Letter stencil inlays - Router Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-26-2019, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Default Letter stencil inlays

Here’s another project I’ve been working on for a while now. Trying to make a set of stencils for 1.25” letters in something more than a basic block font. The picture is the letter M stencil card, the little positioning system i use, and the results it all produces. You just inlay the pieces in the order written on the card. I didn’t bother making the inlay piece as i figure it’ll fit just right by default. I just needed to see that the stencil card works because i didn’t have an M yet.

I know adobe illustrator has the “expand path” function, which would save me about 80% of the time it takes to make each of these cards. If anyone knows of an app i can use on an iPad Pro I’m all ears and willing to pay for the app.

All i need to do is import a font, break the shape of the letter into its appropriate parts to accommodate an inlay kit, then expand the path and print the individual parts on their own page. The advantage to this, i believe, is i can get the individual parts of each letter printed in the same spot relative to the corner of the page, then simple align my paper with the stencil card and trace it with carbon paper. The time saved is in trying to get each piece cut out in precisely the right place on the card.

As i complete different sets in different sizes, etc, I’d be happy to post the digital files here for y’all to have. Y’all have helped me more than you know. Mostly before i joined though.





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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 07:23 AM
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Interesting approach Mickey. I haven't done any inlay other than a few exercises at a Woodcraft router class. Looks like making these stencils is a long laborious process. Am I correct that you would use a razor knife to cut the inlay from a pattern? Would love to see a finished example.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 07:46 AM Thread Starter
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Interesting approach Mickey. I haven't done any inlay other than a few exercises at a Woodcraft router class. Looks like making these stencils is a long laborious process. Am I correct that you would use a razor knife to cut the inlay from a pattern? Would love to see a finished example.


What i do is set up a compass to match the offset of my inlay kit. Then trace around the design lightly scratching the paper to show the new outline. Then trace that outline lightly with a pencil. Afterwards you can trace the new outline onto your wood with carbon paper and cut it out with your scroll saw or router.

The real trick is proper placement of the various parts of each letter onto the stencil card. Most letters need to be broken down into smaller parts to accommodate the “donut” on your inlay kit. It also helps with aesthetics because you can change wood grain directions with different pieces.

Yes, it’s very time consuming. Often times an hour or so spent making a single stencil card, and you won’t know it’s a bad one till you cut it out, AND put the router in it. But the good news is most times a little extra sanding can smooth things out.

There is a program called adobe illustrator that can do this if you’re inclined to buy it and learn it. I believe you can pay $30/ month for a subscription to it. It’s not cheap to buy the program. I’m all ears if someone knows an app that can be used on an iPad Pro to do this. The advantage is all your outlines would be perfect, and you can print them out and they’d all be in the same location on the page relative to the corner of the page. Then you just line up the corner of your page to the corner of the stencil card and things are automatically aligned properly for you.


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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 07:54 AM
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I gave up on Adobe when it became a subscription based software. I used Photoshop extensively in my earlier days on my astronomy images and decided to buy the latest released version after the subscription base program came into effect. If an older version of Illustrator can do what you want you may still find a place that it can be purchased legally and then own that copy for that set price. It may be too long ago now but worth a look. I did that with Photoshop and use PS CS5 when needed. I'm still limited to two active installs on any two computers per their licensing structure.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 08:00 AM Thread Starter
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Knowing where to split the letters can be tricky. Sometimes it’s out of necessity and other times it can be your choice.

In the L below, the loop on the bottom was tough. Your inlay kit can’t duplicate that tight a radius. So i split it at the smallest point inside the radius. I don’t like “blunt” or “90deg” splits, but i couldn’t figure out another way to do it. You can see where the two pieces will overlap each other. Don’t try to get it matched perfectly, you’ll likely miss.

On the O, the split is in a spot of my choosing but it had to be split due to the lines on the top of the design being too close to each other, even on 6” high letters. The shape is the split looks much nicer like this than it does in the L.

The B needed to be in three pieces. One reason is the small overlap on the inside, top center. Another reason is the sharp “inside point” on the front center of the letter. You can’t make theses at all with an inlay kit so it will apply to any letter that has an inside point.


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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 08:03 AM Thread Starter
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I can always bum my daughter MacBook if i ever decide to subscribe to Illustrator. I’m thinking i can knock out a TON of various fonts and sizes in a month. At least on paper and digitally. Then i can just print them whenever i feel like or need to make the stencil cards.


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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 10:15 AM
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I do not know if this may help you or not. There is a program "Rapid Resizer", that I have used for making larger stencils. I think there is a free version. This is a link you may look a,t see if it is of any value to you.

https://www.rapidresizer.com/home/20..._term=0_44d951

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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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I didn't realize it till now but I've used this before. I used it to print out various things to use as a guide for carving signs.

Unless I'm missing something it doesn't do what's required to accommodate an inlay kit. I can't use an identical, bigger version of a letter. I need the outline expanded by the same amount all around it. This leaves you with a final shape that's only kinda similar to the original shape.

Also, whether its due to the size of the letter, or just the shape on the letter, i need the ability to break the letter into the individual "lines" that form it. See the pictures of the stencils above.

Again, if I'm missing something with RapidResizer, please explain.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 02-27-2019, 11:24 PM
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Damn, you guys make me feel like a neo-Luddite at times. The only things I copy and use as is are fonts, found a site that pretty well covers all the font styles I care for. Otherwise I rough sketch whatever out freehand, then finalize it.
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