How to Use the Dremel Tool for Routing Inlays

Updated April 17, 2017

Inlays are used to cover undesirable areas of wood or to add beauty and craft to your woodwork projects. Common inlay materials include abalone, mother of pearl, rare or coloured woods and metal. Inlays can be premade with predetermined shapes and depths or custom created for specific needs and uses. The Dremel rotary tool can be transformed with the plunge router attachment into a versatile and powerful high speed router and inlay tool.

Attach the Dremel plunge router attachment. Unscrew the black cap encasing the spindle. Sit the Dremel rotary tool in the plunge router attachment and secure in place with the Dremel wrench.

Choose the proper bit for routing inlays. Press the release button on the Dremel’s body and insert the Dremel 650 straight router bit or a similarly small, straight router bit. Secure the bit with the Dremel wrench.

Choose or make your inlay piece. If you are using a premade inlay piece continue to Step 4. To make a custom piece, draw or trace the outline of your pattern onto a panel of wood. The inlay wood cannot be thicker than the wood that it will sit in. Adjust the depth controls on the body of the attachment to set the router’s bit to a depth that will cut through the inlay panel. Turn on the Dremel tool and cut out the wood pattern by tracing the outer line of the inlay’s shape. Lightly sand the inlay to remove rough edges.

Prepare the wood to receive the inlay. Hold down the inlay in the position you want it. Trace the outline of the inlay into the wood’s surface using three firm passes with the utility knife. Remove the inlay and exactly trace the outline with a pencil to create a darker line that’s more visible when routing.

Remove the wood from the inlay area. Measure the height of the inlay piece and set the depth on the plunge router attachment’s body to match. Set the Dremel router over the area to be inlaid. Turn on the Dremel and press down on the attachment to set the bit in the wood. Stop routing when all the wood is removed from the inlay area. Do not worry about any wood left in the corners or sharp points of the inlay area.

Clean up the inlay hole. Use the chisel and wood or rubber hammer to accurately remove the shape’s remaining wood. Start from the outline of the inlay pattern with every stroke. Chisel the cross-grain sides before the long-grain sides. Use the 150-grit sandpaper to finish the hole’s interior.

Secure the inlay. Place small amount of wood glue in the hole. Insert the inlay and firmly set it in the space. Place a piece of scrap wood over the inlay and hit the backside of it with the mallet to finish its installation.

Finish the work. Allow the glue to dry and sand the top of the inlay with the grain until it’s flush with the surrounding surface.


Choose or make inlay patterns that are uncomplicated in form to start with. Chiselling sharp corners and thin sections takes a steady hand and practice.


Always wear safety glasses when routing. Be very careful not to damage your inlay outline when using the chisel. Practice this step on a scrap copy first.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Dremel rotary tool
  • Dremel plunge router attachment
  • Dremel wrench
  • Dremel 650 or similar straight router bit
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • Wood chisel
  • 150-grit sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • Wood or rubber mallet
  • Scrap wood
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About the Author

Agustus Miller has been living and writing professionally in Brooklyn, N.Y., since 2005. He has contributed to publications such as "The Brooklyn Star" and Mountain Xpress. Miller holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and creative writing from the University of North Carolina.