced it using a kind of poker/cleaning tool. I started of using a marking knife but some of the brackets still had little bumps from welding spatter and I didn’t want to mess up my knife. I then went around and opened up the inlay to the mark and then used my router plane to help clean up the edges and make sure everything was at the right depth.


Each bracket was punched with an identifying number and the same number was written in the bottom of the inlay. Each of the brackets were drilled, countersunk and painted before inserting them back into the inlays and bolting them together.


After all brackets were installed, the doors got a few good coats of General Finishes Outdoor Oil and up they went. These doors were installed on the back side of a garage that faces a major road on the edge of my neighborhood so I get to see these every day on my way to work and every time I drive by I smile. 🙂



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