Cloth Inlay Advice

I am getting ready to do my first cloth inlay and I was wondering if anyone had any advice or pitfalls to look out for.

I made sure I bought 100% cotton but should I was the cloth first? I am laying the cloth on the bottom with about a 3 inch gap around the rails. All help is appreciated as always.


definatly wash first & rinse very well to remove some things from the cloth you don’t want,use cold water so you dont loose the brightness of the colors. there was a posting not too far back about the cutting & glassing end of it AND when all else fails, refer to the archives. they cover most anything.

Clean lines covers it well in his Master Glassers video.

one thing you hear around here a lot is “check the archives”. Here is a bit of info from the resources section, #422 (“best of swaylocks”):


The cloth inlays are laid directly on the foam on many cases. Choose a fabric (usually all cotton) that has stable colors proven by testing with your resin and squeegee techniques. There are several different techniques used. I prefer to mark the area out on the foam with light pencil or scribe lines that the fabric will cover and tape it off as you would a cut lap. You can either lay your fabric over the area and cut to the line or if the fabric won’t allow this, lay paper instead and trace a pattern on to it. Transfer the pattern to the fabric and cut it out to the line or just short of the mark (the fabric stretches some once you wet it out). Many times your fabric inlay is placed symmetrical in relation to the stringer so you can fold your cloth in half and use a 1/2 pattern to be more precise. Cut with a razor, sharp scissors or better yet a fabric cutting wheel. You can prewet the foam or just squeegee some fabrics as you would fiberglass cloth and lay it precisely inside the lines you laid out. Watch carefully for air bubbles and dry spots, any imperfections are going to be magnified when you lay your cloth over the top. If you chose to trim your cloth after you laminated it down, do it after the resin gels a bit, the cloth shouldn’t move as you use your razor blade. Remember that after you glass and hotcoat you will end up using pinlines to cover this cut edge, so make it as accurate as you can and avoid threads and frays.

I was thinking about doing a reverse lam, full length cloth inlay on bottom of my log. The only problem I see facing is trimming the cloth even along the lap line. How can I sight through the cloth to see where to trim with the razorblade (when it gells after I lam the cloth)? Anything else to consider?

Tape it off, laminate and then use a flashlight under the board when cutting. You can see the tape line very well. worked for me!

(Jim Phillips): the best way for fabric and opaque lams is to be trimmed is, one, let it go off nice and crisp, two fold a crease into your razor blade, say about 5-10 degrees. This will allow you to hold the blade and still have it be flat to the surface. Take the salvage edge of the cloth, run your fingers under it until you have it loosened up to where it is stuck to the foam. It should now be nearly 90 degrees to the rest of the board. If it is sufficiently set up, it will be still soft where the tape ends and quite firm on the foam. Fold the cloth outwards and insert the tip of the blade into the intersection of the two angles. I gently pull the cloth towards me, this keeps the blade from trimming away from the cut edge and leaves a neat edge. When you get to the ends of the nose and tail it will be necessary to cut straight down, but do this slowly and look at where the tape edge and the foam are and run the blade right there. I am lifting up on the trimmings at this time, gently and finish off at the tips. If you follow these instructions, it shouldn’t turn into a disaster for your first attempt.

I cut an “L” shaped marking tool out of foam, and jab a pencil from outside to inside. I tape tissue paper to the board and mark the outline on the tissue. I remove the tissue and pin it to the inlay cloth. I use rotary shears to cut the outline on the appropriate cutting board. If the inlay design is symmetrical I only use half of the pattern. I fold the inlay fabric before pinning the pattern to it and cut left and right sides together. Rotary shears leave no unraveled threads. Because I lam inlays and glass together, accuracy is important. This is the most accurate method I’ve found. No unraveling also makes rotary shears valuable for cutting small glass patches and strips. They don’t unravel.

From my experience, which is very limited, thin cotton fabric works the best. synthetics stretch all over the place, are too thick and a big hassle. A mild vinegar/cool water rinse to set the colors and laying the stuff flat to dry is all that’s needed. I’ve used bran-new fabric and it’s worked fine. As far as function is concerned. Dark colors delaminate in the sun much quicker than light ones as the heat up so quickly. But leaving a board in the sun or anywhere that it will heat up excessively is never a good idea. If you can’t cover the board up when you’re at the beach for a long stay stand it straight up with a rail toward the sun. As far as I am concerned having a moderate amount of color on the front 1/3 of deck is way better than white. The glare off a white long board nose get wicked after a while. A good inlay can give a board a crisp signature at least as I see it.

I find it’s best to wash the material with some vinegar( no detergent ),dry, then iron out the wrinkles. I thin out resin with styrene, apply the resin to the area, lay down the cloth, apply more resin and squeegee. Watch out for fabrics with odd textures that may not lay flat or loose weave that will stretch. Always test any that you buy for stable colors with resin.

