How to Create a Bowtie Inlay

Duration: 7:35

A bowtie inlay, also called a dovetail or butterfly inlay, serves a couple of purposes in your woodworking. If you’re working with a piece that has a crack in it, you can use a bowtie inlay to bridge the crack and stabilize it. If there’s a defect in your board that you want to mask, you can inlay a bowtie or butterfly to cover the defect. Or, if you simply want to add a great looking effect to your woodworking project, this may be it.

Making the bowtie

A bowtie is, basically, a double-ended dovetail. This video provides you with the recommended angle for the dovetail slope. If you’re working on a dark wood, like the walnut shown in the video, you’ll find that it’s much easier to see lines made with a charcoal white pencil that those made with a regular pencil. The bowtie shape gets finalized with a little chisel work.

Making the cut

The bowtie recess is created by freehand routing. This isn’t as complicated as it may sound. There are some great tips and tricks that’ll help get you through the process. Of course practicing in scrap is always a good idea. The router work is followed up by chisel work. Having your chisel nice and sharp will make it easier to pare to the lines, so spend a little time honing the edge before you get started.

More on butterfly joints

One of the cool things about woodworking; there are lots of ways to accomplish woodworking tasks.Check out this article for more info on custom-cut butterfly joints.

Don’t bridge it, repair it

On pieces with hairline cracks it may make more sense to repair wood cracks than to span them with a bowtie.

Discussion
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8 Responses to “How to Create a Bowtie Inlay”
  1. Colt
    Colt

    2 questions.

    1 is that the grain or did you like the look of burn in the top?

    Also what’s the tape on your hand. Didn’t look like was covering an injury.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Colt.

      There are dark spots in the grain that I think are resin pockets in the pine, but I never figured out for sure what was causing them. But they’re not burns. I had my fingers taped for a while to overcome a ligament strain; totally unrelated to woodworking.

      Hope this helps,

      George
      WoodWorkers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  2. Michael
    Michael

    I am about to start a project exactly like this that I’ve had on my “to do” list for 9 years. Lo and behold I found your video that shows exactly how to do it. Clear and easy to understand. You have inspired me to get working.

    I do have a question about finish. My table will be outside on our deck and exposed to the elements. In my case, the cookie is from a giant hardwood tree (cherry?) that came down at my friends house in a storm back in 2010. It is well aged and dried now. Have you any recommendations as to how I should finish it?

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Michael. This will come down to your preference for maintenance and what look you are after. A spar varnish looks great, but requires annual maintenance. Another option would be a penetrating clear deck sealer. For a project like yours, I would probably lightly sand and reapply every year. But this annual ritual will be a minor effort compared to re-coating spar varnish, especially if you miss a year or two and it starts to flake off. So, my preference would be to use a penetrating deck sealer (not the kind that builds up on the surface like paint).
      Thanks
      Paul-WWGOA

      Reply
  3. TOM
    TOM

    You mentioned the difference in width of the various size bowties, but do you have a rule of thumb for the thickness of the bowtie? Does it vary with the thickness of the table top?

    Reply
  4. Scott
    Scott

    I’ve got a nasty split just like this video and was wondering if you recommend sanding or otherwise smoothing the inside of the split? Mine has a lot of splinters so I want to clear those while keeping it natural looking.

    Also, are keys necessary on both top and bottom of a cookie slab like this if the split goes all the way through? I imagine it may look strange from the edge to see both.

    Lastly, how would I go about finishing the inside of the crack? I also have mini cracks at the very edges of the slab and I plan to fill those using a mixture of wood glue and sawdust as your video pointed out. Any other ideas?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Scott,
      Here is what our expert had to say:
      I’ve got a nasty split just like this video and was wondering if you recommend sanding or otherwise smoothing the inside of the split?
      (WWGOA) Yes, I would recommend sanding inside the split.

      Also, are keys necessary on both top and bottom of a cookie slab like this if the split goes all the way through? I imagine it may look strange from the edge to see both.
      (WWGOA) Normally these are just installed on the top side.
      Lastly, how would I go about finishing the inside of the crack?
      (WWGOA) Do whatever you can do get some finish in there; spray, flood the area, etc.
      I also have mini cracks at the very edges of the slab and I plan to fill those using a mixture of wood glue and sawdust as your video pointed out. Any other ideas?
      (WWGOA) CA glue is another good option. Sand the surface so that there is sanding dust in the cracks, and hit it with CA glue. Give it a couple minutes to dry, then repeat until the surface is flush.

      Paul

      Reply