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I began this blog in order to share my experiences learning instrument building from my dad, but along with those stories I look forward to sharing my memories of growing up with two busy, musically inclined parents as well as my current experiences stepping out on my own as a female luthier promoting environmental sustainability in her instruments while working to alter gender stereotypes in a male dominated field. If you'd like to use quotes from this blog for interviews or in your own work, please contact me first! (email is henderson.elizabethj@gmail.com)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Inlay Phase 1 (The peghead comes later)

Scraping the binding!
This week has been pretty productive so far. I finished putting the body of my guitar together, added the binding, and finished up the fingerboard. All that's left is to fit the neck and shape it and then finish! Unfortunately those things are my least favorite tasks. Maybe I will tackle fitting the neck tomorrow.

It was a fun week of visitors in the shop as well. The typical Tuesday crowd of geezers-and Harrol-came by to help sand, do repairs, and liven the conversation. Yesterday, Caleb Smith (an awesome fella who is making really great guitars down in Waynesville-according to my dad-so that means it is true), Jimmy Edmonds, Gerald Anderson, Don Wilson, and Reggie Harris, among others, stopped by for an afternoon of picking. Their presence provided for me a nice soundtrack while I finished inlaying my fingerboard. Oh also, there was a double rainbow outside. But no one had seen the Youtube video so my comments on the spectacle only garnered confused "I think she's crazy" looks.

Inlay is one aspect of guitar making that I love to do. I think it is because I am able to do it well enough that I don't need supervision and can't mess anything up too horribly. And most importantly the tiny jeweler's saw and router that I use for these tasks likely wouldn't end with severed appendages. I also enjoy attending to the minute details of shaping a piece just right, first with the saw and then with a tiny file, and I appreciate the challenge of routing a space in which the the pearl perfectly fits. That's because I am a J (Meyer's-Brigggs anyone? Josh Kelly knows what I mean.)

For this fingerboard, I drew a tree design which had a mother of pearl trunk and I then incorporated many pieces of shiny abalone for the leaves. Cutting out the leaf shapes was surprisingly simple, as I just used small scraps that would likely have been discarded (baby steps in the sustainability department) and shaped them into my idea of stylized leaves. Inlaying them was an entirely different story. Since each leaf is it's own unique shape, keeping straight which pieces I had already traced, routed, and fitted was a challenge. But it worked out pretty well if I do say so myself. My back was singing a different tune as I stood up after 3 hours of work though. I did some yoga after, it's ok now.

Finished product!

Now, if only fitting the neck was as much fun....


  1. J - you like things planned, stable and organized. You don't like to ponder the unknown. Myer's Briggs is a hobby. Very artsy inlay. Do you route through the pearl inlay to place the frets? I think your apprenticeship is cool. Keep the blogs coming.

  2. All true. It is interesting how much my results especially in this area from Paychology undergrad and then after graduating from Vermont Law. Yes, I inlaid the pearl into a fingerboard that already had slots for frets in it, and then sawed through the pearl to restore those slots. Then put frets in.