(Noodle): First you fly to Hawaii, stop by one of several Singer Sewing Centers. They have really pretty fabric at great prices. That’s where the kamaaina’s get asian prints. It’s beautiful and cheap. Maybe this will help pay for the surf trip. After cutting the fabric I make a few outline and corner marks on the shaped blank where the fabric should go. I laminate the inlay under the glass, so I first lay the fabric directly onto the BLANK, using my marks as guides. I tear off short pieces of tape and tack the outside fabric edges to the blank. I lay my glass over the fabric and blank, and cut it. Before adding lam resin, I carefully pull up the glass edges and pull the tape tacks off the fabric. I carefully lay the glass back down. When spreading resin, I squeegee the center surfaces toward the board ends. I squeegee most of the center resin out before moving toward the rails. This tacks the fabric in place, so that I can start squeegeeing resin outward across the rails. Here’s how I see it. Resined fabric has no strength. Multi-layer glass layups should be monolithic (resined together), so that glass strands can interlock between glass layers. Laminating fabric prevents the glass layers from interlocking. Putting the fabric under the glass leaves the glass layers in contact with each other. I glass with epoxy. No resin, including epoxy resin, sticks well to hardened epoxy. Lots of poly shops resin fabric inlays to blanks and let them kick. They do this so that they can trim the fabric accurately. If I wanted to epoxy my fabric inlays to the blanks like the poly builders do, I would have to sand the fabric so it would accept laminating resin… not a pleasant thought. Some epoxy builders lay down some glass, sand, lay down inlay fabric, trim, and lay down more glass. I’m sure it works, but I think my boards are stronger.

Lay down tape (4") on the board. Use some decent masking tape. Draw your pattern on the tape (someone put up a good tip on doing this with a U shaped tool, with one side longer than the other. On the short side put a blade or pencil, and run the long side around the rail, so the short side cuts or draws on your tape evenly around the board). Pull up the tape area where the cloth will go. Lay your cloth down and laminate it like a piece of glass. I like to tape down an area on the board where I can pull the resin to so I only get it on the inlay and no where else on the board. When the resin starts to kick, and you think you can cut the cloth without pulling any strands in it, take a flash light, turn the lights out in your glassing area, turn the flash light on and place it under the board. The light will go through the blank and you will be able to clearly see where your tape edge is. Cut along the tape line, then pull up your tape. Let the inlay sit for a while (to ensure the bond to the foam), then laminate the board like usual. Don’t use cloth that has been treated (i.e., scotch guard etc.) or has a fuzzy texture. I like to use bedsheet type cloth.

(Tom Sterne): this is done on the foam after shaping and before glassing.

1.Use a homemade “cheater” tool that is an L-shaped scribe to follow the rail line. The top of the tool has a pencil that will lay down a LIGHT line for my inlay at a uniform distance from the rail edge. If you are doing a nose patch type inlay then use some of your templates, triangle rulers or straightedge to help with the freehand part in mid-board. (tool is nothing fancy, just 2 pieces of scrap rail foam about 8" long. Joined at right angle with a dowel or ring shank nail. The overhanging piece is about 1.5" thick and you can just shove a pencil or a paint pen through it at different points)

2.Once the inlay area laid out on the foam in pencil I use 24" wide white craft paper you get in rolls at a hobby/craft store. Use a piece of paper large enough to cover your pencil line pattern and retrace the lines to the paper either freehand or using the scribe again. Cut out your pattern.

  1. Using COTTON (high content at least and test for color bleed with resin)fabric transfer the pattern to the fabric. Works well to pin the pattern to the cloth then cut to the line you penciled in. Lately I’ve been using a half a pattern and folding the cloth to the midline and cutting through both layers. Use a good, sharp pair of scissors and try not to handle the fabric too much to avoid unraveling. The last trip to the fabric store turned up a very sharp rotary fabric cutter, used in quilting that I’m going to try instead of scissors.

  2. Laminate the cloth to the board and be careful once it wetted out for shifting off your marks too much, sometimes it will stretch a bit so adjust how close or short you cut to line from the tests you do on the fabric. Problems you will run into is not saturating the cloth enough and getting bubbles (too dry) and even too much resin under the cloth that is not worked out before it gels. Give yourself plenty of time in your catalyst ratio. (I tested a really dense piece of cloth with UV Cure and it worked great on the test----your mileage may vary !)

  3. Once the resin gels good, go back and work on loose threads and cleanup with a razor blade. For the rest…that’s what pinlines are for. Look in “short boards” and “longboards”, I just finished 2 full board cloth inlays. Lots of work on a full board jobs dealing with symmetry and centering the pattern in the cloth on your pattern.

  1. tape off blank(fabric area) 2. put lam resin on foam w/brush 3. lay oversized fabric on straight 4. pour a little resin on top use laminate using a squeegee 5. cut at tapeoff before its hardened(don’t cut too early or you’ll get threads) 6. do normal glass job over it.

Notes: polyester chiffon(not rayon)works good and I think it looks a lot better then solid cotton. be sure to test anything before use.

THERE, WASN’T THAT EASY?? Me personally, I don’t wash my (COTTON)fabrics, but I do iron them if they are badly wrinkled. And you can wait quite a while before trimming, as Mr. Cleanlines recommends. I think fabric inlays look great…