Paul & Damien,
Thanks for creating the great writeup and process!
I'm working through my first inlay now. I'm not smart enough to do something simple like the one-piece tree or the star shown in the examples.
I'm starting with five woods being inlaid into a sixth wood. I've already figured out which pieces have to be done in what order (it's similar to creating embroidery designs which I do for my wife once in a while - have to consider what's "on top" of the other pieces so the end results looks right).
A little overlap between adjacent pieces should help me avoid misalignment problems. There's no reasonable way to do what I'm attempting without removing the pocket piece several times from the ShopBot table to slice off the excess bit that protrude after gluing in yet another inlay…
I'm hitting a bit of splintering, crumbling on fine details especially if there are multiple fine items in close proximity. So far, my 60 deg vbit cuts those cleaner than the 45 but I think my feed rate might need some slowing down as well.
For the male portions (the mirrored items that will be inlaid into the base material), it looks like I can minimize shredding of the fine details by artificially setting my z-origin 0.1 higher than it will ultimately be (essentially what mmatarella suggested but I figured it out on my own before seeing that post - d'oh). After cutting the full tool path, I move the bit to a clear area, drop it to -0.1 (absolute coords), and hit ZZ. I move Z up to 1 inch before cutting the same tool path a second time.
For one fragile wood I was working with (Vermillion I think), I bumped Z up 0.1 for the first pass, then down by .05 for a second pass, and then another .05 for a third pass.
I had significantly less tear out with that approach and my cut times are less than 5 minutes long, so repeating them once or twice is no big deal. I am hoping that as I dial in the proper feed rate, I can cut that to just two passes. I plan to trying raising it by only .05, cutting a little slower, then dropping it by that .05 and running the toolpath again.
I also figured out that if a piece has some tear out/splintering, there's enough slack in the process (using the defaults), that I can sneak in a cleanup pass by dropping Z .05 and rerunning my tool path (after having cut originally using the defaults in your document). My samples show there's an eighth of an inch of air gap below at the bottom of my inlay so there's enough room to be able to clean up some tear out by sneaking in an extra, very light, pass.
If I get my design to work, I plan to post a follow up of course.