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It’s Too Big For A Dutchman

How To Design An Accent Inlay To Cover Up a Huge Flaw

rotted stump into furnitureWhen cutting out the parts for a project, I usually start by planning my cut list to cut around the defect or have the ugliest side of the board face towards the back. I have also filled many knotholes with epoxy, which creates a nice effect. However, before modern-day epoxies, it was standard practice to inlay a Dutchman over the defect to cover it up. By using a similar piece of wood, one would hope it would blend in and not be noticeable. But what do you do if the defect is too big to use a Dutchman to cover it up?

Well, a large defect was what I was up against in a recent project when a customer brought me a cross-section of a stump he wanted made into a table. The cross-section had an unusual and beautiful shape; it was well worth saving. The only problem was that the center of the stump was rotted out. He left it to me to figure out how to fill it in and make it look good.

My first thought was to try to figure out how to do a bow tie inlay across the rotted area, but I just couldn’t make it look right. So, I started playing around with cutting a circle to inlay over the section. The circle looked too forced. I finally settled on inlaying an accent wood so it would follow the shape of the growth rings of the stump.

Woodworking courses taught by master craftsman Brain Benham

To create the inlay, I used a piece of tracing paper and picked a growth ring to trace. I dug through my scrap bin and found a walnut cut-off that had a small knot in it, with growth rings radiating out from the knot. I used some spray adhesive to attach the tracing paper to the walnut, taking special care to align the knot in the center. I went to the scroll saw and carefully cut out the shape.

reclaimed wood by doing a custom inlay on a stump

Once the shape was cut out, I used an inlay router bit kit to cut out the inverse shape of my plug to use as a template to cut out the recessed shape on the stump. I fine-tuned the template with sandpaper, used double stick tape, taped it to the stump, took care to align the shape of the template to the growth ring, and then routed out the shape.

The router bit kit did a perfect job of copying the accent plug I made; it fit in place with a little tap from my mallet and was snug all the way around. I glued it in and sanded it flush. The rotted area may have been too big for a Dutchman, but it was perfect for a custom accent inlay.
Coffee table made from reclaimed stump
To see more completed pictures of the stump table
Visit my furniture site if you would like me to build you a custom coffee table.


I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

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