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Inlay is a process of surface decoration in which shapes (usually geometric) are set into the surface of a base material to create a pattern or design. There is a wide range of both shapes and base materials used and they are often contrasting in colour.

The ‘Rosette’ around the Sound Hole of a guitar for example, is usually ‘inlaid’ - as are the main positions on the Fret Board.

The decorated surface is usually finished flat and polished, varnished or laquered.

Related techniques include Cross Banding and Stringing. ‘Cross Banding’ uses strips of wood veneer cut across the Grain, often of a contrasting timber, to create a decorative edge to a table top for example. ‘Stringing’ is similar but a contrasting thin strip of wood (or other material such as plastics, metal or bone), often slightly thicker than veneer, is set into a groove in the base material or ‘ground’. ‘Stringing’ is often used in combination with ‘Cross Banding’ to decorate box lids for example.

See also Decoupage, Marquetry, Appliqué, Embroidery, and Collage