Shop Tips » Finishing
Marquetry Inlays and Onlays
One of the reasons we build boats is because there’s so much opportunity for personal expression. Joinery details and paint schemes can be artful and highly individualized. One especially interesting decorative flourish that we’re seeing on more and more CLC boats is an “inlay” or “onlay” of thin wood veneer, glued to decks or seats beneath protective layers of epoxy and fiberglass.
An inlay requires an excavation in your deck exactly the shape and thickness of your veneer design, and this is pretty tricky. You can use a Dremel tool, router, or sharp chisels to remove the wood.
An “overlay” is a lot easier. Make up your marquetry design using very thin veneer, 3/100th’s of an inch thick or less, and glue it to your deck prior to fiberglassing. Once you have the fiberglass and epoxy built up atop the overlaid veneer, it’s almost impossible to tell that it’s not a traditional inlay. Truly intricate designs require great artistry with Xacto knives and veneer of various colors, so we have commissioned a veneer specialist to laser-cut inlay/overlay designs for us, 0.024” thick. They use contrasting veneers of walnut, holly, beech, and ebony and have the most remarkable glow beneath varnish.
Installing an overlay is simple:
- The overlay should be installed onto the bare wood of a deck immediately after fastening the deck onto the hull, but prior to fiberglassing. (Don’t try to glue on the overlay while the deck is still off the boat; the overlay may not end up centered.)
- Spread unthickened epoxy on the underside of the overlay and on the deck. Use black electrical tape, lots of it, to hold the overlay in place. Carefully position weights such as sandbags to help press the overlay down tightly.
- If any sanding of squeezed-out epoxy is necessary, make sure it’s with very fine paper.
- Apply fiberglass and epoxy to the deck as directed in your instruction manual. Fiberglass followed by several thick coats of epoxy will hide the thin edges of the overlay.
Inlays work the same way but simply require that you rout to a depth of about 0.030” to set the inlay into the wood. To make this easier, our Inlay/Overlay kits include an acrylic guide laser-cut to the exact shape of the design, around which a razor knife can be drawn.
Have a look at our library of Inlays/Onlays.