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How to Make Wood Floor Inlay Patterns

Creating inlaid floor patterns in hardwood is an art that has existed for centuries. This art can be seen on the floors of high-end mansions, where the owners had the resources to hire skilled craftsmen to undertake this time consuming work. Successful inlay requires skills in geometry, drawing and woodworking. Once the design has been created, it needs to be successfully translated into wood, a process that needs to take the character of each species of wood into consideration.

Draw the Pattern

Wooden floors can be enhanced with inlay.
  1. Find inspiration by consulting other hardwood floor inlay patterns. You can sometimes find these in ornate public buildings in your town, or consult books on fine architecture in your local library. The designs of the past will give you some direction as to what style you desire.

  2. Develop geometric designs on graph paper using your pencil, ruler and compass. Remember that more ornate designs are more impressive but also more difficult to successfully complete. If this is your first attempt at flooring inlay, keep the design relatively simple so that you have fewer elements to deal with.

  3. Create a linear geometric design for borders, and a central medallion for the middle of the floor. This can be four, six or eight sided, but should be symmetrical in every direction to create a balanced feel at the center of the room.

Create the Inlay

  1. Cut strips of hardwood to the width that you need for your inlay design. Do this on a well-tuned table saw. Make the sides of the strips very slightly angled so that the bottoms of the strips are narrower than the tops. This will help the strips to fit tightly into the channels that you make with the router.

  2. Transfer your design onto the floor where you will be installing the inlay. Use a router with a bit that is the same width as your hardwood strips, and a fence that allows you to route in a perfectly straight line, to rout out a channel in the floor to a depth of 1/8 inch.

  3. Lay a line of glue in the bottom of the channel. Lay the strip of hardwood that you have made into the channel and tap it down firmly with a mallet.

  4. Lay out full length strips of hardwood in your design and then rout through them with the the router along with the rest of the floor for other strips in the design that go over them. This method will be far easier than attempting to install each piece of the finished design individually.

About the Author

Jagg Xaxx has been writing since 1983. His primary areas of writing include surrealism, Buddhist iconography and environmental issues. Xaxx worked as a cabinetmaker for 12 years, as well as building and renovating several houses. Xaxx holds a Doctor of Philosophy in art history from the University of Manchester in the U.K.