experiments with generative wood inlay

generative wood inlay boxes by nervous system
Each year we try to give our family gifts we have made for the holidays. This year we decided to design something new, wood boxes featuring generative inlay. The boxes are laser cut from Bolivian rosewood and feature intricate inlays of maple veneer inspired by leaf veins. Each box features a different inlay pattern generated by our Xylem system.


The boxes were designed and fabricated in a nested configuration in order to maximize our usage of the precious rosewood. The largest box features an inlay on the interior as well as the exterior.


We made the boxes with our Epilog 60 w laser cutter, some clamps, a dremel and a belt sander. The negative space of the inlay is carved out by a laser raster and the veneer is cut separately using a vector cut. The wood veneer was glued and clamped into the lid of the box and later sanded down to produce a perfectly smooth surface. The interior of the box was sanded with a dremel and the exterior with a belt sander. We actually just bought the belt sander and without it this project would have been a major pain. Above you can see a video of lasercutting the maple veneer inlay. And below some work in progress photos.

lasercutting the veneer
Photo Dec 17, 1 01 13 PMPhoto Dec 17, 4 31 04 PM-2

We really like how these boxes came out and are now thinking about how to turn them into a product.



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  1. Susan Goldhor

    Hi Jessica,

    These boxes are beautiful and I love how you explain the process. I’m dazzled by your talents.

    with best wishes (and thanks for the work you put in on the calendars),


    ps Every calendar is now gone. I hope you got one!

    1. Jessica

      hi Susan. thank you! I didn’t get a calendar. But, I do have the sample one from the printer’s proofs. I’m glad it was well received by the club.