Inlays are hard: turtle box for my wife

So my wife and I have a had a hard week with our little tornado of Chaos, so I decided to try something a bit more unique as a gift for her. At first it was to be just the box with the sliding drawer, she loves turtles and after looking at Pinterest, I decided to give a cut through a try (not really sure if that is the right name for it). So I found a neat little turtle, cut it through and then found my teal acrylic I found at Michaels when they first started selling it. Assembled this morning, found that even though it should have been perfectly cut, kerfing being the same, it was still a bit too small, so I have a few things to try out next time but here is the finished results!


It still turned out really pretty!!


Nice work, with lots of little pieces! I love the vibrant colors of acrylic with the warmth of wood.

I use Inkscape, and @mpipes Shared his method a few years back which has worked well for me…

Easiest way to do it is to not think about it.

Draw your design.

Set the design so it has no fill color, and set the stroke width to match the full width of the laser kerf - I tend to use .007" or .008".

Expand (Or Convert Stroke to Path) then break the design apart. This gives you “kerf-adjusted” paths for the laser. The “inside” or “smaller” paths would be used to cut the hole out of the main material. The “outside” or “larger” paths are used to cut the “plug” or “inlay” from the other piece of material.

Theoretically this makes a 0.000" fit tolerance between the two pieces but natural materials like wood or other compressible items might need a little overlap to press fit tightly while two pieces of acrylic ain’t gonna go together this tightly (maybe allow an extra 0.001")

Note - if you invert one of the two, the slope of the laser cut fits better.
If I remember I used a stroke of .007 for this, no glue, the pieces were tight and had to be tapped into place.


Nice box, @techquest89! I’m sure your wife loves it!

My efforts to master inlays are . . . ongoing.

Thanks for sharing this approach, @PrintToLaser. I use Illustrator, and have made kerf adjustments using the offset path tool with varying degrees of success. I wonder if outlining the stroke would result in a different (better?) outcome.


I’m not that familiar with Illustrator, but Inkscape has an offset tool that tends to ‘soften’ some of the detail. Following the stroke exactly works great, a bit more work but precise.


To be clear, I went into this as a snap idea, I was going to just use some of the craft paper my wife has but then I saw I still has some teal acrylic and said screw it I’m gonna give it a shot. Next time I’ll actually try to make it a good inlay.


It looks fine to me! :sunglasses:


I have noticed the softening you refer to, and I can see how outlining the stroke could be more precise. I’m going to give it a try!

I think this one looks great, but I do look forward to seeing your next inlay project!


Using stroke-to-path is the most accurate method, and adding intermediate points can increase precision when necessary (as described somewhere by @evansd2).



In this case though @techquest89 told me that the original art had lots of nodes.


It looks great!! One of these days I want to attempt an inlay project. Thanks for sharing! Love the color!



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It looks great. I have still not gotten up the nerve/energy/patience to tackle a proper inlay.


Yes, that was an excellent tutorial. The glowforge was my introduction to the world of CNC. Used to be that when you put the tool down - things stopped happening. Now, the work is done from a keyboard. The precision with a push of a button is still a magical world for me. I’m trying to keep up…


Bet she loved it! You’re a good guy to make it for her.