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A Few Notes On Inlay


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Hi All,

I am doing some inlay and binding on a solid body that I am building. I have a few notes to share, things that I have learned.

BTW: This is not intended as a tutorial. Just notes to work with and things to think about.

1) Cutting the purfling/binding/inlay/rabbet channel.

The first thing that I learned is that these are all the same thing. Wood workers outside of the instrument world call it a rabbet. In guitar building, it seems that the channel is called purfling, into which we install the binding and inlay. These are more technical definitions rather than common definitions.

StewMac sells a binding router guide that you can use to cut the purfling channel with either a Dremel tool or Foredom tool. I used it on mahogany flat top solid body guitar, and it worked like a champ. Get their carbide tipped bits, and you will be in business.

Expect to spend some time setting up depths and distances.

2) Gluing in the inlay.

CA or superglue seems be the way to go. It sets pretty quickly and dries clear. The good stuff comes in thicker and thinner mixes. So far, I am finding the thicker a bit better, because it does not squeeze out the way that the thin stuff does.

There is also some CA solvent available. This will remove excess from your fingertips, as well from your work area. Just put a bit on a cotton swab (q-tip) and rub for a minute or two. Since I was working with practice stuff, I put some of the solvent on some AbLam from StewMac and there was NO de-lamination of the AbLam. So it would appear that this stuff is safe.

As I come across other lessons, I will post them here.

Guitar Ed

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Abalam is held together by epoxy. Chuck Ericson and Larry Seifel hold tha patents on it, so as long as your sure your getting actual abalam, from whatever source, you should be safe with super glue remove on it. There are knock off abalams, which I can't vouch for.

Best of luck.

Craig L.

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I am so annoyed. My digital camera crapped out in the beginning of things. So no pix. Argh.

Oh well.

So today I did both the inlay and the binding.

1) The thin glue actually works better for inlay. It is tedious and time consuming. If you do it once, you will understand why people like Craig Clavin charge so much. Because they are worth it.

2) You will need some kind of sand paper or finger nail file to shape the ends of the inlay as you go around corners along the top and bottom edge. And guess what: A guitar is mostly round, rather than straight.

3) Some kind of a turn table would be nice so that you can work on one side and then the other. As the glue sets, turn the guitar and work on the other side.

4) For the binding, sometimes the thin glue, sometimes the thick.

5) The little notch just above the neck on the Tele is a pain to bind. It took three tries. Had I known, cutting and piecing together would have worked better than doing it in one piece.

6) StewMac sells their B/W/B binding in 54" lengths. One is enough for the top, but 54" is not quite enough for the bottom, if you do the bottom.

7) StewMac sells the abalone strips in 15" portions. You need 4 portions because 45" is not enough.

8) If you get CA outside of the purfling/binding channel, like I do, be prepared to scrape off the tape you used to hold the binding on while it sets.

Guitar Ed

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Lemme add that if you get CA squeeze-out, stains, whatever on your wood, pray you can sand it out. 'Least if yer doing a trans finish. It won't take stain worth a darn. I'm finishing my back & neck 'trans natural' w/a CA porefiller due to a few spots I couldn't sand out w/o sanding thru the outer layer of binding.

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Just to clarify, the channel, rabbit or rabbet is not called purfling - that's the stuff which goes in it. You can call it the purfling channel or rebate perfectly legitimately, but if you refer to it as the purfling you'll get all shades of confused looks...

The distiction between purfling and binding is subtle, but essentially binding goes around the very edge of the instrument, and actually 'binds' it. The purfling is always set slightly in from the edge, with a small area of wood or binding bewteen it and the very edge. Binding is usually 1/4" tall, whilst purfling is usually much less, to allow it be used on acoustic guitar and violin tops without cutting through the thin top of the instrument.

The abalone in this context of this thread is the purfling, not inlay. A re-title might be in order, since there isn't actually anything relating to inlay in this thread :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the things that I have been trying to figure out how to do is inlay shell in a straight channel, like jewelery box lid. Sounds simple, but it is a challenge.

What I used is:

1) The tiny Dremel router bits from StewMac, PN 1180. And Dremel with Router base. You will also need the 3/16" collet.

2) A strip of purfling, in this case maple, from LMII, PN PF1. The strip is 1mm thick.

3) A 1/16" chisel. In this case from JapanWoodWorker, PN 14.300.015

4) Some 2.5mm wide shell from LMII, in this case the laminate.

5) The Dremel is tapered, not straight. This means that the shell will fit pretty tightly. So what I did is take the Dremel out of the router base and used the same bit to clean up the channel, almost creating a bit of overhang.

Adjust the Dremel so that the bit extends only as deep as the shell inlay. Make the first cut using the Dremel. Then make a second cut using two pieces of the purfling as a spacer. In both cases, using a straight edge. Then use the chisel, GENTLY, to knock out the center strip that you don't want. GENTLY. The strip will come out mostly at the same depth as the two side cuts.

If you do this gently and slowly, there will be no tear out along the sides of the channel.

Take care,

Guitar Ed

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