Introduction: Wood Inlay Ornament
Hi, it's Danielle from Other Machine Co. This tutorial shows you how to make a wooden inlay ornament like this one that I made for my new grandmother in-law Polly. I love the feel of wood and the beauty of inlaid patterns, so I wanted to see how the Othermill would perform. Inlays are most dramatic when you use dark and light pieces of wood. I chose a dark piece for the base and a light-colored piece for the inlay. The letter "P" is, of course, for Polly.
This is my first project in wood using the Othermill, and I've shared all the files you'll need. I made the cut patterns using VCarve, which I won't describe in detail here. If you don't have an Othermill but want to see what the files look like, you can open them using our free software, Otherplan, or any other G-code visualizer.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Computer with Otherplan installed
- Flat end mill, 1/32" for cutting the "P" pocket and the inlaid piece
- Ball end mill, 1/8" for cutting the outline of the circle from the thicker wood
- Wood, dark, 3"x3"x0.675"
- Wood, light, 3"x3"x0.102" (2) One will be the sacrificial layer below the piece of wood you're cutting.
- Double-sided tape
- Pocket P cuts the pocket that the "P" inlay will fit in.
- bigcircle cuts out the circle for the ornament.
- P Outline cuts the P that will fit down into the pocket.
Step 2: Affix the Wood
This step will walk you through setting up the machine once you've already turned it on and downloaded Otherplan, the Othermill's motion-control software. If you've never used an Othermill before, you might want to check out our Getting Started guide.
Affix the wood onto the Othermill bed:
- Cover one side of one of your 3"x3"x0.102" pieces of wood with double-sided tape and affix it to the cutting area of the Othermill. Make sure that the front left corner of the wood is lined up with the front left corner of the cutting area of the Othermill. This will be your sacrificial layer and protect the cutting area.
- Next, cover one surface of your 3"x3"x0.675" piece of wood with double-sided tape and affix it to the top of the sacrificial layer.
Step 3: Set Up the Material in Otherplan
Once your pieces of wood are attached, it's time to set up the Othermill and the files in the Otherplan motion-control software. The goals of this step are to: tell the Othermill where it is, tell the Othermill about your material (what size, type), select your cutting tool, allow the Othermill to determine the location of the tip of your cutting tool, and load your files.
- Home the machine. This lets the Othermill coordinate with Otherplan and determine where the cutting area and spindle head are located in space.
- Click the Setup Material button. A window will appear, and you can enter in the size of your wood pieces. Add the thickness of the sacrificial layer to the thickness of the piece of wood you intend to cut. In this case, the total thickness is 0.776". Choose "Birch Plywood" as the option for material type. After you've entered in the size and type of material, click "Continue."
- You'll be prompted to change the material origin, or "where is your material?", but we've located our piece in the front left side of the Othermill cutting area, so our origin is 0,0,0.
It's time to change the tool!
Step 4: Changing the Tool for the First Cut
If you've never changed out your tool, our Getting Started guide will show you how.
The first tool you'll use is the 1/32" flat end mill because you'll be cutting the pocket for the "P" inlay first.
- In Otherplan, on the right hand side of the screen, there's a dialog that named "Tool." Click the Change button in that dialog. If you already have a tool in the machine that is not a 1/32" flat end mill, you'll be prompted to remove it. Follow the prompts and then click the Continue button.
- In the window that appears at the bottom of Otherplan, select the 1/32" flat end mill.
- You'll then be prompted to make sure that the tip of your end mill is above the bottom of the z-carriage. The z-carriage is what moves the cutting tool side to side. Once you've verified this, click continue.
- The Othermill will move the cutting tool over an unoccupied space on the aluminum cutting area so the Othermill can automatically measure the location of the tip of the tool. When you make sure that the tip of the cutting tool is able to come in contact with the aluminum surface of the cutting area of the Othermill, click the Locate button. Don't be scared! The machine will gingerly touch the tip of the end mill to the aluminum cutting area and will not damage the tip.
Step 5: Import Two Files
Click the "Import" button and load two files: Pocket P, which will hold the light-colored "P" cutout, and big outline, which will cut out your wooden circle. You should see a virtual image of the files.
Step 6: Select the Right Tool for Each Cut
On the right in Otherplan, you'll see a place to select the tool you'd like to use for each cut. Pocket P will be cut with the 1/32" flat end mill, and bigcircle will be cut with the 1/8" ball end mill.
Step 7: Cut the P
Once your tools have been selected, click the Cut button below the Pocket P file. A window will pop up and ask if you're ready. Confirm and start cutting!
Once this file is complete, don't remove the wood from the Othermill. You still need to cut out the circle.
Step 8: Cut the Circle
You'll need to change the end mill for this step. Remove the 1/32" flat end mill, and replace it with the 1/8" ball end mill. Since this is a longer tool, you'll need to let it extend well below the bottom of the z-carriage, but before you locate the tool, raise the z-height using the jogging buttons in Otherplan until the tip is above the bottom of the z-carriage. Then follow the same tool-locating procedure as you followed with the 1/32" tool.
Once your tool is located and re-homed, click "Cut T1" in the bigcircle file panel. The Othermill will begin cutting your circle.
Step 9: Set Up the Thin Wood for the Inlay P
After your circle is cut, remove it from the machine by clicking "Unload Material" in the Move By panel and gently prying the circle off the bed.
Cover one side of the second 3"x3"x0.102" piece of wood with double-sided tape and attach it to the top of the sacrificial layer, making sure both pieces of wood are lined up with the front left-hand corner of the Othermill cutting surface.
Enter the material specs in "Set Up Material." Be sure to set the thickness of the material to be the total thickness of the sacrificial layer and the piece of wood you wish to cut.
Set the origin to 0,0,0 and you're ready to import your file.
Step 10: Import File and Select the Tool for the P Outline
Import the P Outline file and change your tool to the 1/32" flat end mill again. Once you've imported the file and gone through the "Locate" procedure for your tool, you're ready to cut once again. When this little "P" is finished cutting, all you need to do is press it into the P-shaped pocket.
Step 11: Press Fit the Inlay
We used a rubber mallet to press-fit the light-colored "P" into the pocket. Nothing fancy: just line up the edges of the "P" as best you can and give it a little tap. Attached is a video clip of this press-fitting process.
Bonus: You can round it a bit with a little fine-grit sandpaper and use a nice oil to bring out the color of the darker wood. I used linseed oil.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you make an inlay project of your own, be sure to share it with us — we'd love to see it!